Not many 30-year-olds hold the reins of an entire winery operation, but Akash Patel does. He's the owner and director of Akash Winery in Temecula, a property he built with his parents while he was finishing his college degree.
"My parents and I literally built this by hand. It all stemmed from my dad's dream," he says. "My dad liked wine, and after he visited Temecula in 2001, he thought, 'Maybe we can get into the winery business.' "
The Patels didn't find a suitable property to buy until nine years later, and even then, it was just dirt. "We saw 20 acres for sale in a beautiful spot. It was just a big lot off a dirt road. There wasn't even a water line," he says.
The family owned and operated lodging properties, but they had no experience with viticulture. "We started slowly developing the vineyard and building all the infrastructure," he says. "Over time, I got involved in every aspect—working the harvest, processing the grapes, and learning winemaking from our head winemaker."
After nine years of development, Akash Winery opened for wine tasting in 2019. The vineyard grows Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grapes, and they're about to plant Semillon. "We're trying to hone in on the Bordeaux-style wines," he says.
Patel says he has "a huge love for the industry and the craft behind it. Everything in this business keeps you on your toes. There are so many moving parts and it's never the same. I could be washing barrels, prepping for bottling, pouring wines for guests, giving tours."
In recent years, Patel has seen his own horizons expand—he and his wife have a seven-month-old baby—and also Temecula's. The region is growing more popular all the time, he says.
"Temecula has definitely become an influencer-blogger-Instagram destination. If you want to put on a sundress and take amazing photos in the vineyards, you can do that. If you love beer, you can check out the brewery scene. If you want to live the small-town lifestyle, you can hang out in Old Town or at Vail Headquarters," he says. "There's so much scenery and diversity. No matter what you're into, you can find it out here."
“Anybody who comes here is going to find something that they like in Old Town,” Patel notes.
“It has wooden sidewalks and rustic Western-style buildings filled with a mixture of restaurants, bars, and shops. It's an attractive spot with a hometown feel. Families go there during the day. At night, there's a nightlife bar scene that can get a little rowdy. It has a little bit of everything for everybody.”
Patel calls himself a foodie and says Temecula's food scene is becoming more diverse, with Small Barn leading the trend. "It's New American cuisine but with an awesome twist of cultures. The chef likes to do creative, inspired dishes. He brings a new way of dining to town. It's the kind of food that you might find in L.A. or San Diego."
FIVE MORE FAVORITES
Patel calls out a few of his favorite spots in Temecula:
Brunch/breakfast: "We love to go to Le Coffee Shop in Old Temecula. It's a little hidden gem—a classic French bakery-breakfast spot. I usually get one of their lattes, and I love their croque- monsieur. It's a super-rich grilled egg and ham sandwich, and it's really good. All their breakfast sandwiches are amazing."
Pizza: "The Goat & Vine has been in business for years now. They make pizza and all kinds of top-shelf Italian food. They execute everything perfectly, from hospitality to aesthetics to service. It's a home-run spot. We usually get the jalapeño lime carnitas pizza. It's fantastic. It's an awesome combination of flavors."
Brewery: "8 bit Brewing Company is run by two brothers and their parents. Their beers are named after eight-bit video games. They have great artwork on their labels. They're go-getters and they're always innovating. They're a collectors' brand, and they want to be better every time. They're trying to make the best craft beers out there. Sours and hazy IPAs are their specialties, but they also make lagers, blondes, and stouts. They're well respected in the brewery game, not just in Temecula but throughout the United States."
Shopping: "A cool little spot that a lot of people don't know about is Vail Headquarters on Temecula Parkway. It's tucked away by this big modern shopping center, so you might not find it on your own. It's a historic ranch site with buildings dating back to the 1860s, and it has a lot of historical displays and live music on the weekends, plus things for kids to do like a petting zoo, a swing that's like a small zip line, and a little train that runs on wheels. There's a food hall called Cookhouse that has several different places to eat and Press Espresso coffee shop, plus some clothing shops and antique shops."
Charcuterie: "Naughty Pig is a five-star butcher shop. They make all our charcuterie boards for the winery, as well as fantastic hot and cold sandwiches. They sell Wagyu beef, fresh-made sausage links that they make from their secret recipes, and craft products you can cook with. We do private dinners with their chef, and we also have a wine club with them."