A First Timers Guide To Temecula

When to Visit

The weather in Temecula is exactly what you would expect from Southern California, beautiful and sunny year round. Summer is by far the busiest season in Temecula, the days are long the nights warm and the vines in full bloom. It is the prettiest time of year in the valley, however summer heat often reaches high 90’s and low 100’s so it is HOT (thankfully all dry heat). The Fall provides warm days often in the 70’s as well as beautifully turning vines that will give you autumn feels. Winter is to any Californian kind of cold but to visitors I’m sure it would be to your liking not often getting below the 60’s and even rare getting below mid-50’s, if they’re getting rain it would likely be during the winter months. Spring is gorgeous in Temecula with everything blooming and full of color. Most of the wineries offer both indoor and outdoor seating options so no matter what time of year you choose to go you’ll stay comfortable and relaxed!

Hot Air Balloon Ride over Wine Country

Getting There

Located just North of San Diego County, Temecula wine country is an up and coming wine region in Southern California and has over 40 wineries to visit. Temecula is about an hour to hour and a half drive from an airport and can be easily driven to from San Diego International Airport (SAN), Long Beach Airport (LGB), Santa Ana Airport (SNA) or Ontario Airport (ONT). You will likely need to rent a car to transport you to and from the airport and to explore the town.

Where to Stay

  1. South Coast Winery Resort and Spa – Their Villas are AMAZING. The rooms are large and spacious, you’re looking out into the vineyard. This will give you the quintessential wine tasting experience from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. Their on-site restaurants, Vineyard Rose, has a great breakfast burrito and the Grape Seed Spa is perfection.
  2. Ponte Vineyard Inn – Beautifully landscaped property that offers vineyard, mountain and pond views from their rooms. They have several different room types to fit your needs. There is an on-site restaurant with stunning views of the pond as well as The Cellar bar at the bottom of the hotel.
  3. Bolero Casitas -Brand new, just opened in June 2020 there are 10 casita type rooms with high vaulted ceilings and private patio area for your leisure. These Spanish inspired rooms are sure to please!
  4. Pechanga Casino and Resort – This is kind of far from the wineries but it gives you the proximity to the night life in Temecula. Pechanga just constructed a new hotel tower in 2019 and the hotel and casino are beautiful. The perks of staying here is that you have everything you want built into one place, nightlife, restaurants, pool, golf course and spa. You’re also able to get to Old Town Temecula via Uber or driving in less than 10 minutes.

Getting Around

It’s not necessary to drive yourself or hire a driver for wine tasting as Uber is easily accessible and the cheapest and safest form of transportation for your wine tasting experience. Renting a limo does come with restrictions with a lot of wineries where appointments are necessary and sometimes your party may not be allowed to taste there on the weekends. A majority of the wineries are walk in friendly (just a handful that require you to schedule and appointment) which is wonderful to make your day relaxed and on your timeframe. The wineries are all within a 15 minutes drive of each other (some you can just walk right over to) making your Uber trips super affordable and quick.

Where to Eat

  1. La Cocina – This is by far our favorite sit down Mexican restaurant in town and the service is always exceptional. The wait staff are super friendly and your food comes out fast. Their combo dishes are SO GOOD and I will 9 times out of 10 go for the tostada and enchilada combo, their burritos are all wonderful as are their chimichanga’s. Honestly, no matter what you order on their menu you will be happy. Also – the chips and salsa are on point!
  2. The Gambling Cowboy – Located in Old Town Temecula this western steak house has a lot to offer. Their Porcini Rubbed Short Rib is one of the best I’ve ever had, I was so sad when I finished my meal and there was none left! They have 10+ steak dishes that are sure to be a hit, as well as their classic and seafood options. If you go at lunch time the vibe is a little more low key, and I definitely recommend the French dip!
  3. Gourmet Italia – The best Italian spot in town! Their special for the day is exactly that, special and delicious it always leaves you completely satisfied. They have a killer sangria and their burrata is amazing… I’m drooling just thinking about this place. If you like Italian it’s top of our recommendations!
  4. The Great Oak Steakhouse – This is located in Pechanga Casino and Resort and is upscale with semi-formal attire requirement to dine. They have an expansive wine list that is sure to please even the most selective of wine drinkers. Typical of upscale restaurants you order your protein choice and sides for the table separate. Great spot for a special occasion or date but be prepared to open your wallet.
  5. Cafe Champagne – Their menu has a little bit of everything depending on your budget and the food is delicious. This restaurant is located on Thornton Winery’s property so you won’t have to travel far at the end of your wine tasting day. I HIGHLY recommend their lobster ravioli and definitely add the scallops! And if you have room at the end of your meal give one of their chocolate wines a try, it’s what they’re known for!

Where to Grab a Drink (not at a winery)

  1. Thompson and Twain Prospecting Co – This is a super cool speakeasy inside of the Crush and Brew in Old Town Temecula. True to Old Town Temecula it has a western feel inside and great attention to detail. I recommend making a reservation as there is limited seating and it is super popular. If you don’t make reservations and can’t seem to make it into the speakeasy itself Crush and Brew has some great wine selections as well as specialty cocktails!
  2. 1909 – Located in Old Town Temecula they have some great food and cocktails. This is definitely a local favorite so it is usually buzzing on the weekends!
  3. Gourmet Italia – Poggio Leano Winery and Lounge – Okay so I know this says winery in its name but it’s really a wine bar. They often have live piano music playing and a great selection of drinks on the menu. The seating is super comfortable tufted couches with little bar tables to hold your drinks and any food you may want to order. Their Sangria is wicked good and their burrata is one of the tastiest things on their lite bite menu.
Red Sangria from Poggio Leano
Burrata Appetizer with Red Sangria from Poggio Leano

Where to Grab a Coffee

Sometimes we just need a little coffee in the mornings to wake up or start to cure a hangover, here are a few of my favorite spots, check out their yelp reviews to see which is up your alley 🙂

Sal Latte from Havana Kitchen
  1. Havana Kitchen – Not a coffee shop technically but they have some of the best coffee in town and their breakfast options are legit.
  2. Liquid Leaf – This one is a bit out of the way but they have a large tea menu for any non-coffee drinkers!
  3. East Coffee – Traditional coffee shop with coffee, lattes, blended drinks and smaller bites.
  4. Starbucks – If you’re looking for a sure thing and don’t want to mess around with something new or unfamiliar… really no explanation needed here, they’re on every corner in Temecula so you won’t have a hard time finding one.

Wineries to Visit

Now comes the fun part of planning, picking the wineries to visit!

Check out our Temecula guides for a few winery suggestions – The Big Three, and Saved the Best for Last!

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