SoCal’s wine country is worth the trip.
Wine snobs may scoff at the wines of Southern California in favor of the grapes of Napa, Sonoma, or even Paso Robles, but the vineyards of Temecula Valley have established a reputation over the last decade for producing fantastic Bordeaux and Rhône varietals, as well as those from Spain, Italy, and Portugal.
With more than 40 vineyards throughout the region, you can find something to satisfy any tasting desire, from lavish, over-the-top wine resorts to small, mom-and-pop operations. Any time of year is great for a visit, though it's particularly picturesque during the annual Balloon and Wine Festival at the end of May. For the easiest, most chill tour ever, hop aboard an authentic, fully-restored 1914 San Francisco cable car and enjoy gorgeous, open air views of wine country without the hassle of driving. Temecula Cable Car Wine Tours offers a five-hour adventure to three local wineries that includes lunch, as well as private and seasonal tours. Saddle Up Wine Tours is an all-volunteer company that uses its funds to rescue abandoned, neglected, or abused horses. Their tours can be customized to include up to three wineries, or you can skip wine tasting altogether for trail tours, sunset and bonfire tours, riding lessons and goat yoga. Ride through the vines in style with So-Cal Sidecars, where your private chauffeur will pilot you around on a motorcycle kitted out with a two-seater sidecar. They also do brewery, food, and adventure tours, or you can add a thrilling, low altitude plane ride over Temecula Valley to your wine tasting tour. However you decide to get around, make sure these wineries are at the top of your list:
Marcelo Doffo grew up on a family farm in Argentina before immigrating to the United States as a young man. A visit to his ancestral home in Italy inspired him to begin making wine, first in his garage, then on a small parcel of land he purchased in the Temecula Valley. Drawing on knowledge from his early farming days, he and his family meticulously cultivate cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfandel and malbec, in addition to red blends, a few dessert wines, grappa, and a cuvée-style sparkling wine enhanced with just a touch of muscat. Equally famous is MotoDoffo, Marcelo’s collection of rare and vintage motorcycles and scooters, including Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Gilera, Honda, CZ, Vespa, and others, along with a MotoDoffo apparel line and three MotoDoffo red blend releases annually.
How to book: Reservations aren’t required for tastings, but are highly recommended, especially on weekends. Make yours online.
Perfect for a weekend getaway or mini staycation, South Coast Winery’s wines are entirely estate grown and bottled, and are certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes sustainable winegrowing practices throughout the state of California. Stroll around the grounds, enjoy a wine tasting and dinner at The Vineyard Rose before retiring to your suite or private villa. For ultimate pampering, book a luxurious spa treatment—they offer a full range of services including romantic couples massage packages.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings. Book a table at the restaurant, hotel or spa online or by calling 855-821-9431.
In 1969, long before he became one of the leaders in the golf industry with the wildly successful Big Bertha line of golf clubs, Ely Reeves Callaway, Jr., purchased a plateau of land in the Temecula Valley that benefited from the cool, misty mountain range above and provided spectacular views of the surrounding hills and valleys. One of Temecula’s founding estate wineries, Callaway wines are 100% estate-grown and include cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, and syrah fermented with wild yeasts, as well as a number of dessert and sparkling wines. For an unforgettable experience, have dinner at Meritage, the farm-to-table restaurant on the premises, where you can experience their wines with curated food pairings. Callaway also has a tasting room in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter that’s open Thursday through Sunday.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings or at Meritage. Book a winery tour or reservations at Meritage (accepted Friday and Saturday only) online.
One of Temecula’s newer wineries, Vindemia Winery produces award-winning, robust reds and crisp whites, including their cult favorite “More Cowbell” zinfandel, along with cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and viognier. Bring your own picnic to their outdoor tasting patios and rose garden, open Wednesday through Monday, or book a sunrise balloon ride over the vineyards through their California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures, and enjoy a one-hour flight followed by a glass of bubbly.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings. Book a balloon adventure online.
Carol and Phil Baily planted their first acre of grapes on Mother’s Day in 1982, slowly adding acreage while taking courses in enology and viticulture at UC Davis. Eventually their vineyard grew to 25 acres of mostly Bordeaux varietals, which undergo a more traditional style of winemaking and longer barrel aging, producing wines that are more complex and reflect the area’s unique terroir. They have two different tasting rooms at separate locations: the Baily Visitor Center is where you can sample the current releases, and the Estate Tasting Room is their reservation-only, state-of-the-art production facility. There, you’ll experience six years of one variety of wine presented simultaneously, allowing you to taste subtle differences from one year to the next. In addition, they’ve recently launched a new Library Wine of the Month program, in which Phil Baily chooses one or more library wines that are poured at both tasting rooms as a bonus to the regular tasting and available to purchase at discount.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings at the Baily Visitor Center. Book a vertical flight at the Estate Tasting Room by calling 951-972-9768.
New kid on the block Akash Winery just opened their tasting room in 2019, but for the Patel family, Nalini, Ray, and son Akash, the dream of owning their own vineyard goes back more than two decades. Along with celebrated winemaker Renato Sais, Ray and Akash (sadly, Nalini passed away in early 2021) produce two different lines of wine. The estate wines include cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, petite sirah, sauvignon blanc, and a couple of blends, while their Dreamville Wines are collaborative products using varietals not yet grown on the Akash estate. These include Dreamville Brosé (grenache), cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petite sirah, zinfandel and a handful of exciting blends. The winery itself doesn’t offer food, but there’s at least one food truck on site daily, and a rotating selection on weekends. Vineyard tours are available, including the Lazy Llama Tour, a customizable vineyard tour that includes friendly llamas to pet and feed, a wine tasting, chocolates, and charcuterie. Insider tip: The tasting room is 21+ only on Saturdays.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings. Book a vineyard tour by filling out the online form; you will be contacted by a team member to confirm the details.
Stunning modern Moorish architecture and warm hospitality are the hallmarks of Bizhan “BJ” Fazeli’s beautiful winery, which has one of the widest range of varietals in the Temecula Valley. Produced both from estate vineyards and select local growers, the names of the collections are an homage to Fazeli’s Persian roots—The Heritage Collection honors five Persian poets, Embrace the Chaos includes Pandemonium, Rukus, Mayhem and Uproar, and the popular Season Collection celebrates annual solstices and equinoxes. If you’re visiting at lunchtime, stop by Baba Joon’s Kitchen for Mediterranean/Persian-influenced shareable appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads.
How to book: Traditional tastings are not offered, but flights and wines by the glass or bottle are available. Reservations for groups of six and under are recommended, but not required and can be made online via Yelp. For groups over six, bus and limo tours, reservations are required and must be made at least one day prior to arrival.
Perched at 1,400 feet, Miramonte Winery has one of the loveliest views in the Temecula Valley. First focusing on varietals from the Southern Rhône Valley, they’ve branched out to include those from Spain and Portugal, including tempranillo, verdelho, albariño, touriga nacional and macabeo. Refuel at Flower Hill Bistro, where you can indulge in shareable plates, flatbreads, salads and their popular 19-day dry-aged burger.
How to book: Reservations for tastings and Flower Hill Bistro are not required but are recommended and can be made online via Tock.