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LA Biz: Temecula--The Business Traveler's Guide

Monday, July 9, 2018 3:00 PM

By   – Correspondent, L.A. Biz

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that Temecula was just a spot along I-15 where you stopped to gas up.

Over the last couple of decades, however, the city has boomed. Today, it’s no longer a mere wayside on a business trip to San Diego — it’s a destination.

Whether you’re golfing with clients or looking for a company retreat alternative to Las Vegas or Palm Springs, Temecula is rapidly gaining a reputation.

With that in mind, here are my three best recommendations to get the most out of a Temecula weekend stay.

Pechanga Resort & Casino

Nowhere is the rapid ascension of this region more evident than at Pechanga. Where once a smoke-filled canvas tent housed bingo games, a luxury resort has sprung up. Nearly $300 million worth of renovations have been underway for the last two years, doubling the size of the resort. Pechanga now includes an award-winning golf course, an enormous spa and a nearly five-acre pool complex in addition to a new hotel tower, fitness studio, restaurants and a gargantuan event space.

Pechanga has one of the more unique 18-hole golf courses, as the elevation changes provide for some spectacular views. The sixth hole will have you climbing several switchbacks to attempt a 488-yard par 4 with a 175-foot drop from tee to fairway and another 100 feet drop to the green.

If you’re looking to unplug, I strongly recommend hitting the spa for the signature Waves of Sound Massage. Imagine a warm, wet cloth covering your eyes and soothing music flowing through the headphones as you lounge on a zero-gravity chair that functions like an amplifier, pumping the music into your body. After 15 extraordinary minutes of such sensory pleasure, you get oiled up and massaged.

Now, you’re ready for The Cove, the brand-new lagoon-style pool. For the best experience, get a cabana and enjoy all the comforts that you’d expect from the Vegas Strip. The Riverside sunshine is just as warm and the crowd is very Southern Californian. Take a few rides down the waterslide, then unwind at the swim-up bar for a refreshing cocktail. The complex features both adults-only and family-friendly spaces.

The resort also features several restaurants, including two of the more popular restaurants in the county: Great Oak Steakhouse and Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar. The steakhouse is a classic surf ‘n’ turf with decadent appetizers, sides and a fantastic wine list. The ambience is such that you’d never know there’s a casino floor just outside the doors. Meanwhile, the sushi bar and oyster bar is on par with their L.A. counterparts, offering an incredible array of raw seafood and fresh fish.

Wine Country

No trip to Temecula would be complete without a tour of the burgeoning wine country. The vintners of the Temecula Valley were growing vines long before the city began to appear on the travelers’ map. The wine region has matured, and today the two-lane wine road is loaded with tasting rooms and shady patios.

European-style estates dot the landscape, horses and steers roam on farms, and the hills are covered in grapevines. Among my favorites are the dog-friendly Carter Estate, which offers a late-harvest that I have in my wine fridge right now. South Coast Winery is scenic and centrally located. My latest discovery is Masia de la Vinya, which offers a robust tasting (six wines for $14). Their list of local varietals includes a Moudevre, Barbera, Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon, among others. They grow their Malbec and Chardonnay right on the property. Like many estates, Masia de la Vinya features live music on the weekends.

Old Town

Ironically, the newest thing in Temecula is Old Town. Millennials are flocking to the historic district to sample local craft beers and dine on farm-to-table fare. The architecture is Old West but the vibe is all SoCal. Restaurants range from Middle Eastern to Mexican to barbecue. Shops line the streets and a beautiful City Hall building is a center point of Old Town.

On the fringe of this district is one of my favorite breweries, Ballast Point. The San Diego-based beer maker has a large outpost here with dozens of taps, a dining room, circular patio and sports on indoor and outdoor TVs. I suggest a tasting to sample a variety of beers before settling into one. While I’m partial to Sculpin, the Victory at Sea is one of my darker favorites, and there is a version being offered now that’s aged in High West barrels giving the chocolatey stout a bourbon flavor. Beware though, it’s about 12 percent alcohol by volume, so pace yourself.

Summer is a great time to enjoy the warmth of Temecula, so get in the car and turn up the A/C. And when you stop for gas, stick around and enjoy the latest pearl of the Southern California resort scene.

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