By Alison Bailin Batz
With the nation slowly reopening, many are looking for ways to get out and enjoy vacation this summer, while social distancing and maintaining massive safety measures in place.
A picture-perfect escape—only five hours away via car and with dozens of outdoor activities—is Southern California gem Temecula.
Temecula is the largest winegrowing region in California’s South Coast. It is particularly well suited to growingsyrah, sangiovese, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, zinfandel and tempranillo; however, more than two dozen varieties thrive in the region. Altogether, Temecula boasts more than 40 wineries and 80 winegrowers, as well as other attractions, high-end dining and—of course—amazing tasting tours.
While hotels and resorts are taking all CDC-recommended precautions to ensure the perfect stay, one of the ways to do Temecula right is by renting a home or manor in the heart of wine country. If looking to go this route, Temecula Vacation Rentals (TVR) is among the top options in the area, with six premiere properties able to accommodate from 10 to 24 guests, not to mention cozy condos and other specialty spaces available based on needs, wants and dates.
TVR’s most fabulous property is Wilson Creek Manor. And if the name Wilson Creek sounds familiar to Valley wine lovers, it should. Not only is Wilson Creek’s award-winning almond champagne (and now other varietals) available for purchase across Arizona, but the picturesque winery has been featured on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” “Blind Date,” The Golf Channel and on Oprah’s OWN Network. Rumor has it Mario Lopez has been known to show up from time to time for a game or two of bocce ball at the winery’s on-site court as well.
Located directly across the street from the famed winery, the 12,000-square-foot estate sleeps up to 24 guests and features 10 well-appointed bedrooms—including a 1,600-square-foot master suite—11 bathrooms, a game room, private outdoor pool and spa, barbecue, gazebo, workout area, basketball court and commercial-grade kitchen.
For smaller groups, notable options include the Sangiovese Estate—sleeping up to 14 and with its own putting green, home theater and game room—the Palazzo Del Sol Estate—also sleeping 14 and with nearly unrivaled mountain views—and the Meritage House—sleeping 10 and with its own grapefruit grove. The prices vary based on property and season but can often be less than $60 a day per person, making it one of the sneaky best deals in California in addition to one of the chicest. There are also a dozen TVR packages, which provide excursions, meals, wine tastings and other curated experiences. temeculavacationrentals.com
Once in wine country, don’t even think about drinking and driving. Instead, look no further than the Grapeline Wine Tours. A family-owned business that has been operating in Temecula for over a decade, Grapeline has drivers and tour guides who are walking encyclopedias of the region. They do it while making guests laugh, sing and even dance on board.
A best bet is Grapeline’s all-inclusive Classic Wine Tour, which is a four-hour tour hosted by a wine country insider with snacks as well as tastings at three wineries only $95 a person. The Grapeline also offers a “Grapephopper” service, which is only $79 a person and gives guests the chance to taste on their own time and simply hop on and off Grapeline shuttles as they visit the wineries each day. Because sipping all day is hard work, there is also a deluxe picnic tour starting at $119 per person. It offers tastings as well as a gourmet local picnic lunch.
For those seeking to ensure distance from others, there are also dozens of private tour options as well as by-the-hour chauffeur services using sedans, limos, executive SUVs and deluxe coaches for all group sizes and budget levels. gogrape.com
Wine, Dine and Fly
Temecula has a tasting room tailored to every taste imaginable, from historically impactful wineries with tastings as well as contemporary and cutting-edge tasting rooms to even those with full-serve restaurants and airborne adventures.
For those who love history, be sure to stop into Hart Winery, which is the oldest continually owned and operated winery in Temecula. Originally founded by Joe and Nancy Hart and now run by their children, it is known for premium estate grown reds.
For those with beer lovers joining you, be sure to stop at Wiens Family Cellars. There, enjoy a tasting of their big reds or reserve a private tasting, which comes with scrumptious small bites. After, head to the family’s Wiens Brewing Company a few miles away, where you can sample its IPAs, pilsners, wheats, coffee stouts, beers aged in its wine barrels, and seasonal specialties, notably its Grove Swarm, a blood orange and honey wheat ale.
If looking for fine dining while sipping, visit South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. Its on-site restaurant, The Vineyard Rose Restaurant, is warm and inviting, with a definite Tuscan vibe. The food is quintessentially Californian, bursting with seasonal local veggies and surrounded by vineyard views.
Robert Renzoni Vineyards also needs to make your “must” list if a foodie. The winery offers tastes of premium California wines made using Italian grape varieties that sing in the hands of talented young winemaker Olivia Bue. There is also a decadently delicious restaurant on-site called Mama Rosa’s Trattoria offering elevated Italian classics and brick oven pizzas. It’s a hot spot for all ages.
If you need a taste of adventure while tasting across wine country, head over to Carter Estate Winery and Resort, which has an overnight package that includes a hot air balloon tour for two that soars over wine country, complete with a champagne toast and then two tickets for a full wine tasting as well.
For something truly out-of-the-box—or if with fellas—don’t miss Doffo Winery. Opt for the Cork ‘N Torque Tour at $65 per person, which whisks your group off in an open-air, eco-friendly vehicle to view the vineyards and wine-making facility up close, followed by a tour of the family’s rocking MotoDoffo Vintage Motorcycle Collection and a private tasting of the premium wines.
Other wineries, attractions and activities not to be missed include Akash Winery, Baily Winery, Callaway Vineyard & Winery, Carter Estate Winery and Resort, Danza del Sol Winery, Fazeli Cellars, Leoness Cellars, Fazeli Cellars, Oak Mountain Winery, Pechanga Casino, Old Town Temecula and The Legends Golf Club.
For more, visit visittemeculavalley.com.