When you think of California wine regions, you likely think of Sonoma and Napa.  Maybe even Santa Barbara. But few people outside of Southern California are aware of Temecula, a fantastic wine region one hour north of San Diego.

In fact, many of my local San Diego friends had never been to Temecula, much to my surprise. I visit every year or so, and sample wines from some of the 40+ wineries that pepper the gentle hills 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

Big on Big Reds

While you certainly can find great white wine, I’m a red drinker, and I love the more unique reds like Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc, both of which feature heavily in the Temecula region. Wiens Family Cellars is known for its Big Reds, and offers everything from a $30 Grenache all the way up to Chateau Grand Rouge for $150. I may not be able to afford the higher-end bottles just yet, but I was lucky enough to get to taste the reserve wines on a recent visit.

Expecting just the standard fare wine tasting at Wiens, I was delighted when my friend and I were given not one but two exclusive VIP tastings. The Cellar Room was the backdrop for our tasting of Wiens’ Big Reds, while the Barrel Room got us access to other delightful wines. But it wasn’t just the wine that had us smiling. The entire staff treated us like family, making me ever-so-inclined to make sure Wiens is on my list the next time in town.

Within Stumbling Distance

My press trip to Temecula was coordinated by Visit Temecula Valley, and my contact apologized for only being able to get us tastings at two wineries. But after Wiens, we were pretty toasty. Still, we found our way across the street at Lorimar Vineyards & Winery, where we sampled Syrahs and Zinfandels.

A Home Away from Home

I never make a day trip out of Temecula, even though I live close enough to do so. After drinking so much wine, I am happy to roost at Temecula Creek Inn to recuperate and enjoy a phenomenal dinner at Cork|Fire. While the resort is about 15 minutes from wine country, it’s super close to Old Town, the historic shopping district in Temecula.

The next morning, once our heads cleared, my friend and I ambled down the wooden plank-lined streets and perused Temecula Olive Oil, The Gardener’s Cottage, and The Farmer’s Wife after a hearty breakfast at the historic Swing Inn Cafe.

This has more or less been my routine on each trip to Temecula: hit up a few wineries, crash at the hotel and enjoy dinner, then explore Old Town the next day. But there’s a lot more here to explore. South Coast Winery’s Grapeseed Spa makes for a wonderful day of pampering and lounging by the pool, and the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival is on my bucket list. There’s also horseback riding, golf, and cultural events to add to your list as well. Whatever you do, you can be sure that your days will be filled with indulgence and enjoyment.

Article and photography by travel writer Susan Guillory. I received complimentary wine tastings at Wiens Family Cellars and Lorimar Vineyards & Winery, as well as a complimentary stay to Temecula Creek Inn and appetizer at Cork|Fire, however all opinions are my own.