Guide To Temecula: The Heart of Southern California Wine Country

Hi everyone!  It’s been a hot minute since my last blog post.  A little over a year to be exact.  While it’s been an incredible experience being a full time mom, I think it’s time to get back at it!

What better than to start with a post related to wine since I sure haven’t given that up.

My husband and I just got back from Temecula Wine Country (sans baby) and boy did we have ourselves a time.  Temecula is less than 60 miles north of San Diego and 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Their 40+ wineries produce award-winning wines made possible by a unique microclimate and well-drained granite soils.  You can find anything from small, family run to  full-fledged large, commercial tasting rooms.  What made this destination so unique to me, was being able to look out into the rolling hills filled with vines and farms, and also seeing palm trees sprinkled about.  A little bit of Tuscany meets a tropical paradise.  I had never seen anything like it.  It was also very green, which we haven’t had the opportunity to see in other recent trips to California because of the droughts.  From a wine quality perspective, we didn’t know what to expect, but we really liked it!  The Cabs, Zins and Syrah ended up being stars of the show.  Many of the wines tended to be fruit forward with a big bold finish.  My absolute favorite.

Since everyone goes away with something different in mind, I’ve broken this guide into a few categories depending on what you’re after.

Favorite Smaller/Family Run Wineries:

Chapin Family Vineyards:  We loved this place. Quaint yet sophisticated.  Not overly crowded and that was on a Saturday.  We sat on the porch overlooking a fantastic view, surrounded by an enchanting garden.  It’s worth using all of your “wine token chips” on the premium wines!

Getting cozy at Chapin Family Vineyards

Hart Family Winery: This is one of the first wineries you come across after heading into Temecula Wine Country. It is a very small place and has knowledgeable pourers. We definitely loved the reds. Especially the Syrah.  Dark and bold, just how I love my reds.

Vindemia Vineyard and Winery: We thought their wines were just spectacular.  So much so we ended up buying an entire case.  We actually had to ship it to my sister’s house in NY since NJ doesn’t allow wine to be shipped here anymore. 🙁  This winery is off the beaten path, quiet and cute, which is our absolute favorite ambience.  Highly recommend this one and you must taste their 2018 de Blanc when you go.

The view at Vindemia Winery

Favorite “Hustle and Bustle” Winery

Doffo: This one is directly across the street from Vindemia and has a really cool vibe.  Make sure you go to the motorcycle area (all the way in the back).  It was pretty crowded but with reason, the decor and set up is so unique and inviting.  We did the red tasting (duh!) and really loved the Zins here.

Akash: Unbelievably gorgeous decor at this one.  It’s very mod with almost a sterile look but it feels so fresh and clean, like it opened that very day.  It was very crowded so be prepared to park then walk up a big hill, though we did arrive on a Saturday.  The reds weren’t our favorite as compared to other wineries, however check out the Parlez Vous Rosé when you visit.  It was so tasty!

The decor at Akash

Leoness Cellars: We decided to stop here for lunch. What a scene.  Right away we could tell this was one of the “San Diego day trip” spots.  And felt very “if you have money” brunch place. Of course we had to do a tasting…when in Rome. The reds were phenomenal. Once again, I really enjoyed their Syrah and Zin.  The food was equally as delicious.  I had the quinoa and avo salad with truffle fries.  Make sure you carve out some time especially if you go on a weekend.  The whole meal experience took about 2 hours (this includes wait time).  But their food and wine was worth it.

The view from lunch at Leoness

Where We Ate:

South Coast Winery: We stopped here for lunch and arrived starving.  We thought the food was okay, and the service was pretty slow… but again it was Saturday and we were so hungry after already having 3 winery visits under our belt.  Anything would have been great at that point.  For wine, the South Coast Winery Brut is yummy…a little bit sweet so pairs well with lunch.

Vineyard Rose: We ate here for dinner and it’s the same kitchen as South Coast Winery.  The food was fine and the ambience felt pretty upscale. I was wined out at this point, but the Risotto was very good and New England Clam Chowder was comforting.

The Restaurant at Ponte: We thought this was a nice place with good food. I had the Sea Bass, which was really fresh and delicious. They have a great deal on their wine flights…3 pours look/feel like 3 full glasses.  After a long day of tastings, my husband and I split one and it was plenty.  We felt like we got our money’s worth at Ponte which is always a win.  They have a nice set up too, with fire pits and outdoor lounge areas that they keep pristine.

Where We Stayed:

Carter Estate: Very pretty place. While the first room was not up to our standards (just some house keeping oversight), we received an upgrade to a villa which was beautiful.  It doesn’t appear so at first, but the property goes very far back from the road so it’s nice and quiet.  It’s also right in the middle of numerous wineries on Rancho California Road.

The morning view from our room at Carter Estate

Overall, the best wine we had went to Vindemia, Chapin and Leoness. Food was from Leoness.  If we were to go back, we’d head out to Lorimar, Robert RenzoniPeltzer, and Avensole. We heard great things about their wine, we just didn’t have time to visit them all. Restaurants we’d try would be The Gambling Cowboy, Goat and Vine or Cork Fire Kitchen which are also in the local area.







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