During Harvest season, winemakers Jon McPherson and Javier Flores wake up before colorful hot air balloons fly right over their grapevines at the boutique Carter Estate Winery and Resort in Temecula Valley. In mid to late September they wake up around 2:30 a.m., when it’s cool and crisp, to select and collect their finest grapes to make their award winning wines.
Temecula Valley offers more than 40 boutique to grand estate wineries, 9 different breweries, and some extraordinary artisan restaurants and shops. Located about 22 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the days are warm in the summer and cooler in the evenings, making this bucolic town at a 1,500-foot elevation ideal to grow grapes, play golf, bicycle, ride in a hot air balloon and sip wine.
Here’s a list of 10 unique wineries and restaurants to explore when in Temecula:
Owner Jim Carter and his wife Dawn proudly own 400 verdant acres in Temecula Valley. Together with head winemakers, they have garnered over 2,000 distinguished awards and medals. In June of 2016, South Coast Winery broke records with its fourth win in the California State Winery of the Year Wine Competition.
Doffo Winery was named Temecula’s Winery of the Year for 2018. Owner Marcelo Doffo is passionate about his award-winning wines and antique motorcycles. Purchasing an old cattle ranch in Temecula, he also acquired a historic one-room schoolhouse. It reminded him of a similar place that he attended as a small child in Argentina. Together with his sons, Doffo spent two years planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cab Franc, Zinfandel and Malbec grapes. Wine lovers and Moto enthusiasts visit the MotoDoffo Barrel Room housed on the winery grounds, not only to sip and swirl his red wines, but also his collection has over 200 scooters and motorcycles from all over the world. Tasting: Be sure to sip a 2016 MotoDoffo Gran Tinto.
BOTTAIA Winery offers an elegant tasting room overlooking the vineyards, as well as a family-friendly swimming pool in their vineyards, with comfortable lounge chairs, a full-service cocktail bar and restaurant. This Italian inspired 100% estate-grown wine is served in four distinctive tasting experiences. There is a guided, seated wine and charcuterie experience; barrel room tasting where visitors taste six estate wines from the bottle and barrel. The wine blending lab blends four separate base wines into three unique blends. Visitors can be a winemaker for the day. Taste, blend, bottle, cork, capsule and design your own table to take home and enjoy. Lastly, the Club Lounge + Terrace allows guests a full list of BOTTAIA wine by the bottle or glass.
Robert Renzoni Vineyards & Winery dates back to 1886, when Robert’s grandfather Federico worked in a vineyard in a small Italian village on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. He started importing wines from Italy and France in the 1930s, when there was a resurgent after the prohibition. They opened their winery in 2008, and the onsite Mama Rosa’s Trattoria is the only place in Temecula Wine Country with a brick oven kitchen. Winemaker Olivia Bue bring out each varietal nuance while maintaining a lower alcohol for complexity and balance. Tasting: 2018 Vermentino.
PONTE Winery has 300 acres of estate vineyards and gardens, where visitors can take a classic Vineyard Estate Tour aboard an electric 10-passenger bus for a behind-the-scenes look of a working winery. Other wine tasting opportunities include a guided library wine and cheese pairing. Onsite The Restaurant and The Cellar Lounge offers underground full-service cocktails and live music four nights a week. Chef Amin Boubaddi prepares Italian with Mediterranean fusion fare. Stay at the boutique Ponte Vineyard Inn, and wake up the next morning to enjoy weekend brunch in the garden courtyard with vineyard views.
Refuge Brewery is a family run company with Curt Kucera and his wife Diane working side by side with their sons Jake and Chad. They make Belgian style beers using fresh seasonal ingredients including Blood Orange Wit that is sweet with a pinch of tartness, Baja Crush IPA with an essence of lemon drop, and a Grapefruit IPA with a big citrus punch. The Tap Room is situated in the original suite right next to the brewery, with up to 20 different beers on tap, many of them are barrel aged in used whiskey or wine barrels.
Food options in Temecula Valley include Paisano’s Italian at Pechanga Resort Casino with creative Chef Jordan Garcia creating visually appealing “New World Old World” savory style dishes paired with Italian, California, Oregon, and Washington wines.
Temecula Creek Inn Executive Chef Matthew Steffen and Executive Sous Chef Sterling Creek prepare dishes with ingredients sourced from local farms and ranches including Temecula Olive Oil Company, Sage Mountain Farms, Drake Family Goat Cheese, EcoCulture Farms, Cook Pigs, Primal Pastures, Tule Peak Farm, JR Organics and Grist & Toll. At Cork|Fire Kitchen they serve traditional breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner items with a creative twist. Guests can sit on the al fresco patio overlooking part of the 27-hole golf course.
Hart Family Winery founded in 1980, is one of the oldest wineries in Temecula making whites, reds, rose’ and dessert wines. It’s a father and son enterprise for Joe and Jim Hart. Their wines have won best of show, as well as numerous double gold’s, gold, and silver medals for their wines. Tasting: 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and 2016 Syrah Reserve.
Apparition Room is a prohibition style bar that father Bob Danko and his son Kenneth opened in 2017. Guests enter through a hidden secret passageway in Delicious Eatery. Soon one is transported into an intimate hideaway to sip prohibition style cocktails. The host of the bar is happy to make a custom libation to each visitor who enters.
E.A.T. Extraordinary Artisan Table offers daily menus by Leah Di Bernardo, the “Alice Waters of Riverside County.” Visit the Sip Bar for coffee, tea or a smoothie. Pick up deli sandwiches and salads for a picnic to take at one of the wineries. Satisfy your sweet tooth with one or more of their house crafted desserts, including vegan and gluten free donuts, scones, cakes and cookies.
Picturesque Temecula Valley is a year-round vacation destination for foodies, oenophiles, golfers, and for those who seek relaxation.