Temecula California a Short Trip from Palm Springs (Part 1 2023)
With fall in the air and an itch to go on a road trip, I suggest you might want to consider Temecula, California. I recently returned from spending three days there and want to share with you the things I discovered to do in the City of Temecula and the surrounding Temecula Valley. Since I experienced so much, I am dividing my trip into two separate blogs.
How do you get to Temecula California from Palm Springs?
You have three choices for your journey:
· Go to Palm Desert and take Highway 74 right into Temecula Valley. This road is not for the faint of heart, for the road is very winding over the mountains. However, the views for the passengers accompanying you will be a magnificent visual treat. This route takes about 1.5 hours.
· If you prefer Highway driving, you will want to consider taking Highway 10 west to Highway 15 South. This route will take you to the outskirts of Old Town Temecula. This is the longest route, but still about 1.5 hours because of freeway driving. There is a caveat: avoiding this route on Friday or Sunday night is best due to people returning to San Diego and Los Angeles.
· Head west on Highway 10 and take Highway 79 South at Beaumont. This route is not the most direct way, but I have to say it is my favorite. It takes me over the mountain in gentle curves, drops down into the agricultural area, and eventually through rolling hills and miles of vineyards.
You have arrived in Wine Country in Southern California.
With approximately 50 wineries in the area, you certainly cannot expect to make a dent in visiting these wineries with fabulous tasting rooms, all of which have the owner's touch. The average wine tasting fee is $20. However, expect to pay more to sample their smaller batch wines. If a winery is well-known for a particular wine, you certainly can order just a glass and sit and enjoy the ambiance.
From experience, I suggest you visit no more than three wineries in one day. This plan gives you ample time to sip and learn from the hostess pouring your samples. Then, you can purchase a glass of your favorite wine and wander the manicured grounds, each with its own personality.
Since I visited four wineries during my stay, I would like to share with you what I experienced and learned from the owners and winemakers. All four have restaurants I will write about in Part 2 of Temecula is a Short Trip from Palm Springs.
Robert Renzoni Winery
For four generations, the Renzoni family was known for its fine Italian wines along Italy's northern coast. Today, Robert Renzoni's enthusiasm for the wine industry in Temecula can only be described as pride in his ancestors and his quest to carry on the family name in a bright light.
The Robert Renzoni Winery tasting room doors are a recreation of the doors gracing his ancestors' building, creating a nod to his heritage the minute you walk into the room. Look around the tasting room; you will soon discover Robert has picked up the torch of fostering sustainability. Everywhere you look, wood in the space is either reclaimed or made from trees left to languish on the floors of the nearby forests.
Here, I was delighted to discover Barbera wine, a signature red wine of Robert Renzoni. This may be my new favorite red wine.
Valle de los Caballos is built on 13 acres, offering a view of the vineyards that carry your eyes far into the horizon. Robert proudly points out that most of his staff, including his chef, are women. He trusts them and looks to them for creative ideas to enhance the operation. However, there is no doubt who is in charge and makes the final decisions on every aspect of the operation. His hands-on approach makes this a place you will want to visit.
What an honor to sit down with Mike Rennie, co-owner of Leoness Winery, and Norma Marlowe of Visit Temecula to learn first-hand about the winery. I loved how Mike calls himself a farmer. Quite the farmer, for he is a sommelier and helps keep an eye on the 20 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon Estate and other blocks of vines throughout the area.
With an eye on customer service, tours, educational classes, and dining, Leoness can genuinely be called an asset to the Temecula Valley Community. Then, let's talk about the area's sweeping views from almost any place you walk or sit.
One of the most unique aspects of this winery is that it is divided into blocks. We met in the Rolling Hills block, where the tasting room and restaurant are located. Thus, wine produced from this particular block is bottled with Rolling Hills on its label.
Cabernet vines loaded with ready-to-be harvest grapes surrounded us as we sat and enjoyed the sunny day on the vineyard's edge. Let's say I was hooked when I sipped the Cabernet Sauvignon. For white, my favorite was their 2022 CS Viognier-perfect wine for a hot Palm Springs Day.
For their Vineyard Series, wines are produced 100% from the designated block. The label on this series of bottles shares information about the characteristics of the land and the growing of the grapes used in its production. Characteristics include soil type, block, exposure, harvest date, fermentation length, and barrel aging, to name a few listed.
Wilson Creek Winery
I was thrilled to learn Wilson Creek's Winery winemaker was a woman. I sat down with Kristina Filippi in the winery's restaurant. She is one of three women winemakers in the Temecula Valley.
Kristina has been working in the wine industry for 15 years. Much of her knowledge gleamed while she went to college and worked for the Filippi Winery in Rancho Cucamonga. Also, a Le Cordon Bleu Culinary arts graduate, her love for pairing took her to the Mission Inn Restaurant in downtown Riverside, California.
After Ten years of being the winemaker for Filippi, she proudly has embraced her role at Wilson Creek Winery, where she implements her old-world winemaking traditions into her style. Since she arrived, gold medals, Double Gold, best in the Class for Petit Sirah, and 90+ ratings prove she knows her craft well.
Wilson Winery is family-owned and operated. Their hands-on approach displays their passion, experience, and creativity throughout the winery. Partnerships are honored with an eye to conservation. Fruit quality is constantly monitored, assuring this winery adjusts to climate extremes while creating great wines. Wines like Almond Sparkling Wine have become a must for Southwest California celebrations.
Fazeli Cellars Winery
When I parked the car, I looked up the hill and saw a vintage red truck parked in front of the building. This should have been my first clue. I was about to experience something very different than the other wineries in the area.
Walking up winding steps to the Fazeli Cellars Winery winetasting room, I stopped and turned around to see the view of the nearby mountains, showing off their different layers of rock and colors glistening in the sunlight.
At the top of the stairs, I saw flowerpots overflowing the edges with bright orange and scarlet blossoms. The vessels were placed by doorways and arches leading to hallways. I wandered through them, feeling like I had entered a small Moorish village.
Then I learned from the owner, BJ Fazeli, that is the ambiance he purposely designed and built to create an atmosphere reminiscent of his native Persia (Now Iran).
Mr. Stanley carries the name BJ gave him to differentiate him from the other two Stanleys working at the winery. His pride in the winery, colleagues, and BJ is evident as he regales stories about the wine, the winery, and the joy he finds in meeting people worldwide.
One of their signature wines, out of 20 varieties, was the 2019 Shiraz. With BJ's hands-on approach, it was no wonder I found this superb wine worthy of a medal.
The above is how I experienced these wineries through my eyes. I appreciate the fact I had such extraordinary access to these owners and winemakers. I encourage you to head to Temecula and have your own experiences at these wineries and observe their welcoming attitudes and attention to customer service.
I suggest it is time for you to make a day trip or plan a weekend getaway. It is a place to build memories with whomever you decide to travel.
Part 2 of this article will focus on things to do in Temecula, California, where to stay and dining experiences that satisfy a foodie with a most discriminating palate.
Kathy Condon is a travel writer, journalist, and award-winning author. Kathy's niche is luxury experiences and communities living in the shadows of large communities. www.PalmSpringsInsiderGuide.com