Get Wonderfully Lost


View from Vindemia Winery. Temecula, California

Temecula, nestled halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, is a suburb in California’s South Coast. When Justin suggested that we go on a weekend get-away to Temecula, I immediately responded, “What’s in Temecula?!” It was almost like he said that the sky was purple… what an absurd thought! It’s a good thing that neither of us paid much attention to this first reaction, because we would have certainly missed out on a fantastic weekend of some great wine! This is a recount of our experience. Click here to see the complete photo gallery.

The Temecula wine country made some very strong first impressions: each winery was small (production less than 40,000 cases) and typically family run. The tasting rooms have gorgeous panoramic views, and many of the wineries offer gourmet restaurants serving meals with locally grown, organic ingredients. Oh, and while you’ll find a wide variety of wines in the Temecula wine country, you won’t be seeing any Pinot varietals as the weather is less than ideal for this wet-loving grape.

Doffo Winery. Temecula, California

With each winery we visited, the hot, dry air mixed with the aroma of the wet dirt, the chirping birds around us, the crunch of the sandstone paths under our feet, the breathtaking panoramic views, and the freedom with which we wandered around the vineyards carried a distinct nostalgia for the vineyards of Tuscany and Umbria – a nostalgia that other, more famous, California wineries could not recreate.

We arrived at the first winery at the end of the Rancho Canyon wine trail on a hot summer day at about noon: welcome to Doffo Winery. Amazingly enough, we are first greeted by the owner and winemaker, Signore Doffo, a true Italian who spent time in Argentina before coming to California. Grapes from the vineyard were arranged neatly on a platter for our taking as we sipped our wine. Known for its Argentinian Malbec, Doffo also boasts a fantastic unfiltered Syrah, with a fragrant nose and a complex and spicy flavor. We also enjoyed the Mistura, an artful blend of a variety of red varietals.

Another favorite stop on the Rancho Canyon wine trail was Vindemia Estate Winery, which is buried deeper in the countryside of Temecula. Driving up the unpaved road to a tented tasting room made us both skeptical about what we would be enjoying, but as with our entire weekend, skepticism was throw out! Our enthusiastic host at the tasting room was extremely knowledgeable about Vindemia as well as the entire region of Temecula. Do not let the modest tasting room fool you as the wines are rich in flavor (particularly the buttery Zinfandel!), and the panoramic view of the Temecula valley is fantastic here!

After indulging our taste buds with wine throughout the day, we sought after something more substantial to satisfy our hunger. It was surprisingly easy to find restaurants with empty tables right at 5:00 pm as the tasting rooms closed their doors; it was also surprising that we were turned away from many of these restaurants due to staffing issues (read: welcome to wedding season, where most of our staff is allocated). We were, however, not in any terrible hurry, and our roaming from one winery to the next gave us a good list of where we would visit next time! In the future, however, it may be helpful to make reservations.

Ponte Family Estate. Temecula, California

We found ourselves at Ponte Winery, part of the Ponte Family Estate, with a restaurant that looks like it was transplanted right out of Tuscany to Southern California: the Smokehouse Restaurant. We were seated underneath an outdoor veranda with a view of the sun setting over the vines. It was just picture-perfect! Little wooden tables served to house the tableware and water was served out of ceramic pictures. We were served warm, homemade bread with a signature green scallion sauce that was absolutely delicious! As the grapes on the vines were illuminated by the setting sun, we were served our locally grown, organic meals that were well worth the wait. And the dessert, aptly termed “Nirvana”, is a must try! The meal’s decadent flavors were wonderfully balanced by the casual and peaceful atmosphere of dining amongst the vines. In a word, the evening was sublime.

The next day, we explored the De Portola Wine Trail, which runs parallel to the Rancho Canyon Wine Trail. Our stop at Leonesse was truly memorable! The tasting room boasts the luxury of a large-scale winery while the warm hospitality was akin to a family-run vineyard. The unusual White Merlot immediately caught our attention as something unique. Initially a “mistake”, this pink colored Merlot bursts with fruit flavors and has a buttery finish. After our tasting, we chose not only to purchase a bottle of this wine (to add to our growing collection from the weekend) but to also enjoy a chilled glass with lunch served on the terrace overlooking the Temecula Valley. Yet another serene moment during our weekend getaway.

Leonesse Winery. Temecula, California


As we made our way down the De Portola Trail, enjoying the wine and the views and, of course, taking pictures along the way, we joked about “feeling a cough coming on” as neither of us wanted to leave this peaceful valley. Our weekend is a testament to the local wonders of Southern California and that initial skepticism should (almost) always be thrown out when it comes to trying something new!


Temecula, California


 Other wineries that we visited that had beautiful views of the Temecula Valley included Callaway Vineyards & Winery, Oak Mountain Vineyards, and Mount Palomar Winery.

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