Here’s a little-known fact about Southern California: it’s home to Temecula, one of the most innovative wine regions in California. This area just one hour north of San Diego might not have the publicity and prestige of, say, a Napa Valley, but it holds its own with the wines, producing top quality Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo.

And yet, it remains tucked away. In fact, many of my friends who either were born and raised in San Diego or who have lived here for years, have never been! I’ve made it my mission to introduce them all to this town that offers so much.

A Soft Spot to Land After Wine Tastings

I’ll share more about Temecula wine in next month’s post, but this month, I wanted to share my experience staying at Temecula Creek Inn. (FYI Nancy Brown covered the basics and details about the hotel here. I’m giving my perspective as well as a few updates since her trip.)

After hitting even just two wineries, you won’t want to drive home. That wine is powerful! So my hotel of choice is Temecula Creek Inn, located right by the interstate.  It surprises me that there aren’t more luxury and independent hotels in Temecula, but most tend to be national chains that feel impersonal after spending the day getting to know winemakers and their craft.

More Than You Bargain For

The term “Inn” is a bit misleading here, because this place is more a resort. It’s got a golf course and an award-winning restaurant.

When a friend and I checked in on this trip, her first comment was, “It’s so roomy!”

Accustomed as we have all become to cramped hotel rooms that barely fit two beds, this place was pure luxury. The room was one of the largest I’ve seen, and the bathroom and foyer outside the bathroom also didn’t make us feel like we were on top of each other, which is often the case in hotels.

And the bath products had us raving! It’s such a tiny detail, but I love it when a hotel goes out of its way to work with a high-quality brand of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. My friend Rose ordered more of it as soon as she got home!

An Award-Winning Meal

Another thing that surprises me about Temecula is how few amazing restaurants there are. This is changing, but given that you can’t throw a stick without hitting an organic, sustainable, local chef in San Diego, I figured Temecula would follow suit.

Whether I stay at Temecula Creek Inn or not, my favorite restaurant in town is Cork|Fire Restaurant on premises. A $2.5 million renovation resulted in a sophisticated and modestly-designed dining room, as well as award-winning cuisine. Every time I eat there, there’s a party on my tongue!

This trip, we shared the Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese (mind-blowing) and each had a New York Steak Asada. The steak was perfectly cooked and seasoned. That’s hard to do. The server brought us a complimentary dish of Deviled Eggs with Cornmeal Fried Oysters, and upon discovering that I am allergic to oysters (she was horrified at her mistake), she brought me one sublime sriracha-infused egg sans oyster. I was a happy girl.

For Outdoor Lovers

It was raining when we recovered from our wine-tasting haze the next morning, but we still caught a glimpse of hard-core golfers braving the mist on the 27-hole championship course. The view from our balcony was a novelty for two women more accustomed to the drought-laden browns of San Diego: the golf course sits on 300 acres of green natural beauty.

The pool, which was being renovated when Nancy visited, is another wonderful place to enjoy the Southern California sun. I didn’t get to enjoy it this trip, but I have spent many happy hours doing laps in the — once again — spacious sparkling blue pool. The hot tub is a real treat, as it is one level down from the pool and faces the golf course.

Temecula Creek In is, in and of itself, an amazing getaway. Even if you never left the premises, you would check out feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. But given that within a few miles, you have access to more than 40 wineries, hot air balloon rides, and shopping in Old Town Temecula, my guess is you’ll want to extend your vacation to see it all.

Article and photography by travel writer Susan Guillory. I received a complimentary stay to Temecula Creek Inn and appetizer at Cork|Fire, however all opinions are my own.