There’s a wine country in Southern California, and Temecula lies at its heart. Set 60 miles north of San Diego and 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the vineyards of over 30 world-class wineries cover the rolling hills. Take in the expansive views reaching to 11,000-foot-high mountains with a picnic or a hike from winery to winery.
The Old Town is a step back in time with wooden boardwalks and 1880-era Western buildings that house artist shops, craft breweries, and specialty boutiques, bars and eateries. The town throws festivals and outdoor events year-round, and a certified Farmers Market is held every Saturday. www.oldtowntemecula.org.
Catch a matinee or evening performance at the Merc, part of the Old Town Temecula Community Theater. Ticket prices vary. 42051 Main St., Temecula. 1-866-653-8696, https://temeculaca.gov/temeculatheater.
Plan a trip at VisitTemeculaValley.com. www.visittemeculavalley.com.
Getting there: Nonstop Delta flights to San Diego average $220 each way or less with a 21-day advance purchase. One-way rates to Los Angeles are as low as $98 on nonstop American flights (Wednesdays, Saturdays through Nov. 1) or on Frontier (Mondays-Fridays). Delta rates to Los Angeles from $144 on select days and departure times.
Stay: Check into a 31-foot renovated 1974 Airstream that rests on 2.5 landscaped acres with 360-degree views over wine country (and spectacular sunrises, sunsets and moonrises). The location is within walking distance to seven wineries. Enjoy a private 800-square-foot deck and a shared above-ground pool. The deck has umbrellas, a sofa, rolling dining table, gas barbecue, chaise lounges and an outdoor fridge. Inside are one bed, one bathroom, and a new retro look with all modern conveniences. Rates at this adults-only property from $145 a night. Find two Airstream rentals at Airbnb.com, #6913494, #12485309.
Eat: If you’ve never experienced a burger and fries at an In-N-Out, try it in Temecula (all locations are west of Texas). These are not frozen, thawed and zapped burgers, but each order is prepared fresh. Two locations: 30697 Temecula Parkway and 27700 Jefferson Ave. Open to 1 a.m. http://locations.in-n-out.com/200.
Experience: Temecula’s Summerfest, featuring live entertainment under the stars, runs through Labor Day at several venues. Thursday weekly jazz sessions are held at the Merc in Old Town ($15). Ponte Winery’s Cellar Lounge is reminiscent of a European jazz club with live music featured several nights a week; www.pontewinery.com. Lorimar Winery features jazz artists and other performers at both its Old Town and Wine Country locations each weekend; www.lorimarwinery.com. Carter Estate Winery’s “After Hours” gatherings are on Friday nights; www.carterestatewinery.com.
Stay: The Ponte Vineyard Inn, a AAA Four Diamond hotel, is surrounded by 300 acres of mature vineyards and rolling hills and mountains. On-site is a 1-acre landscaped pond with a gazebo. A semi-Olympic size pool, spa and open air bar and cafe are set to open in late summer. The elegant, Spanish-style inn is a 20-minute walk to three wineries, including the Ponte Winery. Rates from $219. 35001 Rancho California Road, Temecula. 951-587-6688, www.pontevineyardinn.com.
Eat: The PUBlic House is one of the rustic and nostalgic buildings in the heart of Old Town. Live music Fridays-Sundays. Dine in the patio garden, on the balcony or inside the restored 1950s home. Starters, $7-$14; mains, $13-$28. 41971 Main St., Temecula. 951-676-7305, http://publicrestaurants.com/public-house-temecula.
Experience: The Grapeline Vineyard Picnic Tour includes wine tastings at four wineries, a behind-the-scenes Vintner’s Tour, a catered picnic lunch, mini-coach transportation from most hotels and exclusive wine country offers. From $119 per person Sundays-Fridays; $139 Saturdays. 951-693-5755, https://gogrape.com/temecula.
Stay: The Inn at Europa Village is a hilltop retreat with panoramic views of the valley and vineyards. Gather by a 6-foot fire pit under the stars. All rooms have king beds. Rates from $220 (two-night minimum on weekends) include a sangria welcome, two-for-one wine tastings at Europa Village and a two-course gourmet breakfast. 33350 La Serena Way, Temecula. 1-877-676-7047, http://innateuropavillage.com.
Eat: The alfresco Restaurant at Leoness Cellars, a farming-based winery, has been rated #1 Winery Restaurant by USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice and Best Restaurant for four consecutive years. Entrees from duck, filet, lobster to mac and cheese, $22-$48. 38311 De Portola Road, Temecula. 951-302-7601, www.leonesscellars.com.
Experience: Look down over Temecula Valley and a backdrop of mountains from the basket of a hot air balloon. The three-hour adventure (60-75 minutes aloft) starts before sunrise and ends with a picnic-style Champagne continental breakfast. The adventure starts and concludes at Europa Village Winery. Share flight from $139 per person, including private label Champagne discount and a souvenir flight certificate. 33475 La Serena Way, Temecula. 951-699-9987, https://hotairtours.com/grape-escape.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.
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