Ever heard of Temecula? Been there? Do you know about this hidden gem in southern California?
Just a short distance from Palm Springs, San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County is theTemecula Valley Wine Country. With more than 30 wineries currently, this wine country offers boutique and full service wine resorts that are friendly, relaxed and unpretentious. According to the CVB’s website, “The quality of our Temecula Valley wines is made possible by a unique microclimate that features morning mist, warm midday sun, cooling ocean breezes and clear starry nights. This plus a granite-based soil makes Temecula Valley ideal for growing grapes and creating award-winning premium wines, recognized by wine connoisseurs internationally.”
Before our winery tour we were fortunate to have a few minutes to see a bit of Old Town Temecula. Restored and busy, people were out enjoying the weather. Preserving Temecula’s Old West heritage and charm has been the focus of the towns efforts in recent years.
History buffs can wander the streets of Old Town Temecula viewing rustic buildings, sidewalks and storefronts reminiscent of our historic golden west in the 1880’s.
But by far, this area is becoming know for it’s wineries. They anticipate that they will develop further with the goal to have over 100 wineries there in the future. We had a tight schedule so we were unable to really see much other than driving through town but the buildings looked beautifully restored. We ate at Crepe Vine and the service was slow and poor but the crepes decent. Our real journey was for the winery tour…
From Palm Springs, we drove the hour and half journey to take part in the “Cave” Wine tour at Oak Mountain Winery today. The experience was unique and rates high/middle for winery tours in my groups opinion. Generally, the group expected something different from the “cave”. No one could define what that was, but the tour focused more on marketing (especially events) than education. The “cave” is actually a man-made cave where the owners dug out a large room into the hill where their grapes grow. The temperature inside regulates itself and keeps it cool and took four years to complete. The tour was pleasant with plenty of tastings (including tastings while we were walking around inside the cave) as we toured the grounds briefly, followed by the cave tour and our meat and cheese snack. We purchased a Groupon for 4 people and had a lovely time and plenty of tastings for the value of the tour.
The wine is all stored in Oak Barrels at Oak Mountain WInery giving most of their wine a nice oak-taste and smell. If you like that oaky taste, you will love this winery. Our personal favorites were their sparking wines – and their Sauvignon Blanc. They grew a pretty wide variety of grapes and their hillside allowed them to do that quite successfully. For a small family run winery, they have won several awards and are creating some new varietals this year on the grounds. The operate under two labels so check them out if you love good oak-infused flavors in your wines. This small home grown winery only sells wine direct from the winery but they will ship too! Because they are small, they run out of vintages so if you do find something you love, buy it!
Our wine tour lasted almost two hours. They also sell olive oils infused with a variety of flavors if you are interested, and some chocolate bars that we are certain will make our spouses happy! Bring your own take home leak proof bags as they are not sold a the winery. Oak Mountain Winery also has a restaurant and a lovely patio to enjoy if you just want some lunch and a lovely wine to compliment it. There are some great benefits in their wine club if you are more local.
Temecula and the wine country made an impression on us and we all agreed to go back and stay there in the future. The locals do plan to increase their accommodations as they increase their numbers of wineries so as to encourage others to come and stay. If you live in SoCal you likely already know about this hidden gem and have taken a day trip there! The concierge recommended Temecula as a place to visit and we were not disappointed. We only had the honor of one wine tour because of our timing. The wineries are open only from 10 am until around 5 pm…so arrive early if you plan to do more than one winery. There are some guided tours if you prefer not to drive yourself as well. If you do drive, elect someone to be the designated driver and be safe and responsible please.
Wine tasting is one of my favorite activities when traveling. Wine takes on different flavors from the climate where it’s produced and it’s always a learning experience. Occasionally I find that rare tasting that I can’t live without – but often it’s all about the experience with friends. Oak Mountain did not disappoint us! Carol was our guide and she did a lovely tour and even gave us a bonus tasting at the end of their Brut Sparkling Wine since we were all interested in their sparkling line! You just can’t beat service like that.