South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa in Temecula, California offers luxury accommodations, farm-to-table cuisine, a full-service spa, and an award-winning winery all in one scenic spot
By J.C. Thomas
As the first and only full-service winery resort in the Temecula Valley, South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa checks all the boxes on any visitor’s must-do list. Temecula is a charming, historic town within a valley of vineyards in western Riverside County. It’s Southern California’s own wine country, and its 40-plus wineries are the major draw for day-trippers and overnight visitors mostly from the nearby Los Angeles, San Diego and OC regions. Other top Temecula attractions include farm-to-table cuisine, day spas and taking in the gorgeous scenery – all of which are available right there on the 63-acre South Coast Winery property.
The resort centers around its wines both physically and in spirit. It’s first and foremost a winery, and an exceptional one at that. Building upon the estate’s first vineyards planted in 1995 by owner Jim Carter, the operation gradually expanded to today’s four vineyards, winery, restaurant, luxury accommodations and full-service spa. South Coast Winery has become one of the most celebrated in the Temecula Valley AVA, winning more than 5,000 awards and accolades for its 100-percent estate-grown, certified sustainable wines. What better way to enjoy a complete wine country experience in Temecula than with an overnight stay at the resort?
South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa recently hosted a stay for my family of four (two adults, two children) in one of the villas. I thoroughly recommend it as a destination in itself, offering a delicious taste of Temecula’s remarkable wines, food, fun and luxury hospitality. You certainly don’t need to be a wine enthusiast to enjoy a stay at the resort, and our children had just as much fun as any wine-tasting adult. However, I will note that the property is especially suited to honeymoons, romantic getaways and friends’ trips, especially for those who love wine.
A Note on Covid-19 Precautions:
At the time of publication we are still enduring the Covid-19 pandemic, so certain precautions, restrictions and special practices are in place at South Coast Winery. All guests are asked to wear masks and keep a 6-foot distance from others in public spaces. Hand-sanitizing stations are available throughout the property, and enhanced sanitation measures are in effect. Only villa accommodations are available, with villas left vacant between guests and a seal placed over door locks after cleaning.
The pool is open, with reservations required to ensure social distancing. Plans are in place for outdoor spa services, but the spa is currently closed. All dining and wine tasting has moved outdoors, and reservations are required. For wine tasting, a flight of wines is presented in a holding tower alongside a paper guide. After an initial consultation with a server you can guide yourself through the wine flight at your own pace.
Many other Temecula Valley wineries are open, and the resort staff can assist you with recommendations and reservations. This is true of other outdoor activities such as golfing and hot-air balloon rides as well.
Given that South Coast Winery was a fully fledged wine-making operation before it became a resort, it makes sense that the property has the look and feel of a private wine estate. Its 63 acres are predominantly covered with neat rows of grape vines, cut through with pathways and broken up by grand, Tuscan-inspired buildings. The main building is wrapped by superb landscaping with flowers in every color along the front and tiers of lush lawns in the back. It houses the tasting room, wine shop and Vineyard Rose restaurant. A stroll away is the hotel tower, home to 50 guest suites, and a village-like arrangement of villas topped with red-tile roofs. The three-story GrapeSeed Spa sits next to the saltwater pool in a section of the resort secluded and made serene by tall hedges all around.
In the background, foreground, near and far distance, are picture-perfect vineyards. They encapsulate the stunning scenery of the whole Temecula Valley, and you can’t help but take countless photos under each shifting angle of the sun.
South Coast Winery Resort Accommodations
Accommodations at South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa comprise 50 guest suites in the hotel tower plus 82 villas, all ranging from 490- to 850-square-feet. Two-bedroom suites are available for larger groups, and our villa came with a pull-out sofa spacious enough to sleep two small children. Every suite and villa offers expansive vineyard views from a balcony or patio. The villas open onto a private patio with a table and chairs. Ours was surrounded by butterfly bushes and shaded by mature pines, a peaceful spot ideal for sipping a morning cup of coffee or evening glass of wine. Speaking of which, all villas come with a complimentary bottle from South Coast Winery.
The villa décor is elegant and classic, with glossy dark wood furnishings and wrought-iron accents. The palette sets burgundy-striped upholstery against warm neutrals for a vibe that’s equal parts soothing and swank. A major highlight of our villa was the enormous bathroom with its deep, jetted corner tub, walk-in shower with two separate shower heads, and wall-spanning vanity. You’ll want to put on a plush robe and spend considerable time in this space.
The rest of the villa is plentifully spacious too. It features a dining area, marble-topped wet bar with a refrigerator and Keurig coffee maker, a gas fireplace and large LCD flat-screen TV. The linens are luxurious, the Wi-Fi is complimentary, and the overall overnight experience a delight.
Dog owners should know that the resort’s accommodations are pet-friendly, too.
Wine Tasting at South Coast Winery
South Coast Winery produces 45 wine labels, a comprehensive range of 100-percent estate-grown reds, whites, sparkling wines, rosés and dessert wines. The entire operation was certified sustainable in 2018. Among thousands of awards, South Coast Winery is perhaps most proud to be the only four-time winner of the California State Winery of the Year Award. Recent accolades include the Cilurzo Winery of the Year Award and the 2019 Winery of the Year Award at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Experts praise South Coast Winery’s labels for being approachable as well as excellent, making a wine-tasting experience here great for novices. Guests who know little about wine will enjoy a tasting just as much as a knowledgeable wine drinker, and there are flight options to suit all preferences. Choose to taste a series of all whites, all reds, or a mixed, sweet or premium flight. Wines are also available by the glass or bottle, and the tasting room also offers a menu of appetizers and shareables. If your choice of flight doesn’t include it, I recommend ordering a glass of the 2016 Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyards Touriga Nacional, a real stand-out with rich dark chocolate and berry notes.
Vineyard Rose, South Coast Winery’s Signature Restaurant
Vineyard Rose is the signature restaurant of South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa, and its top-notch farm-to-table cuisine draws locals, day-trippers and overnight guests alike. Starting with drinks, we ordered a bottle of the Tempranillo rosé which was a special feature that evening. South Coast Winery’s full line is available, as are beers and specialty cocktails. If you can’t decide between wine and a cocktail, how about the “Everything’s Coming Up Rosé” with the Tempranillo rose, elderflower liqueur and grapefruit gin? I noticed our new favorite wine featured on the dessert menu too, reduced to a sauce over a berries and cream cake. Once again, wine is celebrated and central to the experiences.
Executive chef Jose Esparza presents California-style farm-to-table cuisine for all-day brunch and dinner service at Vineyard Rose. The wrap-around veranda is a delightful space to dine on a warm evening. It overlooks a pretty lawn area over wrought-iron railings hung with baskets of flowering plants and cooled, when necessary, by misters. Beautifully presented plates and attentive service also augment the experience.
Esparza’s take on California cuisine embraces fish, seafood and substantial meat cuts such as New Zealand rack of lamb and Angus prime rib. To leave room for such entrée options, my husband and I both started with a salad. (On a hungrier night we’d have gladly shared one of the charcuterie plates or calamari fries.) The Vineyard Rose salad, offered as a full or half portion, features field greens, cucumbers, dried cranberries, candied pecans, roasted grapes as a nod to the winery, and local chevre to add a touch of creamy richness. The iceberg wedge comes dressed up with applewood smoked bacon, pickled onions, heirloom cherry tomatoes and crumbled blue cheese as well as a liberal dose of blue cheese dressing.
For our entrees, I ordered the striped sea bass with a roasted corn succotash, grilled lemon, spiced pistachio crumble and micro cilantro. I thought those creative sides sounded as tempting as the delicious fish, and that proved to be true. The chef elevated those farm-fresh nuts and vegetables to hold their own alongside the sea bass, which itself was perfectly prepared with crisp skin over a succulent, inches-thick filet. My husband’s seared day boat scallops were set among pee wee potatoes, bites of crisp pork belly, delicate pea tendrils and asparagus tips – a composition as artful as it was delicious.
Vineyard Rose offers a kids’ menu, and the restaurant is very welcoming to younger diners. Ours were not the only kids sharing a meal with their parents. The dessert menu needs no age divisions. We all shared the six dollar sundae, a classic comprising vanilla ice cream, cookie crumbles, hot fudge, caramel and a crown of whipped cream. Sweet perfection!
Resort Amenities: GrapeSeed Spa & Pool
South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa boasts the only full-service spa in the Temecula Valley. It has 22 treatment rooms, a full fitness center and yoga studio (all currently closed), and sits next to a fabulous saltwater pool.
The pool is set to 84 degrees all year round, and is surrounded by loungers, tables and chairs and cabanas. Food and drink service is available at the poolside.
Things to Do in Temecula
The resort can arrange horse-drawn carriage rides through the vineyards, sunrise hot-air balloon rides, bike rentals, horseback riding excursions and rounds of golf at the nearby Journey at Pechanga or CrossCreek Golf Club.
At check-in, guests receive a resort map – flip it over for a handy map of the local wine country with information about tasting rooms. There are dozens of Temecula wine tasting rooms within just a few miles of the resort, making it easy to create a self-guided tour. Also consider guided group tours, which are available through various local companies.
Other outdoor activities include hiking and biking at Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, and strolling around Old Town Temecula. Pechanga Resort and Casino is another major attraction nearby.
Click here to read more about things to do in Temecula.
South Coast Winery Resort and Spa
34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591