Temecula, in Riverside County, California. is known for its wineries, golf courses, and charming old town. Doug and I drove there from Los Angeles so that I could attend a conference. The town’s annual Temecula Valley Wine and Balloon Festival was also taking place that weekend so Doug got a chance to check it out while I was busy. It’s a perfect place to go wine-tasting as there are at least 45 wineries in the area and it’s becoming a wine tasting destination rivaling the Central Coast and Napa.
The Garage Brewing Company
It was a smooth ride from LA with no major traffic. but we were starving when we got there so we stopped to get a bite to eat at the Garage Brewing Company. It used to be a repair and tire shop that was converted into a craft brewery. The brewing tanks can be seen through a large window behind the bar. They were custom designed by a company in North America that’s a pioneer in developing equipment for the craft brewing industry. The restaurant is also a busy fast food pizzeria that serves tasty thin crust pizza and salads. Doug and I split a pizza and a large salad. If you’re looking for a quick bite with high quality, fresh food, and great beer, give it a try.
One thing I noticed while we were there was that almost all the older men sitting at tables had funny tee shirts on. I wonder if this is a Temecula thing.
Click on smaller images to view full size
We went budget for our hotel
After lunch, we checked into the Ramada Inn that’s located just a couple blocks from the entrance to Old Town Temecula. It’s an affordable non-fancy hotel but they offer a nice continental breakfast starting at 6:30 each morning and have a pool and Jacuzzi. Originally, I booked it because I was going to be attending the conference by myself. The bed was comfortable but there was something sticky on the floor by the dresser and the bathroom looked like it could have used a remodel. Nonetheless, the staff was extremely helpful and friendly. I loved that the hotel was convenient for my event that took place in the Civic Center conference room in Old Town and it was cheap.
I would have preferred to stay at one of the winery resorts, but they were more expensive and traffic was predicted to be slow on the winery trail that led to the weekend wine and balloon festival.
Old Town Shopping
Temecula’s adorable Old Town is built to resemble 1880s buildings and boasts specialty shops, wine tasting rooms, and an array of fine restaurants.
I was still hobbling on a sprained foot making it a little difficult for me to walk on the boarded sidewalks of Old Town. We managed to make it to Fazeli Cellars, a wine tasting room off Old Town Front Street where we each ordered a flight of wine to taste. The ladies at the bar were friendly conversationalists and the wine was smooth and delicious. My favorite tasting was their red 2012 Pandemonium.
For dinner, we decided to dine at Trattoria Toscana which was rated number 1 at the time on Trip Advisor for the Temecula area. It’s a tiny but attractive establishment owned by Pietro, a recent immigrant from Sardinia, Italy and located in a large shopping center. Our waiter was Gino from Parma, Italy. Pietro told us he opened the restaurant only 18 before but we could see why it’s rated number 1.
Trattoria Toscana is truly authentic Italian. We felt like we’d been transported back to Italy with every bite. Both of us started off with the Bruschetta di tre colori. Each piece of bread had a different topping.
- Asparagus, garlic, olive oil, and aged Pecorino
- fresh tomatoes, basil olive oil, and garlic
- Sautéed mushrooms, garlic, parsley, and olive oil.
My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I ordered the Linguini con gamberoni (prawns) and Doug the Linguini alle vongole. (clams) Both dishes were excellent and beautifully presented. We finished off our meal by sharing a luscious Tiramisu.
Pietro handcrafted some of the furniture in the trattoria out of carved wood. It added to the ambiance.
Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival
The next morning, Doug woke up before sunrise to drive to the festival and ride in a hot air balloon. He wanted to take pictures while he was up in the air. After his balloon voyage, Doug spent a few hours at the wine tasting festival and then returned back to the hotel to take a nap.
Dinner at Ponte Family Estate Winery
That evening, we had reservations for dinner at Restaurant at Ponte at the Ponte Family Estate Winery and Vineyard Inn. It’s located on the same road as the balloon and wine festival but, luckily, the traffic had died down by dinner time. We sat outside and dined al fresco in the garden. It was a beautiful night and we shared a plate of Paella along with a glass of their fantastic Doppietta red wine. Our wine was so sublime that we ordered a bottle to take home with us. After dinner, we treated ourselves to Crème Brule Trio, which comes in flavors of chocolate cigar, candied lavender, and tropical fruit. Yum!
Breakfast at Mo’s
The next morning we checked out of the hotel and went for brunch at Mo’s Egg House. It’s a hugely popular breakfast joint outside of the main part of town. I ordered the Little Italy omelet that came with potatoes, biscuits, and gravy.
The waitress also gave us two servings of their famous coffee cake for free. Like a good girl, I only ate half of my breakfast and took home the rest. Mo’s was busy when we arrived, but we called ahead and were seated almost immediately.
If you’re thinking about a relaxing weekend getaway in Southern California, then put Temecula on your list. One of the ladies at my conference made the suggestion to visit during the week so you can avoid the crowds. The town frequently has weekend events. Next time, I’d like to splurge and stay at one of the winery spa resorts.
If you’re out that way and love to drink wine, at least stop by for the day. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
Can’t make it to Temecula? You can order amazing California wines here.
If you could go anywhere in Southern California, where would you go? Please leave a comment below.