Temecula Wine Country Weekend
We all know California produces some incredible wines. And when most of us think about California wines, our brains quickly think, Napa. But there are so many other amazing wineries outside of Napa that offer more affordable and less traveled experiences. Temecula is in Southern California and has an incredible amount of wineries to explore.
Anyone who knows me knows I love to maximize my time when I travel, so when we had a conference pop up in Anaheim, we decided to look around the SoCal area for other places to visit. We chose Temecula with a few friends because one of our friends was married in Temecula a few years back and wonderful things to say about it. After our conference ended Friday, we drove down to Temecula for the weekend. How to get there There are a few ways to get to Temecula and we chose the furthest drive but the cheapest round trip flights (LAX). Your options are fly into LAX and drive just about 2 hours with no traffic, fly into San Diego and drive just about an hour with no traffic or fly into a lesser-known international airport, Ontario, which is much closer (about an hour drive) than LAX. According to one of our friends Southwest flies there for very affordable prices. Where we stayed
We ended up choosing a beautiful home from VRBO in Fallbrook, which is only a 20-minute drive from old Temecula. The spot was more affordable (under $1k for 5 bedrooms and we had 4 couples with us) and had a hot tub, pool, and an entire orchard of tangerine, orange, lemon, and avocado trees! The town of Fallbrook is actually known as the avocado capital for how many avocados they grow and how good they are so naturally, we found a spot for lunch Friday that had avocados in their meals. Friday activities Before checking into our VRBO, we explored Old Temecula a bit which consists of a few blocks with a variety of new and antique shops and places to eat. You can park a car anywhere along the street and stroll between the buildings very easily. We stopped at Press Espresso for some coffee and then dipped into a few of the antique shops and a lavender shop. We ended up at the end of the street at Luke’s rooftop bar for a beer before heading to Fallbrook to check-in (it’s just south of Temecula). When we arrived in Fallbrook we stopped at El Pasque for lunch about a 10-minute walk from our VRBO. We tried all their taco options (with avocados, of course) by ordering the flight of 5. They have 6 tacos total on the menu and we divided our order so we could try them all. You can’t go wrong no matter what you pick.. they’re all delicious. They also have a decent size outside eating area in the front entrance that gets direct sunlight. The inside has a full bar with a bunch of local craft beers.
After checking in and getting settled we had to head back to the conference to wrap up the workday, but were back in Temecula by 730 for dinner at Gourmet Italia. We decided not to wait for a table and since they only take reservations for parties of 4 or larger, we ordered to-go. While we waited, we sat in their adjoining wine room for Poggio Leano winery, sipping on wines and listening to live jazz. We tried the Pinot Noir and the Cab Sav to start our wine weekend off right and enjoyed them both. The jazz band was very entertaining and the Sax player even engaged with the audience by walking around and playing for individual tables. We ordered a bruschetta, the mussels, the risotto, and chicken limone and the total came out to just about $80, so very reasonable for dinner for 2 people. The exterior of the restaurant is unassuming and the interior has a charming, cozy and very Italian feel to it. Saturday Wine Tastings & Dinner We had planned to do the Temecula farmer’s market in the morning for coffee and breakfast to start our day of wineries but the rain prevented us from doing that. So instead we stopped at Le Coffee in old Temecula for coffee and some surprisingly delicious croissants.
To get to Temecula and between the wineries, we used Lyft instead of Uber because the Uber drivers were particularly difficult in the area. We even had multiple ones that accepted our ride request and then called to tell us they wouldn’t be picking us up. It was inconvenient but also very funny how terrible the Uber service was in that area. All our lyft drivers were great though! They were very friendly, and were relatively quick and easy rides.
Most of the tasting rooms opened at 11 am so we planned our day around starting then. We managed to try 3 wineries before our dinner at 6 which came out to about 25 different wines.
Akash Winery This was the first winery we visited. The entire winery has beautiful symmetry in its physical appearance and in all its marketing (everything from the name of the wines to the shape of the bottles to the story they share on their menu to the family’s story). They have a few lines of wine and we were lucky enough to try their estate wines and their Dreamville line. The owner’s name is Akash and he was very friendly and clearly passionate about their wines and the way they do business. His father had the idea for a family winery many years before they ever purchased the plot of land and wanted to name it after his son, Akash which means sky. Since it’s conception, the winery has been family owned and operated.
They openly talk about their plans to expand into a spa, resort, and hotel in the not so distant future. The story they share on their menu highlights a passion and sophistication that you can see throughout the experience they’ve created. The bottles are unique shapes, the wines clearly call out the different fruit notes and the owner is very involved in the customer experience. He served all of our wines and personally showed us around while sharing the story of the winery’s creation. In another show of cool yet subtle symmetry, their tasting room is called the sky room. Our experience at Akash Winery blew us away. We knew as we were leaving they had set a high bar for the other wineries we had lined up for the day. A few of us purchased bottles, because we loved it so much.
Leoness was very crowded and difficult to get a response from the staff at first. Once the staff starts engaging you, they are great. A tasting of 6 wines is $25 and the views are beautiful when it’s a clear day. They also have a restaurant attached, which is supposed to have good food but it is relatively small so the wait is too long for it to be worth it when the place is crowded. You’d end up spending half a day here if you waited for food. The staff is very knowledgeable and eagerly shares their opinion about each of the wines. The wines were pretty good, but nothing that really blew us away. All in all a good, if not average, experience.
Renzoni The service at Renzoni was so-so and the value is not as good as other spots here. 5 wines for $24 with taxes. The first Sangiovese we tried was what they described as their Chianti and being big Chianti lovers we were surprised that we were not fans of it. It had too much of a bite and finished very roughly for a wine. We also tried the barbers, tempranillo and 2 others that were much better! Saturday Dinner We chose Cork Fire Kitchen because the food had good reviews online. The ambiance is very laid back and their main room is very open with high ceilings. Unfortunately, the service was extremely rough. To give them the benefit of the doubt, we assumed there must have been an issue with the kitchen while we were there because they took a very long time despite having only a half-full restaurant and they messed up multiple orders. This place is probably overpriced for what you get food wise and is definitely overpriced for service. That being said, despite the delays and mess ups, the wait staff was still polite and tried to be helpful. As a side note, they include an 18% service charge which brought our total bill to $400 for 8 ppl. My personal take on the menu is the combinations and creations they have sound incredible. The presentation of the food does not match the descriptions and they even left ingredients out of the dishes. Generally speaking, I think it may be fair to say they were experiencing some difficulties, but for the simple fact that there were so many repeated issues with our experience, I likely would not spend any more money there and would not recommend this spot to anyone traveling to Temecula soon. They probably need a bit more time to fix some of their issues and then I’m sure the food will be excellent! We spent the rest of our time enjoying our VRBO spot before heading out Sunday. All in all, we really enjoyed our days in Temecula and would highly recommend visiting the area if you’re looking for an easy Winery weekend.