Temecula, An Adult Playground in S. California Wine Country

IMG_4054-001While Temecula is long known for its vibrant history, excellent shopping and natural beauty, it has become the heart of Southern California’s wine region. With its proximity to San Diego an hour to the South and Los Angeles a little over an hour North, it provides the perfect getaway for wine enthusiasts as a stop over or as its own destination.

Over recent decades the landscape has taken shape by rolling vineyards, world class wineries and spas, and award winning restaurants. Gorgeous views of surrounding 11,000 foot mountains tops and valley floors that are cooled by air swept ocean breezes have morphed Temecula into the “up and coming” wine region of Southern California.

We recently enjoyed a getaway to Temecula, California. We wished we had more than two nights to enjoy this unique little wine region but we managed to pack quite a lot into our little respite of relaxation and exploration.

IMG_4049We stayed at the Quality Inn in Temecula and while it was not high end or luxurious, it did provide a very nice clean and comfortable hub from which to enjoy our varied excursions and exploration. The staff there were very helpful and friendly and it was convenient to shopping, restaurants, and the freeway. The location proved helpful.

We started off with a lunch in Old Town at Sweet Lumpy’s BBQ. This small, casual, Texas-style, smoked barbecue, local eatery offered excellent choices of salads and all the stereotypical barbecue cuisine one would expect.

Mesquite and hickory smoked ribs, brisket, tri-tip, pulled pork, and chicken were all moist and flavorful. The salads we had were fresh and satisfying with delicious home made dressings. We were satiated and enjoyed our meal amidst locals and tourists alike.

We enjoyed strolling the quaint downtown area and then decided to explore all the buzz we had heard about Temecula wines and we were pleasantly pleased as well. We visited three wineries and wish we had time for more.

IMG_4053We first stopped into Wilson Creek Winery. We tasted the ’11 Vogiener which is to be served just above room temperature and had honeysuckle and mint notes with subtle pear and caramel. The ’11 White Cabernet Sauvignon is a best seller and with a beautiful light pink tint. We especially liked the Duet and since both of us like Sangria we agreed it would be great for Sangria back home.

Molly’s Medley had a nice nose and is released in honor of their winery micro pig. It has won both Gold and Silver medals. We both really enjoyed the ’09 Reserve Late Harvest Zinfandel Port with its jammy dried fruit and berry notes and a spice licorice and jammy finish.

But my favorite was the presentation of the “Decadencia “Chocolate Cup” presented in a tiny Dutch Chocolate “shot glass.” Fun and tasty and memorable is how we will remember that one.

Since we were warmed up we were on to the next winery and what a treat this one proved to be. Thornton Winery is family owned and we had the privilidge of meeting the family and tasting with John and son Steve. The family was as delightful as their wines. We tasted the Champagne flight which was superb paired with Calamari and Brie. Thornton Winery is a destination in and of itself with Jazz Dinner Concerts offered from April to October, cooking classes and 20 acres of beauty to enjoy. Sit down tastings and a 5 Star Restaurant round out the possibilities.

IMG_4069We felt warm, welcomed and enjoyed learning about wine form the winemaker himself, David Vegari. We thoroughly enjoyed tasting the Winemaker’s Choice Wine Flight and we finished off our spectacular visit with the Chocolate Wine Lovers Flight. Each was unique, fun and gave us ideas for all sorts of fun possibilities back home. The Thornton Family offers holiday dinners and specials and we could only imagine how fun that must be to enjoy Christmas or New Year’s dinner at such a lovely winery with such outstanding ambiance and such gracious and kind hosts. Our visit to Thornton was the pinnacle of our Temecula visit.

The grande finale of our trip was a tasting, tour and lovely dinner at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa. The vast number of choices was a bit overwhelming as the number of medals and awards won by South Coast is impressive.We loved the ’08 Tempranillo aged in a combination of American and French Oak barrels, with its spicy cherry and berry aromas and flavors. The ’06 Wild Horse Peak Cabernet Sauvignon was one of my favorites and its label like so many others at South Coast was a true work of art. The’08 Wild Horse Peak Syrah was unique with an earthy fig and lavender aroma and a bacon and plum finish. The ambiance at South Coast was relaxed and friendly. The staff were very kind and helpful and unrushed and the wines were lovely as were the labels.

IMG_4059Our dinner at South Coast was extraordinary. The service was impeccable and the ambiance set the stage for a delightful dinner from start to finish. From delicious crisp, fresh salads to delectable and exquisitely presented seafood and steak dishes, to sumptuous and decadent desserts, every single facet of our lovely meal was perfection through and through. Our charming French waiter paired a couple of our courses with some fabulous South Coast wines. It was a truly impeccable dining experience.

We were very sad to say goodbye to Temecula but so blessed to have experienced a taste of this unique, warm and indulgent destination. Temecula is Southern California treasure. You need to experience it to appreciate the many pleasures Temecula offers its visitors and residents, alike.