SD Day Trip: Temecula Wine Country

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My relationship with southern SoCal (meaning not LA) began in Temecula. That’s where I was hosted three years ago on what I like to call my new-life shopping trip.

Those are the three weeks I spent in SoCal planning the life I have now. Temecula wine country was a big part of those dreamy days. In particular, I had a couple social Sundays in the wineries meeting locals and gaining valuable advice on the plan for my new life.

But more than that, simply experiencing wine country sold me on SoCal. Where cornfields used to be my vista, now it was vineyards stretching endlessly into the horizon. Talk about a change of scenery.

My wine experience in the Midwest was mostly at the social functions I covered. I gained an appreciation for wine, but never a love. When I told that to people who moved to Omaha for the West Coast, I was assured I wasn’t drinking the good stuff.
Standing in a Temecula tasting room, swirling chardonnay in my glass, I knew this was the good stuff. And this was the good life.

In that respect, Temecula wine country will always be a special place because it helped me dream big dreams. Now it helps me realize them.

With every trip to wine country, my fascination grows as I learn more about the history and the people who gave birth to this magical place and soak in more of the culture and the ambience. Ah, the ambience.

This blog post hopes to capture a little of all the above, but, like the sips your wine card gets you, it’s only a taste of the Temecula experience, which amazingly continues to grow and evolve 40 years after Ely Callaway opened the first winery in 1974.

And fittingly our virtual tour begins at Callaway Winery. This is the recounting of my recent experience, but it’s only one. With nearly 50 wineries now, the ways to experience wine country are vast and growing every day. Not to be the Temecula Chamber of Commerce, but if you haven’t been, you need to go. It really is a magical place.

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One of the ways to experience wine country is via the Grapeline, a wine country shuttle service. Besides eliminating driving, the Grapeline provides a guided tour and plans your itinerary. Ours included stops at five wineries and lunch, which we’ll get to a minute. We were a band of 10, but the Grapeline can shut as many as groups of 30 or 40.

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Our tour began at Callaway with a wine tour, which is a tour of the winery that takes you through the process of wine making. Many of the wineries offer these and if you ask around, you’ll find out which are some of the better ones. As a far kid, I like to know where things come from so this is fascinating stuff for me. You learn what climates produce certain grapes, what the process is and then all sort of fun wine facts such as how many bottles of wine are in a barrel (300). I highly recommend a tour if you are a first-timer.

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About those grapes … We were told Temecula grows 24 varietals, nearly twice as many of most wine-making regions. Which means you really can experience it all here, and each winery has its own specialty or niche. That’s part of the joy of discovery of getting to know each one.

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This is the enterance to Callaway’s restaurant, but you can also see the vineyards in the background. Each property has a different make up. Some just make wine. Many have tasting rooms. Some have restaurants. Increasingly some have hotels. And many hosting weddings. Temecula is a very popular destination for that, and the wedding pics are phenomenal.

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The Callaway restaurant. How would you like that view for lunch? Stunning.

roses

You learn on the that roses serve as guardian plants for the grape vines. If there’s disease, it’ll show up on the roses first. Again, stuff like this speaks to my inner farm boy. These are the vines are Lorimar.

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What can you make out of wine corks? Temecula makes you realize seemingly infinite possibilities. And they repurpose wine barrels like crazy too. If you’re a huge home décor person, you’ll be in heaven here.

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This was lunch, staged in the barrel room of Cougar Vineyard and Winery. After a club sandwich, a fresh salad and a delicious brown with chocolate chunks inside, we were primed to continue tasting, which we, of course, also did with lunch.

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This is the view at Cougar. Like looking at the ocean, these views just never get old.

renzoni

Our last stop was at Temecula’s newest tasting room, Robert Renzoni Vineyards. This is a stunning property with a spacious tasting room and incredible views in every direction. I was a bit bummed we only had 30 minutes here. I wanted to stay and experience it much longer. Looks like I’m going back.

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The view at Renzoni. Tired of looking at these yet? I didn’t think so. Well, in the insert of blog brevity, I’m going to end the post here, but it could go on and on, and I re-do this post with different wineries and experiences every day for the rest of the experience. But this at least gives you a glimpse of what’s there to discover and do, especially at this time of year. Harvest is a festive time in wine country, and harvest started early this year due to the drought.
But if you’re planning in a trip in the next few months, know the wineries plan concerts and other events, such as grape stomping, around harvest. I have yet to experience that, but I want to this year.

And if I do, well, I expect to keep you “posted.” Cheers.