For many visitors, the Temecula Valley wine country is a surprise. After all, a lot of people don’t expect to see gently rolling hills blanketed with rows of vineyards so close to the California desert. But the Temecula area has been producing top wines since the late 1960s. And like the best vintages, this wine country just gets better with age.
It’s a diverse growing region, home to everything from cooler-climate grapes like Chardonnay to such warm-weather varieties as Syrah and Grenache. How does wine grow so close to the desert? It begins with a rich, granite-based soil that plays host to the vines. Then it continues with a unique microclimate in which the grapes thrive: crisp mornings coated in mist, a warm daytime sun, and cool ocean breezes that welcome the clear night sky.
Nearly 50 wineries take advantage of these conditions, and the result has been lots of award-winners—which, of course, you can sample. One of the oldest wineries in the region, Callaway Vineyard & Winery (first launched by the golf-gear family) dates back to 1969, and it offers both a big tasting room and cellar tours where you can taste from the barrels. Go to Europa Village and sit on the patio to savor the Cinsaut, made from a grape usually found in the South of France; the winery is also home to a 10-room B&B and Bolero, a new Spanish winery with a tapas restaurant and 10 casitas. Head to the Leoness Cellars—located along a rural stretch known as the De Portola Wine Trail—and take one of the vineyard tours, then enjoy some Mélange de Blanc or Grenache by the patio’s outdoor fireplace.
Plenty of the wineries are sights in themselves. At Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards, taste their Petite Syrah and stroll the grounds to see the thousands of roses and other flowers—or book the onsite manor, which sleeps 24, for a wedding or reunion.
Briar Rose Winery, meanwhile, houses its tasting room in a replica of the seven dwarfs’ cottage from Snow White. The wines here are unique too—like the Talking Frog bubbly, a blend of Viognier and Hefeweizen beer.