Temecula California a Short RoadTrip from Palm Springs Part 2 (2023)
After a full day of exploring wineries in Temecula, California, including Robert Renzoni Vineyards, Leoness Cellars, Wilson Creek Winery, and Fazeli Cellars (see Part 1), I was ready to investigate other attractions in the area.
Vine House Bed and Breakfast is Elegant without Pretense.
I woke up to sunlight beaming through the windows of my second-floor suite at The Vine House Bed and Breakfast. Checking in the day before, I felt like I had been crowned a princess.
The room was huge: a crystal chandelier, giant padded headboard, and French doors leading to a patio overlooking the nearby vineyard. Plus, exquisite linens made it extremely difficult to fling back the covers and start my day.
At 9:00 a.m., there was a quiet knock at my door. I opened the door, and sitting on a portable table was my breakfast with a rose, accompanied by orange juice, a long narrow plate displaying a perfectly made omelet, potatoes, and French toast.
Knowing there had to be a story behind the charming Bed and Breakfast, I was thrilled to interview Lacey Britton, the co-owner with her husband, Rob. Lacey worked in Human Resources in San Diego; her husband was well-established in the financial world there. After a few years, and with small children, she started thinking about what she would really like to do for her next career.
She told her husband about a dream of having a venue where she could host weddings, so the search started. About the same time, her father-in-law passed away, and they wanted to provide a home for his mother.
As they looked for property, they fanned out further and further from San Diego. Then they discovered Temecula and this property with a home, a casita for the mother-in-law, and a barn that housed race cars.
With her vision in mind for the barn, she and her husband built it into a beautiful yet charming five-bedroom bed and breakfast. Lacey watches over every detail, creating each room with a theme. Every amenity a person could want is provided. Its location is in the countryside yet easily accessible to local wineries and attractions.
Dorland Mountain Arts Colony Near Temecula California
Ellen and Robert Dorland homesteaded 300 acres near Temecula. Ellen, an accomplished internationally known concert pianist, was friends with Barbara Horton, a dedicated environmentalist.
Ellen dreamed of making the space a retreat for artists. The two women formed a non-profit organization in 1979 by working with the Nature Conservancy.
Today, the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony has six cottages (one with a grand piano) and two art studios on a section of the land. A building called the Kitchen House provides a meeting place for the artists to collaborate if they choose to do so.
Over 1500 artists, musicians, and writers have applied and been accepted to spend a week in the tranquil setting. Here, surrounded by only the rustle of leaves and occasional forest animals and birds, they can allow their creativity to flourish.
Temecula Olive Oil Company Olive View Ranch
The 18-mile drive to Olive View Ranch through Temecula Valley revealed an expected pleasant visit. I parked my car by the rail fence graced with white rose bushes, alerting me that I may be for a different experience than expected.
I walked up the winding pathway to the tasting room, an open, tropical-like building with bottles of olive oil and vinegar waiting to be tasted. Thom Curry, a Southern California authority on growing and processing olives, met me, for I had made the required reservation for a tour.
Thom took me through the grounds, once a wetland and drug-infested area and now a place where there were various vignettes waiting for visitors to relax and enjoy the solace of the quiet countryside. Relax in twig furniture or take a page from your childhood and grab a swing and pump your way to a thrilling ride, the ones that made you smile when you were little.
With plenty of space, weddings have found a peaceful, serene setting, and fundraisers are frequent because of the variety of venues. If you want a family reunion, the ideal place for a large community grill is waiting to be the centerpiece for preparing your meal.
The olive orchard trees meet to form a cathedral-like setting as you walk through them. Thom explains how he designed the first portable olive pressing machine. My experience harvesting olives at Sunnylands resulted in a great conversation, for he pressed the olives that day.
The tour ended with me sitting and enjoying the tasting of olive oil. Thom has mastered mixing olive oil and vinegar, producing a salad dressing that is hard to resist.
Dining in Temecula
I already talked about the excellent breakfast at Vine House Bed and Breakfast. Now let's look closer at the places where I dined.
Creekside Grille at the Wilson Creek Winery
Not only is the Creekside Grille at the Wilson Creek Winery in a beautiful setting, but I also had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with Kristina Filippi—one of three women winemakers in Temecula Valley, whom I wrote about in Part 1 of Temecula California Road Trip from Palm Springs.
Thirty-year-old Cabernet grapevines surround the lovely outdoor patio. I thoroughly enjoyed my Vineyard Salad with organic baby greens, golden raisins, candied walnuts, bleu cheese, and vanilla balsamic vinaigrette. A glass of Viognier perfectly accompanied the meal and our conversation.
Avensole Winery the Perfect Place to Meet a Friend for Lunch
To say the grounds of Avensole Winery are beautiful does not effectively describe the scene that was laid out before me as I explored before I had lunch with Jessica Neilson, General Manager.
I wandered into the tasting room at the foot of the path, with an outdoor patio overlooking the gazebo used for weddings and the water lily-laden pond next to it. The tasting room was stripped of extraneous items and focused instead on the wine bottles and beautiful tasting bar serving as the focus of the entire room.
During lunch, Jessica revealed that she often comes to the grounds early before the staff arrives to enjoy the morning quiet. She enjoys observing hot air balloons floating over the vineyards. I can only imagine how tranquil this way of starting a day must be.
Avensole Winery, a women-run winery, focuses on Zinfandel, but on its 16 acres, grows other grapes, taking full advantage of the cool morning air floating in the Pacific Ocean to produce outstanding wine. With award-winning wines and a variety of venues to have a wedding, this winery is a place you will want to consider for any special event.
For lunch, I ordered 2020 Zinfandel Rose, 100% Zinfandel rose, strawberry, cherry & blood orange with an elegant finish. Okay, I had two glasses. It was a long lunch. I felt like I was transported back to my experience drinking Rose in southern France on a day with weather similar to what I experienced here in Temecula. It paired perfectly with a Chicken Club, with grilled chicken, smoked bacon, heirloom tomato, and avocado spread.
Ponte Family Estate Winery Restaurant
While coming from the parking lot to The Restaurant of the Ponte dining patio, you walk a path surrounded by blooming white roses, revealing their beauty on the well-lit path. Seated in the perfect spot, with heaters providing the ideal temperature, it was fabulous dining outside in late October.
A special moment was when Chef Admin Boubaddi came out to greet Norma Marlowe of Visit Temecula Valley and me. He told us he enjoyed having a constantly changing menu and using products to create farm-to-table cuisine.
His smile broadened as he told us he only used fresh herbs. Alas, it was too dark for us to tour his herb garden, which was obviously his pride and joy.
My entrée, halibut, was pan-sheared with porcini mushroom and breadcrumb-crusted filet and served in a bowl with olives, artichokes, asparagus, potato gnocchi topped with white wine butter. My Pinot Grigio was the perfect accompaniment.
Now about dessert, oh my. Souffle of dark chocolate cake, vanilla anglaise, chocolate sauce, and fresh berries.
With 300 acres of mature vineyards and gardens perfectly landscaped, there is much more to come back and explore. Plus, there is a hotel on the grounds, and the gift shop offers a wide variety of unusual gifts. One of their blends, such as Super T and the ever-popular Beverino would be a perfect hostess gift.
The Gambling Cowboy makes its name at Great Steakhouse
Located off Main Street in Old Town Temecula, you take an elevator to the top floor to the Gambling Cowboy Steakhouse. Once you walk off the elevator, your eyes dance across the room, for there is so much to observe. Every inch of the walls and flat surfaces has an object on it. I use the word object because photographs, sculptures, vases, saddles, and anything remotely connected to a Western theme are displayed.
Since it is a steakhouse, I ordered a 72-hour Blacken ribeye steak. It was plated with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus from a nearby farm. I paired it with a glass of Leoness Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and I was one happy diner.
Of course, we had to try the dessert and let us say, the homemade bread pudding with warm Jack Daniels caramel sauce did not disappoint. A hot cup of coffee was the crowning touch to a more than satisfying meal.
When Rene Ehmcke, the owner, joined the table, it was the perfect time for me to ask, Why did you name the restaurant the Gambling Cowboy?
She smiled, and she said, There is a story. My Mom and I wanted to name the restaurant after my dad, who was alive. We were having trouble coming up with a name. One night, we went to a local Mexican restaurant. After a couple of margaritas, I said, Dad always gambled on me. My Mom piped up. He has always been a cowboy. That's when it was decided it would be the Gambling Cowboy.
The place was bustling; word had gotten out; one can always count on getting an excellent steak at this restaurant that has never lost its focus, serving great steaks.
I trust you enjoyed reading Part 1 and Part 2 about my discoveries with the guidance of Visit Temecula Valley; without their direction, I would likely never have discovered these places. It was a fantastic journey, and I'm already looking forward to going back and digging deeper into the stories of the attractions and people that make up this community, which I quickly discovered do everything they can to support each other.
Kathy Condon is a journalist, travel writer, and award-winning author. Her niche is luxury experiences and communities living in the shadows of larger cities. 760-902-3094