Yes, you’ve heard of wine country goodness in Sonoma/Napa (near San Francisco) and the Santa Ynez Valley (near Santa Barbara). But did you know that there’s another emerging wine destination in Southern California? I’m talking about Temecula, an under-the-radar town that’s about an hour and 40 minutes drive from L.A. While the area may not have the fancy high-design accommodations of Napa, it does have solid name-brand hotels that will cost only a fraction of what you’d pay up north. I’d recommend the ever-reliable Hampton Inn or Fairfield Inn for a bargain stay. If you’d like something with less of a corporate chain feel, check out South Coast Winery Resort & Spa or the Loma Vista Bed and Breakfast. Finally, the Pechanga Casino is also in Temecula if you’d like some gambling with your wine.
Now onto the important stuff–wineries! No one wants to (or should) be driving during a day of wine tasting, so I prefer booking a shuttle (try the Grapeline) that will safely take you to several wineries throughout the day. Once you’ve had your fill of wine, try taking a walk through old town Temecula for some Old West flavor, or book a hot air balloon excursion (a good option is Sunrise Balloons). Temecula is a ballooning hot spot, and hopping in a balloon is a cool way to get a bird’s eye view of vineyards.
Keep in mind: Temecula doesn’t have the high-end dining scene of Sonoma or Napa, but why not save some loot and enjoy the outdoors by packing your own picnic? Stop by Barons Marketplace on Rancho California Road to grab your provisions.
Bonus tip(s): The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a short drive from Temecula and well worth at least a day of exploration. It’s the largest state park in California, and in the spring, blooming wildflowers fill its desert landscape with beautiful swaths of color.