California is the leading wine producing state in the United States (making nearly 90 percent of all American wine), which is not surprising given the state’s mild climate, coastal influences, and diverse soils all conducive to growing grapes. From Napa Valley to Sonoma County, Monterey to Santa Barbara, California is full of renowned wine regions that attract visitors from all over the world. And, while Southern California may charm with its warm weather, glistening beaches, and picturesque coastal communities, it’s also got its own burgeoning wine region: Temecula Valley.
Conveniently located just an hour’s drive from San Diego and Orange County, Temecula Valley is home to over 40 wineries that produce 500,000 cases annually. With welcoming tasting rooms and plenty of diverse wine to be had (the region grows over 50 different types of varietals), Temecula is a destination worth noting. Here’s where to taste when visiting this up-and-coming wine region.
Owned and operated by the Baily family, Baily Vineyard & Winery specializes in wines made from cabernet sauvignon and other traditional Bordeaux varieties, all grown on their estate vineyards planted in 1982. Their main tasting room at the Baily Visitor Center is where you can drop by without an appointment to sample current releases, while at a second location — the Estate Tasting Room — book in advance to enjoy a vertical of library wines, either at the bar or during a seated experience.
Insider tip: If tasting at the Baily Visitor Center, stay and have lunch at Carol’s Restaurant, a medieval-themed restaurant open for lunch. Offering live music on weekends, they also have a doggie-approved menu on Sundays.
Main Tasting Room: 33440 La Serena, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 676-9463
Estate Tasting Room: 36150 Pauba, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 972-9768
Founded in 1997 by Argentinian-born Marcelo Doffo, the family owned and operated Doffo Winery is a boutique winery producing small-lot, hand-crafted wines, such as malbec, zinfandel, and syrah. Tastings include new releases, reserve wines, and even dessert wines, but for a more in-depth experience, book the Cork ‘N Torque Tour to hop aboard the Malbec Express, an eco-friendly tour bus that takes you through the vineyards and ends with a private tasting. When visiting, be sure to check out the MotoDoffo Vintage Motorcycle Collection in the barrel room, containing over 100 scooters and motor bikes.
Insider tip: In keeping with the winery’s laid-back vibe, bringing in food to enjoy on the patio is not only acceptable, but encouraged. But in case you didn’t get the memo and hunger strikes, they also offer meats and cheeses available for purchase, along with signature olive oil and authentic Argentinian chimichurri.
36083 Summitville Street, Temecula, CA 92592, (951) 676-6989
As a Certified Sustainable Vineyard & Winery, Palumbo is passionate about using sustainable practices in and out of the vineyard to craft full-bodied reds from their 13 acres of vineyards. Specializing in small-lot, handcrafted wines, including estate-grown cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and sangiovese, they also source fruit from neighboring properties to produce a viognier and syrah. Opt for a standard tasting in the intimate tasting room, or for a deeper dive into the inner workings of this family-run winery, reserve a tour and tasting to experience the process from “dirt to bottle.”
Insider tip: While this small winery is happy to welcome tasters without a reservation, if planning to arrive via limo or with a large group, call ahead and make an appointment to ensure there’s room. And, if arriving via helicopter is more your speed, the winery does have a heli-pad available, but best to not show up unannounced.
40150 Barksdale Circle, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 676-7900
Surrounded by 109 acres of vines, the luxurious Carter Estate is an upscale resort and winery owned by vintner Jim Carter and family. You can drop in for a tasting any day of the week, but for a more elevated experience, try the Wine & Food Pairing. You’ll get five Carter Estate wines (including sparkling wine) paired with culinary bites for an intimate, seated tasting limited to just eight guests.
Insider tip: The resort’s Mediterranean-inspired Bungalow Suites make for an especially enjoyable place to unwind after a day of wine tasting. Not only do rooms have private patios, but resort amenities such as poolside cabanas, in-room spa services, and complimentary breakfast make it easy to want to stay a while.
34450 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA, 92591, (844) 851-2138
Leoness Cellars was founded in 2002 by two partners with deep roots in Temecula Valley’s agriculture, and together they craft signature estate cabernet sauvignon from their 20 acres under vine. Located on a hilltop overlooking their estate vineyard, Leoness is open daily for tastings and tours, including seasonal vineyard tours, educational tastings, and even a proposal package if you’re looking to pop the question in Wine Country. With a plan like that, we’d suspect the answer will be “Yes!”
Insider tip: Leoness Cellars is also home to The Restaurant at Leoness, an acclaimed dining establishment that offers seasonal, scratch-made fare in a beautiful al fresco setting. Plan it right and enjoy a late afternoon tasting before heading to dinner at The Restaurant for the complete Leoness experience.
38311 De Portola Road, Temecula, CA 92592, (951) 302-7601
Established in 1980, Hart Family Winery is the oldest continuously operating winery in Temecula. Though production is still relatively small at roughly 5,000 cases annually, they produce a rather surprising number of wines, including everything from viognier and sauvignon blanc to grenache and cabernet franc. Tastings are available seven days a week and no reservations are needed, making it an easy place to drop by on the fly.
Insider tip: While the winery doesn’t have food available for purchase, you’re welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy on-site.
41300 Avenida Biona, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 676-6300
With its 300 acres of stunning vineyards, manicured gardens, expansive tasting room, and mission-style winery, Ponte is no doubt a picturesque place to taste wine. Established by the Ponte family, who have been growing grapes in Temecula since 1984, Ponte Winery produces everything from single varietal wines and blends to sparkling and fortified wines. Ponte’s motto is “If you like it, it’s good wine.”™ so don’t expect any pretense during a visit here.
Insider tip: To experience even more of the Ponte family’s hospitality, plan to stay at the Ponte Vineyard Inn, a 90-room boutique hotel that includes elegant accommodations, a semi-Olympic sized pool, and the only full cocktail bar in the Temecula Valley.
35001 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA, 92591, (951) 587-6688
Yet another family owned and operated boutique winery in Temecula, Vindemia stands out for its outdoor tasting room (located in a rose garden) and cleverly named wines (like More Cowbell and Baby Doll Head Red). While the names may be cheeky, Vindemia is serious about using only sustainable vineyard practices to make their handcrafted wines. Stop by to enjoy an al fresco tasting, which is accompanied by complimentary bread and estate grown olive oil — produced from the 100 olive trees on the property.
Insider tip: If you’re looking for a more memorable way to experience the winery, book the sunrise hot air balloon ride with California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures. After flying high in the sky, you’ll head to Vindemia to enjoy a light breakfast of fruit, cheese, mimosas, coffee, and tea in the winery’s private rose garden setting, as well as two-for-one tastings later in the day.
33133 Vista Del Monte Road, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 760-9334
Founded in 2000, this hilltop winery, which sits at an elevation of 1,400 feet, charms with its convivial vibe and lovely views of the surrounding vineyards and valley. A tasting might include wines made of traditional grapes found in the Southern Rhône Valley, Spain, or Portugal, but to really get a feel of the wines, splurge on the VIP Winemaker’s Tour, which includes a tour of the vineyard, crush pad, and cellar, insights into the production process, and a private wine tasting with food pairing. Don’t feel like leaving after your tasting? Head to Flower Hill Bistro, where fresh, seasonal fare can be savored with the views.
Insider tip: As one of the first Temecula wineries to offer live music, the winery continues the tradition with live music every Friday and Saturday night, offering everything from 90s rock cover bands to Raggae vibes.
33410 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 506-5500
With family wine roots that trace back to Italy in the late 1880s, fourth generation winemaker Robert Renzoni continues his family’s tradition at his estate in Temecula Valley. The 12-acre vineyard is planted to classic Bordeaux and Italian grape varieties, including cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio, and sangiovese. Stop by for a tasting at this Italian-style estate and pack a picnic to enjoy on the grounds, or plan to eat at the winery’s Mama Rosa’s Italian Trattoria for a comforting taste of Italy.
Insider tip: Not only does Robert Renzoni Estate produce wine, but they also make a marinara sauce (based on a family recipe), homemade vinegar, and even a variety of spicy chile pepper sauces — all available to purchase from the winery.
37350 De Portola Road, Temecula, CA 92592, (951) 302-8466
Owned and operated by father and son, Ray and Akash Patel, Akash Winery crafts 100% estate grown wines from the family’s 15-acre vineyard. Though the winery is currently undergoing a renovation (set to reopen in May), you can sample the wines during their pop up every weekend at Cheflavor Curated Provisions. Once reopened, Akash promises to be an even more gorgeous destination in Temecula Wine Country.
Insider tip: Akash Winery’s estate wines come in fun bottlings atypical of the standard packaging. The sauvignon blanc, presented in a uniquely-shaped bottle, makes for an especially memorable wine gift.
39730 Calle Contento, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 888-1393
Showcasing Moorish architecture mixed with a contemporary California setting, the grand Fazeli Cellars is the life-long passion of owner Bizhan “BJ” Fazeli, who first purchased the property in 2001 after falling in love with the area. Since its first vintage in 2006, Fazeli Cellars has remained dedicated to producing a wide range of wines — more than 20 varietals, to be specific — including sauvignon blanc, petit sirah, viognier, chardonnay, and mourvèdre. Thanks to banquet facilities, an on-site restaurant, and picturesque surroundings, the winery makes for a nice setting for weddings and special events.
Insider tip: The winery offers a variety of rotating special events, like salsa night, as well as live music every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
37320 De Portola Road, Temecula, CA 92592, (951) 303-3366