Get a head start on summer when Temecula's Summerfest, featuring live entertainment all summer long, launches June 1. If jazz suits your style, you won't have to look far in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country to enjoy its syncopated rhythms on soft evenings under the stars.
Thornton Winery's Champagne Jazz Series is in its 28th year, bringing artists like Mindi Abair, George Benson, Chris Botti, Brian Culbertson, Kenny G, Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, Keiko Matsui, and Jeffrey Osborne to its elegant patio setting. Guests can enjoy a gourmet supper or a glass of wine as they savor the sound of smooth jazz while watching the sun set over the vine-covered hillsides. Check thorntonwine.com for the performer lineup and ticket options. Tickets typically range from about $65 to $85, or double that if you include supper from Cafe Champagne, Thornton's restaurant. You'll need to reserve in advance, as tickets often sell out for this popular series.
Pechanga Resort & Casino is now offering a new entertainment schedule to include "Jazz in the Cellar" every Friday from 9pm-2am. "Jazz in the Cellar" will feature live bands playing contemporary Jazz, R&B and a touch of blues. Cover price is $10 per person. See pechanga.com for a current list of entertainment.
You can find weekly Thursday jazz sessions at "The Merc," a cozy historic spot in Old Town Temecula now home to straight-ahead jazz hosted by singer Sherry Williams. Jazz acts like Steve Torak Quartet June 9 and Lou Forestieri Trio June 23 grace the stage at what was originally the "Mercantile" commercial building. Williams herself performs now and then. "At each performance, my delivery is a little different," Williams notes, given the improvisational nature of jazz and depending on the mood and the moment. "I've been moved by the love the listeners give the performers and how the artists respond by taking it up yet another notch."
She enjoys the feel of a local jazz joint. "You get to meet your neighbors and friends, drink the local wine, trade jazz stories, solve the problems of the world.... well, sometimes." Check out the schedule at temeculatheater.org. Tickets are $15.
At Ponte Winery's Cellar Lounge, live music is featured several nights a week, including Wednesday and Friday. Often featuring jazz duos, the downstairs has a vibe reminiscent of European jazz clubs, and the wide assortment of wines adds to that flavor. Besides his own wines and several made by neighboring vineyards, owner Claudio Ponte pours intriguing lesser-known European wines like Albarino and Frappato. See pontewinery.com for a schedule of performers.
Lorimar Winery has music by jazz artists and other performers at both its Old Town and Wine Country locations. Owners Lawrie Lipton and Mark Manfield are such music fans they've even given their wines names like Nocturne and Quintet, as you can see at lorimarwinery.com.
Several other wineries also feature an assortment of jazz concerts, including local performers like British-born jazz saxophonist Naomi Balcombe or violinist Diego Mondragon, whose Latin and gypsy jazz stylings add zest to numerous events. Mondragon often serenades guests at Carter Estate Winery's "After Hours" gatherings from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays. See carterestatewinery for details. Jazz sax specialist Jason Weber also plays at various wineries, including Foot Path and Leoness. Check jasonweber.net for his jazz gigs.
Local jazzman Michael Paulo, a sax player and music producer, says the musical genre is more fun than ever. "Jazz incorporates more R&B rhythm, it's more upbeat, more lively and more recognizable."
He appears at venues like South Coast Winery & Resort, and sees the Temecula Valley becoming better known for entertainment and relaxation. "With new hotels opening up, and new events in the community more and more people are aware of Temecula Valley as a destination."
While he's played large jazz festivals, he and his fellow musicians enjoy intimate musical events in serene settings like Temecula Valley resorts. "At smaller venues you get to meet your fans and talk to them," he says. "We appreciate that a lot-that's what it's all about."
Summerfest continues through Labor Day. If you'd like to spend a night or two, find out more about lodging, dining and events by checking visittemeculavalley.com.
Visit Temecula Valley
Visit Temecula Valley is the official tourism marketing organization and resource for visitors in the Temecula Valley Southern California region. The Temecula Hotel Tourism Improvement District is the primary source of funding for Visit Temecula Valley activities and programs. Additional funding is provided through alliances with visitor-serving partners throughout Temecula Valley.
Visit Temecula Valley is online at VisitTemeculaValley.com. The Temecula Valley Visitors Center is located in Downtown, Old Town Temecula (Third Street and Mercedes) adjacent the Old Town Temecula Parking Garage. For visitor information and assistance, please call 888-363-2852 or 951-491-6085.