Temecula Is San Diego’s Nearby Wine Country
Temecula is less than an hour away from downtown San Diego via I-15 and if you live in Escondido, it’s less than 20 minutes away. So no matter where you live, a visit to Temecula’s wine country region is definitely worth the trip!
Temecula is also home to dozens of fabulous restaurants, some of which are featured on our Restaurants page. Their locations can be found on the map in this chapter.
SAN DIEGAN Winery Tour
Assuming you are coming from San Diego via the I-15 Freeway, exit onto Rancho California Road and travel east for 4 miles along this major multi-lane thoroughfare. You will pass a few strip malls, condo and housing communities and suddenly you’ll arrive at the Temecula wine country with it’s 1,200 acres of rolling hills filled with vineyards and 36 must visit wineries. Yet, here lies the dilemma. Even if you plan to stay a week at one of the classy hotels or bed and breakfast inns, you’ll be hard-pressed to get to them all on one visit.
So we have hand-picked the ones we’d recommend you visit as well as where to dine in the wine country and in town and recommended the places to stay in the wine country with the newest being the star-studded Ponte Vineyard Inn. See where to stay in this chapter. And if you wish to try other recommended wineries go online to our website at [san diegan.com] for a more extensive list of recommended wineries.
You should also take a close look at the map in this chapter. New this year is a roundabout placed at the corner of Rancho California Road and Anza Road. While it obviously is intended to slow the speed of travelers passing through the wine country it has had an adverse affect because it backs up traffic on the weekends. So look at the map and think about alternative roads. The most obvious is Pauba Road, which is an ideal thoroughfare for getting to and from the wine country as well as to historic Old Town Temecula. It’s a back country road, so it rarely has any traffic. Then there is the back way into the wine country via De Portola Road. Refer to the map in this chapter for roads to take to the wineries. Visiting the wineries during the week is a great solution for enjoying Temecula’s wineries without the crowds.
The first winery you’ll see on the SAN DIEGAN wine tour is Thornton Winery (2) at 32575 Rancho California Rd. (951-699-0099) [thorntonwine.com]. Lovers of sparkling wine will cherish this winery and its French country estate atmosphere.
Baily Vineyard & Winery (4) at 33440 La Serena Way off Rancho California Road (951-676-9463) [bailywinery.com] is next. Be sure to visit this winery with its medieval flavor and artistic courtyard fountain. It is open for tastings Sun.–Fri., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sat., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Credit cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Also calling Baily Winery home is the delightful wine country restaurant called Carol’s Restaurant at Baily Vineyard & Winery (951-676-9243). On warm summer days wine country visitors love relaxing on the restaurant’s covered patio while dining and enjoying the vineyard views. On the weekends they also offer live music to enjoy while dining. See Restaurants.
Down the road is Falkner Winery (9), which is a great discovery at 40620 Calle Contento (951-676-8231) [falknerwinery.com]. It sits high on a hill with panoramic views of the mountains and vineyard. It’s open for tasting 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. The cost is ($10), which includes four tastes of white or red wines. On the weekends, wine tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. They also have an outdoor tasting area. Plus, they offer wine-tasting classes monthly. The winery also has an art gallery featuring talented Southern California artists and a gift shop filled with unique gifts. Impressive weddings of up to 200 people, banquets, catering and private parties from 50–175 people are all things they do very well here. Call Loretta at (951-676-8231 ext. 102). For high-quality, award-winning wines, this is definitely the place. And as you might expect of a top winery, they also have an impressive restaurant offering lunch daily. It’s aptly named The Pinnacle, and it sits on a hilltop offering beautiful views of the vineyards. It’s open daily from 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. with the last reservation taken at 2:30 p.m., serving Mediterranean-American cuisine. For groups of 20, you should reserve their impressive Wine Cave downstairs. Definitely dine here! See Where to Dine in this chapter and this book’s Restaurant chapter. They also offer delicious box lunches to go. Credit cards: AE, DISC, MC, VISA.
Ponte Family Estate Winery and Ponte Vineyard Inn (17) is at 35053 Rancho California Rd., Temecula (951-694-8855) [pontewinery.com]. And is a class act! This star-studded wine tasting experience offers it all including overnight accommodations at the newest hotel in the valley. You will undoubtedly realize that from every viewpoint the Ponte experience is first class. Most visitors will experience their wine tasting room first, with its beautiful high ceilings and spacious surroundings. Here they offer a full selection of whites and reds to choose from, tastings cost ($15) Mon.–Thurs. and ($20) Fri.–Sun. for six wines and include a souvenir glass. Plan to stay here for lunch at their award-winning restaurant and browse through their beautifully landscaped garden and if you have planned ahead, make plans to stay overnight in their award-winning inn. Weddings, special events and private parties are their specialties. Credit cards: AE, DISC, MC, VISA.
The newest winery in Temecula also happens to be one of the biggest and best wineries in the Valley. Monte de Oro Winery (19), at 35820 Rancho California Rd. (951-491-6551) offers the ultimate wine tasting experience in its state-of-the-art 31,000-sq. ft. building. A very appealing aspect of this winery is that it is located on the top of a hill and offers a spacious view of the wine country and the Palomar Mountains. Its name in Spanish is aptly given and means “gold mountain.” Approximately 66 percent of the grape production consists of red grapes. They offer excellent Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, zinfandel, tempranillo, petite syrah, malbec, grenache and cinsault. The remaining 34 percent of their grape production is devoted to white grapes. These grapes go into the production of viognier, chardonnay, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and muscat canelli. With such an impressive setting, the winery has quickly gained an excellent reputation for weddings, private parties and corporate events. Good food and good wine go well together especially at Monte de Oro’s new wine country restaurant. MDO Wine Bar & Bistro is open from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Sun. only, featuring tasty salads, great tasting sandwiches and a memorable blue cheese bison burger. Be sure to visit them online at [montedeoro.com] for a schedule of their upcoming events. The winery is open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. A great way to get the most out of the wine tasting experience is to join their wine club. Credit cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Where to Dine
There are many excellent places to dine in Temecula. For the locations of these restaurants, refer to the bold faced numbers following each restaurant’s name listed below, which correspond to their location on the Temecula map.
Carol’s Restaurant (4) at Baily Winery, 33440 La Serena Way, Temecula (951-676-9243). Open for lunch Thurs.–Sun. from 11:30 a.m. Open for appetizers and wine 3–5 p.m. Saturday and dinner Saturdays from 5–8:30 p.m. Carol’s serves delicious California cuisine overlooking the beautiful Baily vineyard and winery. Live music on Saturdays.
MDO Wine Bar & Bistro (19) in the magnificent Monte de Oro Winery at 35820 Rancho California Rd. (951-491-6551) is open 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri. only. They serve delicious salads, satisfying sandwiches and a memorable grilled bison burger with blue cheese! All entrées are paired with one of their award winning wines. Enjoy! Credit cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Pinnacle Restaurant (9) at Falkner Winery, 40620 Calle Contento, Temecula (951-676-8231). Open for lunch daily. This restaurant sits on top of a hill overlooking the vineyards, and is a wonderful treat for fine dining and fine wines. You can also get a delicious box lunch to go.
Red Robin Gourmet Hamburger Restaurant (31) at 40820 Winchester Rd., Temecula (951-296-1667). Happy hour 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and 8 p.m. till closing Mon-Fri. in the bar area only. Once you dine at a Red robin Restaurant you’ll know that every other hamburger restaurant is a wanna be compared to a world famous Red Robin gourmet burger restaurant. Having a burger is more than just sitting down and having a burger. The setting sizzles with Americana memorabilia that runs the gammet from classic photos of James Dean to an American gothic super embossed picture of hamburgers on pitch forks in this upbeat and fun atmosphere sensational burger are served. And if it’s your birthday month YOU CAN EVEN EAT FREE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY! Go online and join eClub and receive a free burger on your birthday. Full bar. Credit cards: AE, MC, VISA.
The Restaurant at Ponte, at Ponte Family Estate Winery 35053 Rancho California Rd., Temecula (951-252-1770) [Pontewinery.com]. Open daily. For lunch ($15–$32) and dinner ($15–$34) Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m.–8 p.m. and Sun 11 a.m.–6 p.m. With live music on the menu every Fri. and Sat. evenings beginning at 5:30 p.m. Executive Chef Sal Giuliano and his staff prepare a seasonal menu with one delightful gourmet entrée after another in an inspiring outdoor vineyard view setting. Credit cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Where to Stay
Ponte Vineyard Inn, at Ponte Family Estate Winery 35001 Rancho California Rd., Temecula (951-587-6688) [Pontevineyardinn.com]. Good seasonal packages with rates varying with the season. Also featuring their impressive underground Cellar Lounge. Staying overnight in the romantic Temecula Valley wine country just got a whole lot better with the opening of this new 4-diamond inn in wine country with it’s romantic vineyard views. The eye-catching early California-style architecture of the inn sets a new standard of excellence in the wine country. This brand new vineyard view 60-room, two story hotel in the heart of the wine country is undoubtedly the best place to stay. Credit Cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Click here for a complete list of Temecula winery reviews.