Visitors should not expect to find a drop of Pinot Noir here. Instead, wines like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier rule on the 35,000 acre land due to the cool coastal breeze between the Rainbow and Santa Margarita gaps. The best time to visit is during the harvest season in August through October, with the buds breaking in mid-March.
Thirsty yet? Read on to learn about wineries that will satisfy your taste buds!
The first commercial vineyard in Temecula Wine Country is Bella Vista. Formally known as Cilurzo Winery on Calle Contento, it was established in 1968 and uses 80 percent estate grapes and 20 percent Temecula grapes. Visitors can sample six different varietals from the winery’s white, red and sparkling wines. Some favorites include a 2009 Rozmaring with flavors of apricot and honey, a 2009 Soiree Dry with peach flavors, a 2005 sweet Late Harvest Petite Syrah, a 2008 Black Magic made from late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with plum and cherry flavors, and a 2011 Muscat Canelli with exotic fruit flavors.
Just up the hill from the winery is a picnic area where you can enjoy spectacular views and walk out to a pond filled with geese (just watch out for Charlie, a goose who is protective of his friends!).
Briar Rose Winery
Once upon a time, up on the hill on Calle Cabrillo, lies the inspired Snow White cottage of Briar Rose Winery. Designed by an architect who assisted with the design of Disneyland in the 1950s, the layout is straight out of a fairytale, with Snow White, the seven dwarfs, frogs, an old carriage and even an enchanted garden with gnomes.
Briar Rose gives customers a standard tasting featuring a bubbly, sweet wine lager called The Talking Frog, a peach-flavored 2011 Estate Viognier, a sweet, orange blossom 2011 Estate Riesling, a peppery and berry 2008 Zinfandel and a sweet, black cherry 2005 Zinfandel Port. The winery also has a charitable “We Remember” red wine filled with blackberry, raspberry and vanilla notes. All proceeds from purchasing the bottle benefit the Veterans Research Corporation.
A reservation to visit the tasting room is required.
Perhaps one of the wineries in Temecula Wine Country most known for its breathtaking views is Leonesse Cellars off of De Portola Road. Leonesse, which means “village of dreams,” is known for its red wines, but carries everything from Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to White Merlot, Muscat Canelli and Cinsault Port.
The tasting room offers customers the choice to sample six of their white, red, premium, dessert or sweet wines. It is also the only winery in Temecula Wine Country to offer Cinsault wine, theirs showing cherry and hints of vanilla and strawberry. Another favorite is the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon with blackberry, vanilla and mint flavors.
Leonesse also offers a restaurant serving appetizers, salads, sandwiches and flat breads that are paired off with one of the Cellar, Vineyard or Signature Selection wines.
Wilson's Creek Winery
What makes Wilson’s Creek Winery stand out from the rest is its famous Almond Champagne. Known as the “OH MY GOSH” Champagne, it is the winery’s most popular selling item. Add Angelica Cream Sherry, with caramel and hazelnut flavors fortified with Brandy, and the result is the “Angel’s Kiss” cocktail. The winery is also known for its 2009 White Cabernet, with flavors of pear and peach with a hint of grapefruit, and the “Yes Dear” Chardonnay with honey, pear and peach flavors and sweet vanilla and oak on the finish.
Creekside Grille has appetizers (I recommend the Orange Mimosa Champagne Smoked Salmon), salads, sandwiches and specialties.
The winery is located right off of Rancho California Road.
Lorimar Vineyard & Winery
Lorimar Vineyard & Winery tells a song right upon walking into its tasting rooms. The Old Town Temecula Tasting Room has been downtown for years and the Wine Country Tasting Room off of Berenda Road opened in April 2012. Filled with artwork, a baby grand piano and even a guitar in the wine country tasting room, the winery is very passionate about the arts.
Visitors get six tastes to try from the red, white and dessert wines. Lorimar’s most popular is the 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, a smooth wine with black cherry, boysenberry and a pomegranate finish. Other favorites include the 2008 Lydian Cabernet Franc with flavors of pepper, cherry and vanilla, a sweet 2009 White Merlot with cranberry and raspberry flavors and a crisp finish, and a sparkling wine with flavors of tangerine and lemon.
South Coast Winery
Named the “Best California State Winery of the Year” for the past two years by the California State Fair, South Coast Winery is Temecula’s only winery-resort. Just off of Rancho California Road, visitors can enjoy everything from tours, a spa, overnight stays and classic dining at the Vineyard Rose Restaurant to a tasting room with a background mural of Temecula Wine Country. The two-page tasting menu is filled with over 40 choices to sample six reds, rosés, sweet reds, whites and sparkling wines. Wines include Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Grenache, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot Grenache, Muscat Canelli, Petit Syrah and Syrah.
A couple of the most popular red wines are the 2007 Carter Estate Syrah with flavors of berries, lavender and spice, and the 2006 Carter Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with flavors of black cherry and smoky oak tones.
Head over to the white wines and sample the 2010 Saint’s Valley White Zinfandel with berry and a sweet finish. The unique and fruity 2010 Pinot Grigio Sparkling is the first harvest of a Pinot Grigio for sparkling wine. The 2009 SCW Gewürztraminer is another favorite that is lightly sweet with rose scents and lychee fruit.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
To start the morning off right, Temecula Wine Country also offers breathtaking 60 to 75 minute hot air balloon rides. The gentle, tranquil ride offers beautiful views of the endless rows of vineyards, mountain caps and drifting fog. Birthdays, wedding proposals and anniversaries are unique ways to make a balloon ride even more memorable. At the end of the adventure, you’ll be presented with an honorary aeronaut certificate, continental breakfast and a toast of Champagne to celebrate the daring flight.
Old Town Temecula
Old Town Temecula, just south of wine country, tells the story of the 1880s golden west. The nine block stretch features historical residences, a Saturday Farmers’ Market, antiques, museums, the Temecula Olive Oil Company to try different homemade olive oils, and the Old Town Root Beer Company, which has many kinds of root beer flavors and even a wedding chapel!
Old Town hosts larger events as well, such as the Taste of Temecula Valley in April with all proceeds going to local schools. There are also the Old Town Temecula Bluegrass, World of Wine and Pechanga Wine Festivals in March, Old Town Temecula Western Days in May, the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival in June, the Temecula Valley International Jazz Festival in July and the Harvest Celebration in November.
Hungry? Try Rosa’s Cantina for homemade Mexican food that was voted “Best of Temecula” by Inland Empire Magazine. Also check out the award-winning Sweet Lumpy BBQ or The Gambling Cowboy Chophouse & Saloon.
Looking for a place to stay downtown? Try the historical 1920 Palomar Inn Hotel or the nearby Rodeway Inn. There’s also Pechanga Resort and Casino, the largest casino in the western U.S. found just a few miles south from Old Town, for all kinds of gaming fun.