Temecula Valley Wine Country Celebrates 50 Years
Temecula Valley is Southern California’s largest wine-producing region, hosting 1.7 million winery visits each year
An easy 45-minute drive from San Diego, Temecula Valley is Southern California’s largest wine-producing region, hosting 1.7 million winery visits each year. While grapes were first planted by Spanish missionaries back in the 1820s, the first modern commercial vineyard appeared in 1968. Fifty years later the valley is booming with over 40 wineries producing more than 500,000 cases annually in the Temecula Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area). Cool coastal air from the Pacific blows in through the Rainbow Gap in the mountains to this bucolic valley, making it a grape-growing paradise. Here you’ll find charming country inns and sprawling estates, friendly family-owned wineries and farm-to-table eateries. So come celebrate 50 wine-infused years in gorgeous Temecula Valley Wine Country.
Ponte Winery & Vineyard Inn
Temecula Valley’s ultimate wine country getaway
Set on 300 mature acres, this haven in the heart of Temecula Valley has a lot to celebrate this year during its 15th anniversary. The boutique winery produces a slate of compelling wines, from chardonnay and moscato to sangiovese and montepulciano, along with Beverino, their famed dessert wine. Guests can get an insider’s view of their winemaking process on the Vineyard Estate Tour, sample a variety of vinos in the tasting room, dine alfresco in the winery’s rose garden, or find take-home treasures in their gourmet marketplace.
The lovely Spanish-style boutique hotel, surrounded by lush vineyards, gardens, and mountain views, just underwent an expansion, adding a new wing with 30 stylish rooms for a grand total of 90. The new semi-Olympic-size pool and hot tub are perfect spots for lounging and soaking in the vistas, while the recently launched open-air Poolside Bar & Café calls for a piña colada and Ponte Panini. All of their outstanding restaurants feature farm-to-fork and ocean-to-table cuisine, as their chefs source produce from within a 50-mile radius, use wild-caught or sustainably farmed seafood, and all-natural meat and game. Be sure to check out The Cellar Lounge, an underground speakeasy, which offers up small plates and craft cocktails in a romantic setting. And if planning a wedding is in your future, Ponte has all the right luxe amenities and a picture-perfect setting (ponds, gazebos, gardens, greenery, and more) for tying the knot.
The big news on the eve of Ponte’s 15th anniversary is the opening of its sister property, Bottaia Winery. Located on the other side of Wiens Family Cellars, Bottaia will have two tasting options: one in the Barrel Room, and the other a more formal seated format with pairings of wine and small bites. Wine club members will have access to two exclusive areas to sip Bottaia’s finest, including an alfresco terrace with sweeping views of the vineyard. Bottaia is expected to welcome its first guests this summer. Since tastings are by appointment only, calling ahead is requested.
Honoring 15 fantastic years, Ponte Winery plans to celebrate in style at their Annual Grape Stomp. It’s a not-to-miss 300-person party with a chance to crush some grapes, sip some special selections, nibble on gourmet food, enjoy live music, and more. The festivities take place on Sunday, August 19 and tickets go on sale at the end of June.
A Wonderland of Wineries
Temecula Valley’s first winery carries on the legacy of textile and golf magnate Ely Callaway, honoring his memory with good wines and festive times. This vineyard produces more than 25 delicious wines and is a perfect summertime stop. Look for live music on weekends, along with Sun-sensational Summer Sundays—featuring giant lawn games like Jenga, cornhole, Yahtzee, Connect Four, and more. Guests can cool off with frosé (frozen rosé) or try new sparkling wines: Bella Rosé with notes of mango and peach, and Bella Blanc, a drier, brut-style bubbly. Winemaker Craig Larson, who enjoys making Rhône-style wines, suggests his Calliope, a smooth, easy-drinking red blend. Collectors and oenophiles alike should consider the OPR—a robust 2012 cabernet sauvignon, part of the owner’s private reserve. Catch the sunset and enjoy farm-to-table eats at Meritage, whose summer menu has mango ahi tartare with avocado or braised volcano lamb shank over mint and tarragon risotto from chef Josh Diamond. Be sure to check out Callaway’s new modern tasting room in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter for wine and cheese pairings and happy hour fun.
Owned by 120 families from 25 states, this stunning property has an Old World Tuscan feel, lush vineyards, and spectacular wines that have earned several dozen Platinum, Double Gold, Gold, and Best Of awards. You can sip their award-winning wines daily in the spacious tasting room, whose glass floor reveals the barrel room below, or in the bistro, paired with an artisanal cheese plate or scratch beef empanada (Thursday through Sunday). On Sunday afternoons, Monte De Oro’s 10,000-square-foot patio is the place to be for live music and 180-degree views of the rolling hills and countryside serenity. Big-name acts like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and The 5th Dimension are set to perform special concerts, and there’s more fun to be had at their ongoing Wine Bingo Nights and their Polynesian Luau this August.
Set along the scenic ridgeline, this winery has been producing some of Temecula’s finest grapes for over four decades. The Lytton family purchased the sprawling estate in 2014, renaming it Avensole, a portmaneau meaning “matchless adventure.” Taste award-winning wines like their 2014 Enchante—an elegant French Côtes du Rhône–style blend composed of grenache, mourvèdre, syrah and cinsault—which recently received Double Gold and 99 points at the 2018 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. For fresh seasonal cuisine, post up on the patio of the Avensole Winery Restaurant for a breathtaking view. Chefs Leng Keo and Armando Cota make magic in the kitchen, serving up everything from spring bounty salads and Baja shrimp tacos to barbecue chicken flatbreads and pan-seared scallops. Sip a Blucumber Smash or Gin Razzle during happy hour with live music Friday through Sunday. Tastings span six unique wines, while behind-the-scenes tours include wine pairings and exclusive tastes of the Lyttons’ favorites.
Relax on the outdoor patio of this family-owned winery, where you can sip their popular More Cowbell zinfandel, cabernet, Bordeaux, viognier, rosé, and syrah. The sustainable property, a perfect blend of European style and SoCal casual, also has 100 olive trees and produces high-grade olive oil.
This Tuscan-style estate has 90 acres of vines and a lively tasting room, grand ballroom, farm-to-table eatery, and massive music stage. You can picnic in the rose garden, enjoy jazz in the sunshine, sip their world-famous Almond Sparkling wine at brunch, or shop for gourmet goods in the gift shop.
Scenic views, tasty fare, and fantastic blends can be found at Falkner, where 80 percent of vintner Duncan Williams’s tasting room wines have won Gold or Silver medals. Funday Sundays mean tournament games like Wine Pong and Jenga, along with lip-smacking barbecue and Maine lobster rolls. Their Pinnacle Restaurant offers fresh Mediterranean American dishes and vineyard views, and a new picnic menu for leisurely bites in the garden.
Nestled in gentle, rolling foothills, this fairy-tale setting was built by a Disney Imagineer to resemble Snow White’s cottage. The family-owned and operated winery is dedicated to producing small-lot, single-vineyard, and limited-production wines from the lush estate. “Taste the Enchantment” at their reservation-only seated tastings Thursday–Monday.
Winemaking is true art at Europa Village Winery, where the handcrafted premium estate wines are inspired by the classic traditions of France, Spain, and Italy. In addition to their charming tasting room, wine classes, and tours, their hilltop country inn has 10 rooms and grand European flair, ideal for a weekend getaway.
Five Fun Things to Do in Temecula Wine Country
Whether you want to explore this verdant valley by horse, balloon, or bike, relax in a rose garden, dine under the stars, or bliss out at a spa, endless adventures await in Temecula Valley Wine Country.
1. Wine Country Dining
A wealth of refined restaurants can be found in Temecula Valley’s vineyards, where the local chefs innovate and create with the seasonal bounty from nearby farms. Don’t miss exceptional alfresco dining at Leoness Cellars, a rose garden lunch at Ponte, bubbles and brunch at Thornton Winery’s Café Champagne, or authentic Italian at Robert Renzoni Vineyards.
2. Spa Rejuvenation
After a day of wine touring, head to South Coast Winery’s GrapeSeed Spa for a warm stone massage or grapeseed scrub.
3. Countryside Cycling
Explore the back roads and rustic landscape on a fat-tire Cannondale bike from Pedal to the Medal, whether you want to go solo or take a tour. Or, hop on an electric bike so you don’t have to work so hard getting to that next winery.
4. Horseback Riding
Saddle up and hit the vineyard trails on the back of a well-trained horse on a two-hour scenic guided tour at sunset.
5. Hot Air Ballooning
Soar over the vineyards, orchards, and citrus groves as the sun rises over the valley and the San Jacinto mountains with California Dreamin’ or A Grape Escape. After, a Champagne breakfast at Vindemia Winery or Europa Village makes it a perfect adventure.