With spring in full swing and summertime in our collective sightline, I am pretty sure we’re all chomping at the bit for some time off to relax and renew. Since we still have a few weeks left to go before we leave on vacation, why don’t we settle in and make plans now.
Although I am not a psychic, I get the vibe that you’re looking for warm sunny days, lush green vineyards, crisp white wines, fruit driven reds, outstanding food, happy smiles, and some wine country fun. Temecula Valley Wine Country in Southern California is the perfect complement to anyone’s budget. Countryside living by day is right at home with casual elegance at night in this gorgeous wine district. They don’t call it the Golden State for nothing. I think I can almost smell the nose of a great Syrah right now. Intrigued? Read on!
There are about a zillion new things to try out in Temecula Wine Country. If you’re new to Temecula Wine Country, you’re in for a treat. If you’re a frequent visitor to the area, I think I may have some new ideas for you.
Let’s start with the new Winemaker Dinner series at Temecula Creek Inn (TCI). WOW, is all I can say. I got a sneak preview of the June 25th one. OMG. It’s hard to please 10 wine & food writers, but there wasn’t one of us who didn’t think Executive Chef Sal Giuliano didn’t hit a home run. The June dinner will feature a four-course Italian menu paired with the premium wines of Robert Renzoni Winery. Robert and Sal will be there to guide you through the evening. The ticket price is about $85 – a TRUE bargain. Call TCI for more summertime dates and info: 951.694.1000. This is also an outstanding place to stay. Rooms feature golf course views, exquisite service, and a breakfast not to be missed.
Think of yourself as a Chef? Maybe you need a REALLY cool team building exercise for your peeps? Need a unique birthday or anniversary gift? I have JUST the thing for you to try. Baily’s Old Town Temecula has a new activity offering…Iron Chef Cooking Adventure. Your group will be divided into a mix of real foodies, weekday cooks, and no way have I lifted a spatula in year’s cooks. Put in balanced teams, you’ll be challenged to come up with an appetizer and an entrée from scratch. It’s a fast-paced fun afternoon of give and take, plotting and tasting, wine-ing and dining. About $75 a person – but this is worth whatever GM Chris Baily wants to charge. Call Chris at 951-676-9567.
Love olive oil? Then you MUST visit the Temecula Olive Oil Company’s Olive View Ranch in Aguanga. It’s now open for scheduled public tours and special events by reservation only. You’re going to love this scenic 26-acre ranch just 20 minutes from Temecula. This is a “tree to table” experience with guided tours and tastings. Tours are about $15 per person (children 12 and under are free). More info at 866-654-8396. If you can’t make the Ranch tour, head to Old Town Temecula (just 10 minutes from Wine Country) to their tasting room.
Who can resist a great cooking class? Thornton Winery has a BBQ one coming on Saturday, June 26th 2:30 pm-4:30 pm. $60 pp plus tax & gratuity gets you recipes and big tastes of BBQ Chicken and Sweet Corn Bisque, Penne with Grilled Zucchini and Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata and Fresh Mint, Grilled Swordfish and Shrimp, Pepper Crusted Flat Iron Steak , and Grilled Plum and Candied Almond Flat Bread with Late Harvest Zinfandel Caramel Sauce. Yum! Call (951) 699-0099 x 3129. Also check out their summer Smooth Jazz concert series.
Finally ~ check out Lorimar Winery’s special Father’s Day promotion June 10 - 20. Buy a Bottle of 2008 Sangiovese and 2003 Dolce Vita and receive a FREE "Island Themed"embroidered shirt, while quantity lasts. If you miss that, check out their Web site for their weekend live music offerings known as Live@Lorimar!
Now, if you’re thinking you just have a summer afternoon to explore Temecula, then I have a couple of recommendations for you. Get to Wine Country off the I-15. It’s about 90 minutes from the OC, LA, Palm Springs or San Diego. Head east off the Rancho California or Highway 79 off-ramp. Here are my day picks for you in order of stops beginning at 11 AM:
1. Keyways Winery: Beautiful crisp white wines, full-bodied reds. Gorgeous property. Wholly female owned it’s a delight to the palate and the eyes.
2. Ponte Winery and lunch at the Smokehouse Restaurant. Outstanding food and wine. A real “Day in the Country” experience.
3. Thornton Winery Premium, award-winning still and sparkling wines. Be spoiled at their “C-Bar” tasting room. Ask to taste their newest releases. “Stunning” is a mild word for the these wines.
4. Hart Winery OMG red wines, a passion for excellence in every sip. It’s small, but mighty. Just the kind of “special find” we’re all hoping to come across. Say “Hey” to owner Joe Hart, son Jim Hart, and daughter-in-law extraordinaire Christine Hart for me. You will not be disappointed.
5. Briar Rose Winery By reservation only and worth the call. The winery is built around a Snow White theme. They make an unbelievable Cab and a frisky sparkler called the Talking Frog. You CAN NOT miss this one.
By night, head off to Old Town Temecula. This place is a mini wine district. It has over six tasting rooms, a ton of restaurants, some wine bars, olive oil tasting… and really starts hopping after 5 PM. Park your car and sip and stroll your way through the quaint town. First stop should be Tesoro Winery. Purchase a Wine & Dine Card, and get amazing discounts on wine tasting, food and more. Be sure and also stop by Lorimar Winery and then dine for sure at Baily’s Old Town restaurant where you have a choice of casual or formal dining. Great bar. Great prices. Check out their specialty drinks.
Not ready to call it a day? Head off to Pechanga Resort & Casino for some adult fun in the casino, the comedy club, or the nightclub. If you find yourself there all night – begin your morning with a fabulous breakfast at The Journey’s End restaurant, which is part of the new world-class Journey at Pechanga golf course. Hey, pull out your clubs and play on ….a nice end to a great summertime trip.