Temecula: A more affordable and less pretentious option to Napa
Floating over vast vineyards through shallow valleys of rolling hills in a hot air balloon is a marvelous way to see the terroir that has made Temecula Valley a serious contender in the wine industry.
The soil in the Temecula Valley does significantly better with Italian varietals, such as Sangiovese and Primitivo (aka Zinfandel). The local wineries are also producing some incredible blends, like the CabFranc at Avensole Winery. Some might argue that white wines are not the strongest in the region, yet Peltzer Winery is producing a delightful Sauvignon Blanc.
Temecula has been carving out a niche as a destination for vino lovers these past few decades. Since wine is synonymous with food, restaurants have followed, right along with boutique lodging and other amenities that attract tourists.
Some people might be surprised by the fact that Temecula Valley actually dates back to the mid-1800s, with a well-preserved historic downtown. There has been a resurgence of Old Town Temecula and developers have done a fantastic job maintaining the historical integrity with more modern buildings. As pedestrians peruse this area, one thing stands out…the sidewalks. They are a combination of old boardwalks and modern concrete. Lively music is also broadcast throughout Old Town via speakers on each of the light posts. You’ll also find a slew of farm-to-table restaurants and artisan shops to browse.
While modern Temecula has been around for more than150 years, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians has inhabited the area for thousands. The reservation is nestled within Temecula, where the Pechanga Resort Casino takes center stage. Pechanga is the largest hotel in the area with over 1000 rooms. Even if you’re not into gaming, you’ll enjoy staying at Pechanga. There is an event center for concerts, many restaurant choices, a golf course, a 4.5-acre tropical pool complex with a dedicated restaurant, and an abundance of amenities. Those looking to relax will really appreciate the palatial and luxurious 25,000 square foot spa with a private pool area.
If you’ve been to Napa in recent years, you know that it has become extremely expensive, and quite frankly, a bit pretentious. Temecula on that other hand feels more comfortable, both in atmosphere and to the wallet. Many of the wineries are less about frills, and more about the experience. Wine tasting in Temecula is like hanging out with friends, and the award-winning wines only take a back seat to the epicurean affair.
WHERE IS TEMCULA VALLEY
Temecula Valley is located just 60 miles northeast of San Diego, and about 85 miles southeast of L.A., both are major feeder markets to the area. Temecula is however slowly becoming known to international travelers as well.
WHERE TO EAT IN TEMECULA
I was in Temecula for but a few days and only dined at a couple of the recommendations below. However, friend and local foodie, Rick Calvert, helped chip in on some of these local restaurant suggestions.
- Crush & Brew – Features gastro pub fare, artisan craft beer and small batch wines.
- The Goat and Vine – Exceptional pizzas and salads.
- E.A.T. – Extraordinary Artisan Table features locally inspired faire.
- Devilicious – Pub food with a pop, along with a Roaring 20s themed speakeasy.
- Gourmet Italia– Unique European atmosphere with authentic Italian food with a boutique wine list from local wineries.
- Cork | Fire Kitchen – Rustic, yet refined farm-to-table with innovative dishes made for sharing.
WHERE TO DRINK IN TEMECULA VALLEY
- Peltzer Winery – A wonderfully fun farm-chic setting. Don’t miss trying the Sauvignon Blanc and the Sangiovese.
- Avensole Winery – A refined setting both inside and out. Don’t miss trying the CabFranc or the Enchanté blends.
- Vindemia Vineyard – Nestled on a hillside with European influences and California casual feel. Don’t miss trying the More Cowbell Zinfindel.
- Garage Brewing Co. – Fantastic and creative section of craft beer, however the pizza is just mediocre. Don’t miss trying the Apple Pie Pale Ale, Cherry Imperial and the Marshmallow Milk Stout.
- Thompson and Twain – Embracing Temecula’s Western past, this speakeasy is the place to get uniquely crafted cocktails that tell stories of the past.
WHAT TO DO IN TEMECULA VALLEY
- Hot air ballooning – Don’t miss a balloon ride with the folks from California Dreamin’. This family-run business has been showing off Temecula for decades. They are the best in the business!
- Sugarplum Zoo and Chocolates – Where two passions collide…a love of confectionery chocolates and rescued exotic animals.
- Temecula Community Theater – This community theater is known for hosting a wide range of shows such as dramas and musicals so whatever your mood, you will likely find it here.
- Green Acres Ranch – You can learn all about the equine at Green Acres—from horsemanship and safety for Western or English riding, they provide lessons for all ages and skill levels.
- Golf – There are a number of fantastic courses in Temecula for the golf enthusiast.
If you’ve ever been to Temecula, leave a comment below and share your favorite places or things to do.