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Head for the Hills

Temecula makes an ideal getaway


By Rebecca Treon

Just an hour from Orange County, the Spanish colonial town of Temecula makes the perfect weekend getaway or day trip. Visitors both young and old will find something to love in this quaint village surrounded by rolling hills dotted with wineries. Start by exploring Temecula’s Old Town district, where you can wander the streets and take in boutiques, theaters, and museums dotting the boardwalk. Its history dates back to the 1800s, but today, you can recharge at one of the many restaurants along your stroll, featuring cuisines from Mexican to California-style.

At the Goat & Vine  {41911 Fifth Street #100; 951.695.5600; thegoatandvine.com}, everything is made from scratch daily, from breads to sauces. The pressed tin ceiling, rustic wood tables, and cool subway tile feel laid-back and homey yet sophisticated. On the menu, you’ll find a selection of creative pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. Our favorites are the Jalapeño Lime Carnitas pizza, topped in roasted pork shoulder, mozzarella and Cotija cheeses, fresh tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, and avocado; and the Pesto Chicken sandwich, featuring oven-roasted chicken, pesto, provolone, Kalamata olives, tomato, and lettuce on sourdough bread. Keep an eye out for the Goat & Vine’s sister restaurant, Nightingale, coming this fall. This larger iteration of the same food philosophy will bring Temecula its first wood-fired pizza oven in an open kitchen.

Next, check into your home for the night at Ponte Winery {35053 Rancho California Road; 877.314.9463; pontewinery.com}. The sprawling mission-style estate and winery has recently opened the Ponte Inn, a boutique hotel with elegant rooms, posh amenities, and top-notch tasting and dining options with breathtaking vineyard views. Spend some time tasting the wares onsite (we love the Tempranillo) before venturing out into the neighboring three wineries, all a short stroll away.

In the morning, take a hot air balloon ride, where you can soar over the rolling hills of area vineyards for a bird’s eye view. This day will be all about wine tasting, so ready yourself with a hearty winery breakfast before you start your tour. There are numerous tour companies that offer stops at several local wineries (and take care of the driving), many of which offer behind-the-scenes tours and private barrel tastings. One don’t-miss winery is the family-owned Avensole Winery {34567 Rancho California Road; 951.252.2003; avensolewinery.com}, where you can sip on a 2012 Super Tuscan blend and a 2014 Legacy Petite Syrah, Zinfandel, and Syrah blend. While there, you can enjoy a matchless alfresco lunch, with everything from oysters on the half shell to hearty burgers. The winery also features live music on weekend evenings.

Next stop: Robert Renzoni Vineyards {37350 De Portola Road; 951.302.8466; robertrenzonivineyards.com}, a 12-­a­cre vine­yard in the heart of Temecula Valley. A family-owned operation, the vineyard features picnic grounds, but also a free-standing restaurant called Mama Rosa’s Trattoria. Wash down your meal of hearty Italian fare (like the Spaghetti and Meatballs) with a glass of the 2013 Brunello di Sangiovese or the 2013 Big Fred’s Red, a Zinfandel/Sangiovese blend that’s aged in American oak barrels for 18 months.

Next up, Peltzer Winery {40275 Calle Contento; 951.888.2008; peltzerwinery.com} is a picturesque 25-acre winery and farm. Its style is a blend of rustic, industrial, and modern elements that add up to chic. Enjoy a tasting on the patio of the Crush House, where you can sip Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc for a refreshing summer afternoon.

On your final day in Temecula, rent a bicycle at one of the many rental shops in Old Town and cruise the more than 90 miles of bike trails that traverse the city and the surrounding wineries. If riding horseback is more your style, saddle up at a local stable and take a relaxing ride through the valley, relishing the natural beauty of the region.

Following your active outdoor morning, head for lunch at the Bluewater Grill Seafood Restaurant and Market {26700 Ynez Court; 951.506.2899; bluewatergrill.com/locations/temecula}, a local favorite for more than 20 years. Here, you can enjoy a tasty seafood lunch with a comprehensive menu featuring shellfish starters like Oysters Rockefeller or Ahi Tuna Poké; mains ranging from Fish Tacos to burgers and Fish and Chips; and even a hearty selection of premium steaks. Naturally, the catch of the day is popular, but don’t forget to sample one of their loaded Bloody Marys (served in a mason jar and packed with garnishes) or their desserts; the Java Mud Pie is our go-to. With the vibe of a New England seafood shack, you’ll almost feel like you’re at the beach.

After lunch, enjoy a leisurely afternoon at one of Temecula’s spas, where you can spend the final hours of your getaway getting a massage before heading back to reality. A weekend in Temecula, while not far from home, feels like a world away. It’s the perfect place to escape the daily grind, without achingly arduous travel.

Don’t Miss: Temecula’s Other Top Attractions

Ricardo Gallery features the work of metal artist Ricardo Breceda. Using metal as his medium, Breceda fashions whimsical animalia with exquisite detail. A native of Mexico, he began sculpting as a hobby in Borrego Springs, but his work soon led him to a full-time sculpting career, creating lifelike animals from pieces of steel.

The Temecula Farmers’ Market occurs every Saturday, 8am-12:30pm, offering certified produce sold by the farmers themselves, set amid Temecula’s historic architecture.

Old Town has a number of wonderful shops to explore, from antiques to gourmet olive oil, and from art to candy. Some of our favorites are Old Town Antique Faire, Temecula Lavender Co., Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants, Temecula Olive Oil, and Old Town Sweet Shop.

If golfing is more your style, Temecula has a number of golf courses where you can enjoy a day out on the links. You can visit the Temecula Creek Inn Golf Course, The Legends Golf Club, The Temecula Golf Trail, and other top 18-holers. If gambling is how you want to spend the morning, then settle in at Pechanga, a resort and casino—it even has a full golf course onsite.