Temecula Wine Country Weekend Itinerary: Wineries, Hotels, Trails & Activities

Tucked away in Southern California’s Inland Empire is the Tuscan-spirited wine region of the Temecula Valley. California’s latest AVA blends New World and Old World amongst vineyards, villas, and wineries. Temecula’s history and mix of tasting rooms, restaurants, spas, hotels, golfing, hot-air ballooning, and Las Vegas-style gaming make it a great getaway for Southern Californians, adventure seekers and Winetravelers’ alike.

Travel Logistics When Visiting Temecula

A convenient thirty-minute drive from the Pacific Coast, a one-hour drive from San Diego, and a one-hour drive from Palm Springs, few wine regions are more reachable from major cities, roadways and airports than Temecula. You can check flight deals on flights into any of these cities here, and a number of great wine country hotel options here.

Where to Stay

Unlike most wine regions, The Temecula Valley has lodging at many of the wineries. Meaning you can spend the day wine tasting and essentially be at your hotel at the same time, then wake up enjoy breakfast and the valley view’s overlooking the vineyards.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is situated on 38 acres of vineyards. Here you’ll experience amenities like spacious suites, fireplaces, pools, spa service and all-day dining.

Carter Estate Winery and Resort offers rooms that overlook the Estate with fireplaces and private balconies or patios and a pool with a neighboring bar.

Ponte Vineyard Inn is a stunning hotel and winery with elegant rooms and a relaxing atmosphere. Guests and visitors can dine surrounded by Italian gardens or have a cocktail at their full-service bar that incidentally is the only place offering spirits in Temecula wine country.

Pechanga Resort & Casino has a full-service hotel where you can enjoy Las Vegas-style gaming, all-night entertainment and unwind at their state-of-the-art spa.

Winetraveler Tips: Southern California is warm and pleasant most of the year, but be aware that the high desert gets very hot in the summer.

Fun Fact: Temecula is the only city in California to still retain its original Native American name.

COVID-19 Note: Most businesses in Temecula Valley are currently open, however, it’s important to note that they may be operating with limited hours. Restaurants and tasting rooms are all open for outdoor service, as well as to-go/delivery. Please be sure to check with each business to confirm hours, visitation guidelines, etc. as things may have changed since being posted.

A Background on the Region

The story of Temecula is rich and varied. Starting with The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, who have called the Temecula Valley home for more than 10,000 years and gave the Valley its name, which loosely translates to “Where the sun breaks through the mist.” It then became an outpost for Spanish Missionaries who were the first to plant grapes, then a Mexican army outpost in the Mexican-American War, and later a railroad town with a Wild West reputation.

Coastal mountain ranges and inland valleys border the Temecula Valley. The sun heats the valleys east of Temecula. The warm air rises, pulling the Pacific Ocean’s cooler air through two mountain ranges, the Rainbow Gap and the Santa Margarita Gap. This cool air creates the pattern of warm days, breezy afternoons, and refreshing nights, resulting in the perfect location for wine grape cultivation and enjoying the outdoors.

Today, Temecula is home to more than forty wineries and cultivates approximately thirty grape varieties. Of course, you’ll find the familiar California varieties, like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot. Still, some grapes are not so typical, like Vermentino, Falanghina and the historically significant Mission Grape. Also, be on the watch out for Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc.

Temecula’s Tempranillo has complex aromas of plums and black cherries, while its Sangiovese wines have soft tannins and riper fruit flavors than their Italian cousins. Syrah has won accolades for being round, fleshy, generous and full-flavored. Cabernet Franc has emerged as the star of the Bordeaux varieties and is fast earning a reputation for producing a full, elegant and aromatic style.

Things to do in Temecula Valley California
Hot Air Ballooning over the vineyards is a popular activity in Temecula Valley.

Itinerary For Navigating Temecula Wine Country

Planning a trip to Temecula couldn’t be simpler. Depending on how much time you have, the best way to taste wine, dine and discover the region is to explore one, two, or all three of its wine trails and plan one day for each trail.


Winetraveler Tip: Did you know that you can edit or create an itinerary just like this one on the free Winetraveler App?


The Rancho California Trail, The Calle Contento Trail and The De Portola Trail offer a unique set of vineyards and wineries for tastings, dining, education and entertainment. The easiest to access is The Rancho California Wine Trail, and it’s divided into western and eastern sections. Here you’ll find a large cluster of wineries and activities, and it is your best bet for maximum impact if you only have time for a day trip.

Day-One: The Rancho California Wine Trail

Visit Callaway Vineyard & Winery, the first commercial winery in Temecula Valley and home of Meritage Restaurant specializing in Farm to Table preparations.

Stop by Thornton Winery, known for their jazz concerts and wine tours in their French-style chateau.

Hart Winery offers unique wines like Angelica, a sweet, fortified style wine the Franciscan missionaries made during the late 1700s and is one of the first wines made in California.

Baily Vineyard & Winery, where visitors are hosted in a medieval-themed tasting room and restaurant.

Monte de Oro has a great patio and is an excellent stop to enjoy a glass of Cabernet Franc with their famed meatball sandwich.

Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards makes a sparkling almond wine that everybody raves about.


Day-Two: The Calle Contento Wine Trail

If you want to dig a little deeper into the Valley, take a detour along the meandering Calle Contento Wine Trail with its stunning vineyard views and backroad charm. The wineries located along this quiet road have a relaxed wine country vibe.

Falkner Winery, specializing in Super Tuscan and Meritage blends is home to The Pinnacle Restaurant with 360-degree views of its vineyards.

Briar Rose Winery features sit-down tastings in a to-scale reconstruction of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Cottage.

Longshadow Ranch Winery is a traditional California horse ranch where you can relax with a glass of their Gunslinger’s Reserve Zinfandel, Cabernet blend, or a pint of local craft beer.

Peltzer Farm & Winery highlights an extensive year-round events calendar and a festive atmosphere that you have to see for yourself while serving over 100 years of farming experience in every taste of their wine.

Vindemia Vineyard, Winery, and Bed & Breakfast emphasize sustainability, and you can taste the efforts in the glass. Plus, you can ride in one of their hot air balloons for a Wine and Sunrise Flight.


Day-Three: The De Portola Wine Trail

The De Portola Wine Trail is a five-mile stretch of rolling hills with wineries, equestrian facilities and some of the best views of the Valley.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery featuring Estate grown Italian varietals including Primitivo, Pinot Grigio, and Pulciano that you can enjoy with Sangio’s Deli hand-tossed pizzas, salads, and appetizers.

Danza del sol Winery is set in an idyllic Spanish Style Estate with a tableside wine tasting service.

Oak Mountain Winery has hilltop views where you can sample their sparkling raspberry and sparkling strawberry wines.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards offers a great view and their restaurant, Mama Rosa’s Trattoria, has the only brink wood-burning pizza oven in the Valley.

Somerset Winery specializes in wines made from the Rhône varieties such as Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache, Syrah, and the Spanish Macabeo, Monastrell and Tempranillo.

With so much to experience, these are just a few oenophilic paths the Temecula Valley has to offer the Winetraveler. And if you are so inclined, here are a few mix and match side-trips and activities to enjoy:

 

Old Town Temecula

Explore Old Town Temecula and take a step back into early California; here is the perfect place to grab wine by the glass and visit small tasting rooms with varietals from growers right down the road. Those preferring to stay in town can opt for one of the many hotels throughout Temecula. For a dose of history and charm, check into The Hotel Temecula, built in 1891.

Hot-Air Ballooning

The tours are available year-round so that you can observe the seasonal changes in the landscape.

Equestrian Tours

Explore the many Temecula Valley horseback trails on, and sample some grapes straight from the vines.

Bike Trails

There are more than 90 miles of bike trails in Temecula Valley for cyclists of all levels.

Hiking

39 parks and more than 20 miles of trails perfect for leisurely and more high-intensity hikes.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff or “JB” is a native to the San Francisco Bay area and wants to live in a world where wine is served with every meal. As a beverage and food professional with more than 20 years of experience, he’s contributed to The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine; The Pho Cookbook (James Beard Award Best Signal Subject 2018); Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life (James Beard Award Lifetime Achievement Award 2018); Manresa: An Edible Reflection; Happiness is on the Plate: Episode #1; Wine Spectator; Wine Enthusiast; The Wall Street Journal; San Francisco Chronicle; and GQ Magazine. When he’s not “tasting” and eating he’s writing about food and beverage or developing recipes in his laboratory (AKA: kitchen).

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