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Celebrating Excellence: 13 Women Mavericks and Makers in Temecula

Wednesday, March 27, 2024 1:00 PM by Norma Marlowe

Women’s History Month is an ideal time to celebrate the phenomenal women who have made a positive impact on Temecula Valley tourism. From business owners, to chefs, to hoteliers/innkeepers, these powerful, inspiring women have contributed to Temecula’s reputation as a “hidden gem” in Southern California and played key roles in putting this vibrant travel destination on the map.

“These dynamic and passionate women are shaping our destination and encouraging others to experience our beautiful Valley,” said Scott A. Wilson, CEO, Visit Temecula Valley. “They are boldly paving the way for other women in tourism while making a positive impact on the community. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we toast these outstanding individuals.”

Here are 13 remarkable women whose innovative contributions are shaping and enhancing the tourism landscape of the Temecula Valley:

Lacey Britton, Co-Owner, The Vine House

Lacey Britton stands as a beacon of hospitality and warmth in the heart of Temecula Valley’s Southern California Wine Country, serving as innkeeper of The Vine House Bed & Breakfast. Located on the De Portola Wine Trail and set in an elegant cape cod style home with exquisitely designed rooms, it is known as one of the most romantic getaways in wine country. Lacey and her husband, Rob, were married on the property and today, they are raising their three daughters in a home they built there. It was their dream to renovate the barn in which they were married and create a bed & breakfast for visitors to enjoy the property’s beautiful surroundings.

Nancy Curry and Catherine Pepe, Founders, Temecula Olive Oil Company

The Temecula Valley Olive Oil Company sprouted its roots in the unlikeliest of places. It was the result of a conversation in a school parking lot. Founded in 2001 by Nancy Curry and Catherine Pepe, with a sprinkle of support from Nancy’s husband, Thom, their goal was to introduce America to the wonders of olive oil. They unveiled what would soon be hailed as the country’s first olive oil tasting room in Old Town Temecula, and they also introduced the world’s first inaugural mobile olive mill. Today, guests can visit one of their four Southern California tasting rooms, or take a tour and enjoy a tasting at their Olive View Ranch in Aguanga, about 20 minutes east of Temecula Valley Wine Country. In addition to offering products in their tasting rooms, the Temecula Olive Oil Company now ships worldwide and spreading love, one drizzle at a time.

Leah Delyte Di Bernardo, Owner, E.A.T. Marketplace

Leah Delyte Di Bernardo’s passion is offering food that is not only nourishing and delicious, but sustainably sourced. In 2006, she championed Temecula Valley’s farm-to-table movement, bringing farmers, winemakers, and chefs together to showcase the region’s incredible abundance. As a seasoned chef and entrepreneur, she founded the bustling E.A.T. Marketplace in Old Town in 2008. The popular eatery and specialty food marketplace also serves as a hub for sustainable education and events. Leah also imparts her expertise in culinary arts at Mount San Jacinto College (MJSC), where she teaches students about the transformative power of regenerative principles and critical thinking.

Cathy Gibson, Co-Owner, Small Barn

Cathy Gibson grew up on the beach in Southern California and moved to Temecula in the late 1990s with her husband, Dan. They opened a greenhouse, propagating microgreens and starter plants, and eventually planted a vineyard on their property in Southern California Wine Country, where they now make their own wine. They also operate Small Barn, a popular modern bistro in Old Town Temecula. Small Barn offers a welcome gathering place where beautiful design, exceptional food and beverages, and gracious service come together in a relaxed, but vibrant haven for socializing and discovery.

Kim Kelliher, Co-Owner, Grapeline Wine Tours

A longtime resident of Temecula, Kim Kelliher is a well-known leader and entrepreneur with a long history of working within the tourism industry. She owns and operates Grapeline Wine Tours and Stryder Transportation along with her husband, John. Grapeline offers daily wine tasting tours to the public, as well as private group charters, in Temecula Valley, Santa Ynez/Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles, Sonoma, and Napa Valley.

Cherise Manning, Co-Owner, Grape Escape Hot Air Balloon Adventures

What started 200 years ago has become a unique bucket-list item in Temecula, thanks in part to Cherise Manning, who has been operating A Grape Escape Hot Air Balloon Adventures for more than 30 years along with her husband, Rusty. Cherise was instrumental in forming the Temecula Valley Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (now known as Visit Temecula Valley) and has been a Board member since its inception. She is also active with local charities and serves on the Board of Directors for the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Alicia Marshall, Co-Owner, The New Inn

When Alicia Marshall bought the property that now houses The New Inn, she knew it would be the perfect location for a luxury bed & breakfast in wine country. She and her husband, Eric, who had lived in Napa Valley for several decades, fell in love with Temecula after attending a concert at Thornton Winery. Her background in design informed her decision to focus on luxury and, with the help of their architect, bought the property and began building in 2016. Today, The New Inn boasts five private, romantic, and luxurious rooms with gorgeous views. The property includes Malbec grape vineyards, which line the property and add to the verdant views from every window.

Marika Matson, Co-Owner, Temecula Carriage Company

Ever since she was a young girl Marika Matson’s life revolved around her love of horses. She began her equine career at age 11 years old, shoveling manure on a horse farm and making $3.00 an hour. Over the years while working on various farms she learned more about her passion from the best equestrians in the Temecula Valley. Matson founded Temecula Carriage Company in 2007 and offers a variety of carriage rides including romantic private tours, customized group excursions, wine tours, and seasonal activities. “The best way for me to explain my passion is to describe it as my gift,” she said. “I think gifts are meant to be shared.”

Brandie Newman, Co-Owner, Temecula Stampede, Old Town Ranch

Brandie Newman upped the entertainment game in Old Town Temecula when she and her husband, Ken, purchased the iconic country music haven The Stampede in 2020.  This 30,000 square foot space is the largest Country Western venue on the West Coast. She also runs the Old Town Music Festival, a popular two-day music event featuring nationally known country artists Her latest venture, Old Town Ranch, is a guest ranch where patrons can stay in luxurious Conestoga Covered Wagons and pony up to an Old West Saloon.

Jan Schneider, Owner, Temecula Lavender Company

The Temecula Lavender Company was born out of Jan Schneider’s love for the herb Lavender; the herb of peace, purification, sleep and longevity. To incorporate this herb into her family’s daily life, she began creating ways in which they could enjoy its healthful and aromatic qualities. The result is a small lavender farm located in the Temecula Wine Country that grows and produces a line of pure, natural and healthful lavender products for the bath, body and home. Products are always hand crafted in small batches, using pure ingredients without harmful petroleum products. Her shop is located on Front Street in Old Town Temecula.

Regan Schneider, Owner, Corbeaux Wine & Tea House

Temecula winemaker Regan Schneider, who happens to be the daughter of Jan Schneider from the Temecula Lavender Company, recently opened an upscale wine and tearoom in Old Town Temecula. Corbeaux Wine & Tea House offers unique wine and tea food pairings, low and high tea, and acts as a tasting room for her family’s winery, Matin Du Bois Vintners. A winemaker since the age of 22, Schneider, now 26, describes herself as a lifelong foodie and wine lover who wanted to create an Old Town destination and tasting room for people like herself.

Laura Stearn, Co-Owner, Domaine Chardonnay

Situated in the heart of Temecula’s Wine Country and nestled into the middle of a beautiful private 5-acre Chardonnay vineyard, Domaine Chardonnay Bed & Breakfast was designed and built by Laura Stearn, Interior Designer and Fine Artist, and her architect/landscaper husband, Mike Wieters. Stearn wanted to create a magical wine country getaway reminiscent of a small village in the Loire Valley. Domaine Chardonnay boasts uber posh, modern décor with special touches throughout. It has blossomed into one of the most beautiful and top-rated boutique hotels in Temecula; this perfect blend of fine living complements the property’s organic farm and sophisticated small batch winery.

About Visit Temecula Valley

Visit Temecula Valley (VTV) is a nonprofit 501 (c)(6) destination marketing organization dedicated to promoting tourism-related businesses including wineries, restaurants, breweries, retail and specialty boutiques, hotels, and more. It is a popular destination that includes Southern California Wine Country, Old Town Temecula, and Pechanga Resort Casino. In 2019, Wine Enthusiast named Temecula Valley one of the world’s 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations. For more information go to

Author: Norma Marlowe