Just one hour north of San Diego is Temecula Valley, the laid-back wine region that boasts more than 40 wineries. Its rolling hills and Mission-style architecture—not to mention loads of wine tasting opportunities—make for an amazing day trip from San Diego or L.A. I was grateful to be there for a few days for a freelance assignment, and in our 2.5 days, we fell in love with this slice of SoCal country.
Here are a few places you need to visit:
We stayed at the gorgeous Ponte Vineyard Inn, the hotel component of Ponte Family Estate & Winery, one of the most famous operations in town. Our stay had a lot of layers—touring the vineyards and trying a private wine and cheese pairing, eating at Bouquet, the fine dining restaurant with an epic patio overlooking the vines, and spending time on the grassy lawn with Teddy. Yes, dogs are allowed! So rad!
Ponte’s motto is “a day in the country”, and with the expansive views of rolling hills and Mission-meets-Mediterranean style architecture, it’s an understatement to call the area photogenic. It’s one of the most beautiful properties I’ve visited, and bonus points for that rock candy pop in lieu of regular sugar with my coffee.Walking onto the lush grounds of Briar Rose Winery feels like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. That’s because the architect, Belden Fields, was a Disneyland architect and designed his home in the style of Snow White cottages. A family then bought the property in the 90s and turned it into a winery. Situated among homes on a residential street, it’s a great off-the-beaten path choice. And though I forgot to snap a picture, Vindemia is another unique option. The winery has an open-air tasting room that feels more like a wine stand. It’s wonderfully low-key.Old Town Temecula, a pedestrian-friendly area about five miles west of wine country, is made up of 12 blocks of shops, restaurants, and bars. On Saturdays, it plays host to a bustling farmers market. How do I love thee E.A.T. (Extraordinary Artisan Table) Marketplace? Let me count the ways. The dedication to farm-to-table before farm-to-table was trendy. The breakfast “Scottie” sandwiches made with Fontina cheese. The Euphoria smoothie, a blend of almond milk, coconut water, dates, bananas, chia, maca, and seasonal berries. The berry galette. The organic, sustainably sourced coffee. The homemade coconut milk. I could go on, but just go to this spot just outside Old Town Temecula. Despite its moniker, Blackbird Tavern is a bright and airy dog-friendly restaurant with a great backyard space that feels like a more hipster Palm Springs. The burger was dynamite, and it seems to be a lively spot for an evening beer or five.Across the street from Blackbird is The Goat & Vine, a cozy and charming restaurant that specializes in stone-hearth pizza made with uber-fresh ingredients, like San Marzano tomatoes and homemade dough. As if we didn’t have enough to be wowed by, sunrise is worth getting up for in the Valley. Hot air balloons rise at the crack of dawn for a journey over the hills. and even if you don’t take flight, there’s plenty to enjoy from sea level. From Ponte’s lawn (and other spots, I’m sure), you can see a handful of balloons dotting the air. Paired with the colors of the sunrise—that’s the sunlight bathed against my face, not saturation filters!—the silhouette of the hills, and the peaceful silence in the air, it makes for the best kind of wake-up call.
Disclaimer: Since I was on a work assignment, all expenses were covered. As always, all opinions are my own.