Temecula Valley Wine Country offers award-winning wines and culture just a grapevine away. There are so many activities available in Temecula Valley, you may have a hard time deciding what to do. Temecula Valley Wine Country boasts some 37 wineries where you can tour the facilities, get an education in wine preparation and experience and taste each winery's unique product. With that many wineries to choose from, you'll have plenty of choices to keep you from getting thirsty. The area was originally inhabited by the Temecula native people for hundreds of years. The Temecula Indians ("Temeekuyam") lived at "Temeekunga" which means, "The Sun That Shines Through The Mist". Temecula Valley is extremely unique. So unique in fact, that Relocate America selected this region as one of the top 100 places to live in America. Temecula Valley is easily accessible from Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County and is the only city in California to still retain its original Indian name.
My first stop on the wine tasting tour was at Leonesse Cellars and was personally guided by one of it's owners Michael Rennie. Leonesse is different from a lot of wineries in that they implement scientifically enhanced, (cloned) grapes from around the world. This very expensive process gives Leonesse wines their distinctive taste which separates them from their competitors. Leonesse Cellars offer three distinctive series of wine choices and wine clubs. The Cellar Selection Series, the Vineyard Selection Series and the Signature Selection series. Leoness Cellars gourmet restaurant serves "Small Byte" appetizers that are paired with their exceptional wines and the executive chef, Leah Bernardo, also happens to be in charge of Temecula Valley's Slow Food Program. Enjoy a delicious meal and wine tasting in the barrel room, on the ceremony lawn or on the patio with the best hillside view in the valley. For more information, you may access their website at www.leonessecellars.com
The next stop on the wine tour was the Weins Family Cellars, owned and operated by the four Weins brothers. Weins Family Cellars produces a broad range of gold-medal winning, estate-farmed varietal wines for the enjoyment of people who appreciate a down-to-earth family lifestyle. The family is known for their "Big Reds" as well as their sparkling AMour De L' Orange. Doug Weins says, "the family mission is to make the highest quality wine and to provide it at a reasonable price. One of our most important goals is to produce a Bordeaux that is on par with the best of the Napa and Sonoma regions". No small feat. Weins Family Cellars also plays host to a number of special events including Wiensfest! and a Summer Concert Series. Their outdoor amphitheatre is also used for weddings and special events with a separate bridal suite for the ladies and a sports room for the guys. For more information, you may access their website at www.Weinscellars.com
My final stop on the wine tasting express was to Hart Winery. Although it is one of the smaller wineries in Temecula Valley, owner/operator Joe Hart wouldn't have it any other way. In 1970, Joe and Nancy Hart first discovered the Temecula Valley and decided to start a winery. In 1974, with the help of their three sons, they planted the vineyard, which is comprised of Syrah, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. In 1980, they built the winery on a corner of their 10-acre property. Later that same year, the first wines bearing the Hart label were produced, bottled and sold. In keeping with the philosophy that small-scale wine-making is an art form, Joe Hart and his son, Bill, produce about about 5000 cases of premium wine annually. The Hart family places an emphasis on matching grape varieties with terroir. Numerous Gold Medals and Best of Class Awards throughout the years attest to the recognition by industry peers and public alike. To find out more, go to the website at www.vinhart.com
No trip to Temecula Valley would be complete without a breathtaking Hot Air Balloon Ride. Words cannot describe the peace and serenity, as you drift high above the lakes, citrus groves, wineries and estate homes that make up Temecula Valley. The company I flew with was, A Grape Escape, which offers hot air balloon tours seven days a week (weather permitting). Scenic flights are 60-70 minutes in length, begin between 5:30-6:30 am and can accommodate from two to six passengers. During the one hour ride, your (certified) pilot will also act as "tour guide" to identify local points of interest and answer any questions you may have. Once back on the ground, you will toast your successful flight and new status as an "aeronaut" with an official certificate presented by your pilot. Your trip ends with a sparkling glass of champagne or orange juice and a continental breakfast at Wilson Creek Winery. A Grape Escape also offers Group discounts, Birthday, Anniversery, and Proposal packages. For more information go to their website at www.hotairtours.com
Following the amazing Ballooon Ride over the Temecula Valley, it was time to visit Old Town Temecula and its rich history as one of the stops on the Butterfield Stage route. In 1859, it became the location of the seventh post office in California recently celebrating its 150 year anniversary of postal service. The rustic buildings, sidewalks and storefronts are reminiscent of our golden west.
A stroll down Main Street will take you wherever you need to go to find an assortment of casual and upscale restaurants, with over 640 antique shops and boutiques. There is the Temecula Valley Museum, the Imagination Workshop Children's Museum, The Visitors Bureau and even a Farmers Market which sells organic fruits and vegetables. Old Town Temecula also plays host to an assortment of events throughout the year including art exhibits, classic car shows, fundraisers and outdoor festivals.
Old Town Temecula is also bursting with culture having added the Old Town Temecula Community Theater (The Merc) on Main Street in 2005. The Merc is a performing and visual arts facility that includes a 361-seat auditorium and is housed in the charming historic Mercantile Building originally built in 1890. This amazing, yet intimate performance space, has a visual art gallery, a dance studio and a 1,390 square foot rehearsal space. The Merc offers a full season of events including a Dance Series with everything from ballet to modern jazz. Other events include a Classical Music Series offering individual performances to chamber orchestras, and include a Big Band/Cabaret Series with big band tributes and fully produced staged musicals. The MERC also presents a popular Friday Night Groove Series and plays host to The Temecula Valley Jazz Festival. For more information and theater specifications, visit their website at www.TemeculaTheater.org
Next, we visited the family owned and operated Temecula Olive Oil Company. After spending 20 + years in the sales and marketing side of the wine business in LA, Thomas and Nancy Curry decided it was time for a change. They moved from the city to the country, (can you say Green Acres) to provide their family with a wholesome country lifestyle. They wanted their children to appreciate what the land gives back and that "good food" doesn't come out of a box. 1n 2001, they partnered with Ernie and Katherine Pepe and established the Temcula Olive Oil Company. Tom is certified by the International Olive Oil Council (I'm not making this up), as a "Master Taster" and handles all grove management and production. Catherine and her sister Diane, handle the retail side. The Temecula Olive Oil Company has two retail shops and tasting rooms in Old Town Temecula and Old Town San Diego. For more information, go to www.temeculaoliveoil.com
What a great day! Considering I was up at the crack of dawn for a Hot Air Balloon adventure, a trip to Old Town Temecula and an amazing wine tasting tour, I was pretty exhausted. So I headed back to The Temecula Creek Inn where I was staying, took a quick power nap and went on to a private dinner party hosted by the Robert Renzoni Winery. Robert did a wine-pairing with dinner, and introduced me to a selection of his authentic, Italian family wines. After dinner, I was off to bed for a good nights sleep. After all, I still had 33 more wineries and tastings to go. For more information about Robert Renzoni wines, visit the website at www.robertrenzoni.com/ For more information on The Temecula Creek Inn, go to www.TemeculaCreekInn.com
For more information on Temecula Valley and all its activities, got to the Visitors Bureau Website at www.temeculacvb.com