Temecula Valley Wineries Walking & Driving Tours
Temecula Valley Wineries are 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. Click here for a complete list of Temecula winery reviews.
SAN DIEGAN Winery Tour
The easiest way to get to the wine valley is to exit the I-15 Freeway at Rancho California Road. From there travel east for about 4 miles along the Rancho California Road parkway, a multi-lane thoroughfare.
Enroute you will pass a few strip malls, condo and housing communities and eventually you’ll arrive at the Temecula wine country. This wine valley consists of 1,200 acres of rolling hills filled with vineyards and dozens of must visit wineries. Yet, here lies the dilemma. Even if you plan to stay a week at one of the classy vineyard hotels or bed and breakfast inns, you’ll be hard-pressed to get to them all on one visit.
So to make this adventure more fun, we have hand-picked the ones we’d recommend you visit as well as where to dine in the wine country as wellas in town as well as recommended places to stay in the wine country. See where to stay in this chapter.
You should also take a close look at the map in this chapter. Make note of the 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.
So let’s get started. The first winery you’ll want to visit 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.
Next on your list is Baily Vineyard & Winery (4) at 33440 La Serena Way off Rancho California Road (951-676-9463) [bailywinery.com]. 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 the 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.
Your next discovery should be Ponte Family Estate Winery and Ponte Vineyard Inn (17) is at 35053 Rancho California Rd., Temecula (951-694-8855) [pontewinery.com]. This is a class act! This star-studded wine tasting experience offers it all including overnight accommodations at their newer hotel. 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.
One of the biggest and best wineries in the Valley is Monte de Oro Winery (19), at 35820 Rancho California Rd. (951-491-6551). They offer 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.
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.
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.
Not in the wine country, but in nearby Old Town Temecula is an eclectic handcrafted restaurant pub in a dynamic bar setting. It’s 1909 Restaurant (30) at 28656 Old Town Front Street in the heart of old town Temecula, California. The restaurant’s mission is to serve homemade fare and sport a vintage atmosphere for guests and their friends to enjoy. On the menu at 1909, you can indulge in items such as quail egg sliders, Kobe corn dogs, homemade chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, New Zealand lamb shank, beef pot pie, and more. Chefs at 1909 recommend daily specials that are cooked using fresh and seasonal ingredients. The pan-seared free-range chicken, roasted garlic and Gouda mac and cheese, steamed mussels and grilled rib eye steak are all features that can be enjoyed.
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.
Inn at Churon at 33233 Rancho California Rd. (951-694-9070). Current pandemic rates are ($160) a night. Stay in a picturesque French chateau in the heart of the Temecula Valley wine country is nothing less than romantic. Enjoy fine dining and lots of wineries to discover. It’s romance at it’s very best.
Historic Old Town Temecula is an authentic western town with buildings dating back to the late 1800s. The City of Temecula has completed a $5.5 million project to preserve Temecula’s Old Town theme, and they continue to improve and enhance the area. An intriguing attraction is the Imagination Workshop, Temecula Children’s Museum (31) at 42081 Main St. (951-308-6370). The 7,500-sq. ft. museum features a host of educational and scientific exhibits and interactive hands-on areas for children. Nearby, the 1890 era red brick Mercantile building takes on a new vitality. Remodeled and transformed, it is now the 357-seat Old Town Temecula Community Theater (866-653-8696) and provides a permanent home for local theatrical and musical performance groups.
Old Town Temecula abounds with fascinating stores and boutiques specializing in antiques, handmade gift items, and western, Native American and early California lore. With more than 640 antique dealers and specialty shops in Old Town, antique collectors will love shopping here! There are also unique restaurants such as the old Swing Inn Café, which has been in operation since 1927. While in town, be sure to see the historical medallions located at the intersection of Old Town Front and Main streets.
To learn more about the history of Temecula, visit the Temecula Valley Museum (35) (951-694-6450). It’s located in Sam Hicks Monument Park at 28314 Mercedes St. It’s open Tues.–Sat., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.–5 p.m.; closed Mon. The suggested donation is ($2). Family Day programs are also offered here each month. Call for information.
Also in Old Town is the Temecula Stage Stop (34) (951-676-2059), located at the corner of Old Town Front and Sixth streets on the north side. This state-of-the-art transportation center was designed for the convenience of tour buses including the Greyhound Bus Line. Every Saturday at the Temecula Stage Stop parking lot, 8 a.m.–1 p.m., is one of Temecula’s certified Farmers’ Markets. While you’re here, visit the Temecula Wine & Beer Garden (34), featuring Temecula Valley wines (951-506-4474). A beautiful 150-foot-long “history mural” adorns the wall of the adjacent building.
Many of the city’s special annual events take place in Old Town Temecula including the spring and fall car shows, featuring hot rods, vintage and classic cars. Call toll-free (866-676-5090).
You may also want to visit the recently dedicated Japanese Garden (36) at the corner of Rancho California Road and Ynez Road. This serene and beautiful addition to the Temecula Duck Pond honors their sister city, Nakayama, Japan. Steps away is a beautiful and fitting Veteran’s Memorial to Temecula’s heroes.
City of Temecula
Temecula is a thriving community. There are new housing developments, corporate parks and shopping centers all around. Plus, it has clean air, a low crime rate and affordable housing. In fact, many families and businesses are moving to Temecula because it offers a unique quality of life that is unsurpassed by any other Southern California community—it has big city amenities and old-fashioned, small-town charm.
The city prides itself on its leisure activities and its 41 beautifully landscaped parks and recreational facilities. One of these is the 128-acre Ronald Reagan Sports Park (49), which includes baseball fields, soccer fields, a playground and an all-concrete skateboarding and in-line skating park.
Nearby is the $5.6-million Temecula Community Recreation Center (49) (951-694-6410). It houses adult, teen and children’s sports and other recreational programs. This 27,000-sq. ft. center includes a gym, swimming pool complete with a 110-ft. water slide, outdoor amphitheater and rooms for meetings, classes and workshops. And Temecula has award-winning schools. They boast 18 elementary schools, 6 middle schools, 5 high schools, 2 charter schools and 10 private schools.
Temecula also provides a business-friendly climate for fast-growing companies. Many businesses have benefited from the city’s Fast Track Program, which allows qualified commercial and industrial manufacturers to expedite projects through planning, saving time and money. Major companies that have relocated or expanded their facilities here include Millipore, Abbott Laboratories, Opto 22, Bostik, Inc., International Rectifier, Milgard Manufacturing, Inc., Professional Hospital Supply and Scotts Company. Having these large companies in the city is healthy for employment opportunities.
For further information on relocating your business to Temecula, contact Gloria Wolnick at the City of Temecula (951-694-6444) or the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce (37) toll-free (866-676-5090) at 26790 Ynez Ct., Temecula, CA 92591 [www.temecula.org].
The many new home developments in Temecula include luxury condominiums, single-family residences and executive estates. For details, contact the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce (866-676-5090).
Shopping in Temecula
Temecula also has many neighborhood shopping centers. However, the major ones to discover are just off Ynez Road and on Highway 79 South in Temecula.
The largest regional retail, dining and entertainment center in the area is The Promenade in Temecula (951-296-0975). It’s located at the southeast corner of Ynez and Winchester roads adjacent to I-15. See map. This partially enclosed, two-level mall has expanded to its current size of 1,139,000 sq. ft. It features more than 140 stores and restaurants including Abercrombie & Fitch and Talbot’s. Anchor stores are JCPenney, Macy’s and Sears. Plus, there is a food court and a story court designed for small children. Just look for the big tree on the first level. They also have a state-of-the-art 15-screen Edwards Cinemas and ongoing outdoor events and entertainment here. In addition, the free-standing stores that surround the mall are well-known, major stores including Barnes & Noble and Costco Wholesale.
Temecula continues to bring new and exciting shopping and dining destinations. The attractive Mediterranean-style Bel Villaggio (52) is a retail center with 116,375 sq. ft. of shopping and dining at the west side of Margarita Road just south of Winchester Road. There are several noteworthy businesses among its many attractions and services.
Palm Plaza (40) is located on the southwest corner of Ynez and Winchester roads. It’s anchored by a Big Kmart, Food 4 Less, Mervyns, Pier 1 Imports and TJ Maxx. You’ll find additional shops and restaurants are here as well.
Tower Plaza Center (48), which is located at the corner of Ynez and Rancho California roads, offers shopping, dining and entertainment in a center of peaceful winding sidewalks, trees and flowers. The center boasts restaurants, Orchard’s Market and various shops, and a SoCal Cinema’s Movie Experience 10. Each September the center is home to the Temecula Valley International Film & Music Festival.
Another destination for dining as well as shopping is the Temecula Town Center (41). There are more than 75 stores and restaurants including Claim Jumper, Home Goods, Target and Vons supermarket.
With its rolling hills, picturesque landscape and wide open spaces, Temecula is a haven for golf enthusiasts. A course that’s both challenging and beautiful is CrossCreek Golf Club (51) at 43860 Glen Meadows Rd. (951-506-3402) or (800-506-3402). CrossCreek is just minutes from I-15 but you won’t be distracted by any traffic. Designed by legendary golf course designer and architect Arthur Hills, this secluded, pristine golf course is surrounded by rippling creeks and groves of oak and sycamore trees. They were even given four and a half out of five stars by Golf Digest magazine.
Green fees are Mon.–Fri. ($40–$65), and Sat.–Sun. ($50–$85). They also have membership packages. The course is 6,833 yards, 140 slope and par 71. There is also a large driving range, putting green, the CrossCreek Grille serving delicious food and drinks and a new clubhouse opening in 2009. CrossCreek is also available for banquets, corporate events and more.
As you might expect of this outdoor-oriented community, there is also boating, fishing, camping, hiking and seasonal horseback riding at the nearby Lake Skinner recreation area, 37701 Warren Rd. in Winchester (951-926-1541). The park, which is 10 miles northeast of Temecula off Rancho California Road, has about 300 campsites, many with full hookups, a store and a seasonal swimming pool. Fishing is allowed on the lake as well, and it’s stocked with trout in the winter and catfish in the summer.
Also close to Temecula is the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (951-677-6951), which is located at 39400 Clinton Keith Rd. in Murrieta. In this 8,300-acre wildlife reserve are 40 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails and wildlife galore.
Thirteen of the 40 miles of trails are open for biking and horseback riding. Admission for adults is ($2); children 2–12 ($1). Special group tours and hikes are available.
Gaming & Casinos
An adventure trip to the Temecula Valley should not be limited to just a tour of the wine country. There is a lot more to see and do here as well.
For example, the largest casino in southern Riverside County is only minutes from the wineries. It’s the Pechanga Entertainment Center (50) (888-732-4264), which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is located off Interstate 15 and Highway 79 south at 45000 Pechanga Pkwy., which is on the border of Riverside and San Diego counties. See Casinos.
Where to Stay
Just off I-15 at Rancho California Road is the Embassy Suites Hotel Temecula Valley Wine Country (53) at 29345 Rancho California Rd. (951-676-5656). Offered are 176 suites from ($130), fully equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers and TVs. With area attractions all within a six-mile radius, it’s a great place to stay! Credit cards: AE, DC, DISC, MC, VISA.
Conveniently located in Temecula’s historic Old Town is Ramada Inn Temecula (54) at 28980 Old Town Front St. (951-676-8770). This nice yet affordable motel has rooms from ($80) and all the comforts of home. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, DISC, MC, VISA.
Living in Temecula
Living in beautiful Temecula Valley, with its welcoming neighborhood, top rated schools and picturesque vineyards, can be a dream come true. The resident experts in Temecula are Jan Leibole and Emily Cavazos of Prudential California Realty (29) at 31093 Temecula Pkwy. Suite D2 (951-694-8111); Jan Liebole’s cell (951-306-5885), Emily Cavazos’ cell (951-757-2910). With more than 13 years of real estate experience between them, Emily and Jan are experts in Southwest Riverside County real estate. They also specialize in Orange County and North San Diego with an emphasis on Temecula Valley. Whether you are a first time homebuyer or a current homeowner looking to upgrade, Jan and Emily will help you through the exciting process of purchasing real estate. They’ll even refer you to a lender if you need help with financing. Plus, they are members of the National Association of Realtors and the California Association of Realtors.
Temecula’s historic Old Town, restaurants, hotels and wineries are open year-round for guests. Make it a point to visit Temecula Valley soon!