7 Insights to Plan a Warm, Sunny Winter in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

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“For people in the Northeastern United States, the Midwest, and Pacific Northwest, and our neighbors across Canada – planning a warm, sunny winter with travel to and a leisurely stay in friendly Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is the perfect seasonal escape from traditional winter weather,” shares Kimberly Adams, Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO. “VisitTemecula.org is happy to provide 7 insights for wintering in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. From what-to-do, where-to-dine, where-to-stay, where-to-shop, and getting around, to festivities and nightlife, and what-to-see and what’s happening. With average daytime December-January-February temperatures of 68oF/20oC, visitors are naturally attracted by the valley’s appealing gifts of climate and geography, rolling hills and vineyards.” The casual, picturesque valley is 1 hour from Orange County, Palm Desert, San Diego; 1½ hours from Los Angeles.

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VisitTemecula.org is happy to provide 7 insights for wintering in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country.

1-What-To-Do
There is a great variety of things to do throughout winter in the Great Temecula Valley Outdoors, Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, Downtown Old Town Temecula, and at Pechanga Resort & Casino. Savor the Great Temecula Valley Outdoors with golfing, bicycling, horseback riding, hiking, hot air balloon flights over wine country, and on Class 1 walking trails. Southern California rains are naturally welcome but the general pattern is a day or two of showers followed by bright, sunny days.

Celebrate the game of golf on Temecula Valley’s impressive, highly regarded courses. All have great course design; many are embraced by nature with age-old oaks and sycamore trees, naturally occurring streams and creeks; and most feature elevation changes and expansive views. All are popular with golfers of all skill levels for perfectly challenging, year-round play. With awe-inspiring terrain, the Arthur Hills-designed Journey at Pechanga is one of California’s top courses. The Dick Rossen/Ted Robinson, Sr.-designed Temecula Creek Inn features 27 holes of championship golf surrounded by 350-acres/142-hectares of rustic, natural beauty. The highly rated, Ron Fream-designed RedHawk Golf Club has one of the only island greens in Southern California. The Ted Robinson-designed/P. Dye updated Legends Golf Club has rolling topography, five lakes and numerous doglegs. The Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed Golf Club at Rancho California features hilly terrain, wide fairways, and large landing areas. Pala Mesa Golf Course has a traditional, parkland front-nine; the back-nine climbs into the foothills.

Rent a hybrid bicycle at The Bike Shop Temecula for recreational touring of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country and other Temecula bike trails. Ask and receive route suggestions for beginner to advanced cyclists. For intermediate and the more advanced, rent a road bike or mountain bike, and ask about rides and events. Also see Bike Trails on VisitTemecula.org. Side note: Sarah Hammer, double silver-medal winning cyclist at the London Olympics, is a Temecula hometown hero; you may see her cycling.

Make reservations to experience a Western-style horseback trail ride into the hills adjoining Green Acres Ranch for commanding views of Valle de Los Caballos and the De Portola Wine Trail. Also consider taking riding lessons; English, Western, and Dressage instruction is available by advance arrangement.

One of Temecula Valley’s natural treasures is the nearly 9,000-acre Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (open sunrise to sunset, daily). Hiking trails (most easy to moderate) total 40 miles/64 kilometers. Before heading to the plateau, get sandwiches and picnic fixings to-go at Campini’s Italian Deli, E.A.T. Marketplace, or Temecula Cheese Company. At the Plateau, stop first at the Visitors Center (open Tuesday through Sunday) to learn of current, seasonal happenings. Inquire also about the Plateau’s history and how the Vail cattle-ranching family’s wise stewardship of the property helped to preserve what is considered by many to be the finest remaining example of California bunchgrass prairie. Then hike to the adobe structures dating to 1846, and picnic in the shade of a glorious 400-year-old tree. On the trails, listen and look for small songbirds wintering over in the oak woodlands. Given sufficient rainfall, the miraculous vernal pools are to be learned about and witnessed.

Floating serenely in a hot air balloon with spectacular views of rolling hills, vineyards, ranchlands, and citrus groves, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that makes a winter visit to Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country especially memorable. An aerial point of view provides an exceptional opportunity to discover some of Southern California’s remaining open, rural countryside. In winter, local hot air balloon companies – A Grape Escape, California Dreamin’, D&D Ballooning, and Magical Adventures – launch at dawn and soar silently above row-upon-row of dormant vines, often with snow-capped mountains in the distance, circling the valley.

Additional great outdoor opportunities include trails and bikeways throughout, in, and around Temecula. Among Class 1 Walking Trails are paths along Downtown’s Old Town Front Street and along Jefferson Avenue in Uptown Temecula. After time in the Great Temecula Valley Outdoors, set aside some relaxing, spa time. A trio of spas welcomes appointments: GrapeSeed Spa renowned for its vine-based treatments, massage, and body rituals; Spa Pechanga for tranquil rejuvenation – from hot stone massages to nourishing, body wraps; and pampering Murrieta Day Spa, offering massages, facials, and impeccable manicures/pedicures.

One of the most intriguing and enjoyable winter activities is to visit, tour, and wine-taste at Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country’s approximately 40 wineries. This significant and diverse appellation garners more than 5,000 awards for its vintages, and continues to gain well-deserved recognition for its quality, premium varietals, and proprietary blends. Most wineries are family-owned and welcome visitors daily.

Winter – especially weekdays – is particularly appealing in Temecula Valley So Cal Wine Country. Lighter visitor-traffic often means the potential for conversations with friendly and gracious, winery family-members and talented winemakers. Popular and appealing, reserve-in-advance* tour-and-tasting experiences include Touch the Vine and Taste the Wine at Leoness Cellars*. At Monte de Oro Winery*, the tour and ‘traditional wine-tasting’ also includes the opportunity to wine-taste from oak barrels in the subterranean barrel room. Tour the vineyard estate and winery cellar at sustainably farmed and artisanal Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery*. Experience the behind-the-scenes wine tour (from vineyards to crush pad) with wine-cheese-and-fruit pairings at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa*.

Among Downtown, Old Town Temecula’s many charms are the Old Town Temecula Tasting Trail; palate-pleasing establishments abound. Taste and learn at the (complimentary daily) olive oil and balsamic-vinegar tasting bar at Temecula Olive Oil Company. Browse the shelves for herbs, spices, blends, and teas at Old Town Spice Merchants. Visit and admire Old Town Root Beer Company’s 300+ varieties of sodas, root beers, and ginger ales. Then taste the fresh-made fudge at Old Town Sweet Shop – a haven for chocolate lovers and nostalgic-candy fans.

Historic, pedestrian-friendly Old Town Temecula is ideal for exploring. From the circa 1890 Burnham Store that is The MERC (entertainment venue and art gallery) and the 1914 First National Bank of Temecula (now The Bank Restaurant of Mexican Food) to the They Passed This Way Monument (a testament to Temecula’s Western glory days, legendary scout Kit Carson, mountain-man Jedediah Smith, and others) and the Temecula Valley Museum. See also the Mission Revival-style Temecula Civic Center; native Luiseño basket artistry inspired the design of the remarkable fountain on Town Square.

Upscale and exciting, Pechanga Resort & Casino (the largest in the entire Western U.S.) provides gaming action 24/7. There is a relaxed harmony within Pechanga’s 400+-acre footprint. The resort’s iconic tower – tallest structure for miles – complements the land with a reverent view of sunrise. To the west, the mountains’ granite boulders glisten in the sunshine after winter rains. The 54-table Pechanga poker room hosts nightly tournaments; 130 table games and 3,800 Vegas-style slot machines are also on-site.

2- Where-To-Dine
From Old Town Temecula to Temecula Valley So Cal Wine Country and Pechanga Resort & Casino, dining options are many. Especially at lunchtime, winter weather can provide opportunities to dine alfresco.

In Old Town Temecula, try Soro’s Mediterranean Grill, Palumbo’s Ristorante, Front Street Bar & Grill, Baily’s, The Bank Mexican Restaurant, Rosa’s Cantina, Sweet Lumpy’s BBQ, and for dessert – Robin’s Nest. In Temecula Valley So Cal Wine Country, enjoy the pleasures of food and wine overlooking rolling hills and vineyards at Café Champagne, Carol’s at Baily Winery, Creekside Grille, MDO Bistro, Maurice’s Kitchen, Meritage at Callaway, The Pinnacle, The Restaurant at Leoness Cellars, The Restaurant at Ponte, Shorty’s Bistro, and Vineyard Rose. At Pechanga Resort & Casino, experience Great Oak Steakhouse, Seafood Grotto, Paisano’s, Journey’s End, Bamboo, Blazing Noodles, and The Buffet.

3-Where-To-Stay
All 15 inviting Temecula hotels, motels, and resorts are conveniently located off the I-15. Winter rates and packages are especially attractive and accommodations are minutes – even steps – from the valley’s three dynamic and distinctive destinations: Old Town Temecula, Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, and Pechanga Resort & Casino.

Canyon and valley resorts include the peacefully elegant Temecula Creek Inn nestled on 350 acres beside the Rainbow Gap and the upscale, AAA Four Diamond-rated Pechanga Resort & Casino. Newly upgraded and renovated is Embassy Suites with its expansive, signature outdoor area and newly converted salt-water swimming pool.

Uptown Temecula offers Quality Inn, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Extended Stay America, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western Country Inn, Springhill Suites, and Hampton Inn & Suites. Meanwhile, Motel 6, Palomar Inn Hotel, Rodeway Inn, and Ramada are convenient to Old Town Temecula.

4-Where-To-Shop
From Old Town Temecula to Promenade Temecula and Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, stores feature a variety of appealing and unique merchandise to enjoy during your stay, treasure with fond memories when back home, and to give to family and friends in thoughtful – and appreciated – gestures. Most shops are open 7 days (exclusive of major holidays).

Revel in Temecula Valley So Cal winter at the 60+ specialty stores of the hip and historic, 12-block Old Town Temecula shopping-dining-entertainment district. Step into charming Temecula Lavender Company for locally grown, pure, small-batch signature lavender products, and seek out Old California Lavender lotions and oils at Harmony. Women love The Farmer’s Wife for fashion accessories, books and journals, home décor, and garden accents. Just across the river from Old Town Temecula, discover intriguing collectibles and antiques at Granny’s Attic.

Promenade Temecula is an ideal destination for winter visitors. The mall’s distinctive indoor/outdoor lifestyle layout features sought-after stores like Macy’s, H&M, Lemonchello Boutique, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Apple. Savor a meal at Lazy Dog Café, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, or Yard House. Catch new blockbuster movies at Edwards 15 Cinemas.

The quality, award-winning wines, and distinctive merchandise in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country also enchant winter visitors. Most wineries host gift areas or winery gift shops. Ponte Marketplace is especially popular for its wine accessories and home accents. The gift boutique at Tuscan-inspired South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is a must-see, as is the gift shop in Maurice Car’rie Winery’s charming, Victorian-style farmhouse. Not-to-be-missed is the new visitor center, gift shop, and tasting room at Callaway Vineyard & Winery; Callaway is recognized for its beautifully displayed merchandise ranging from wine-related accessories to seasonal offerings.

5-Getting Around
Temecula Valley provides a variety of local, wine-country, tour-and-transportation options: from traditional shuttles, vans, and limousines, to a horse-drawn carriage, cable car, and trolley. For relaxed, carefree wine country tours, reserve in advance.

6-Festivities and Nightlife
Festive events and compelling entertainment are synonymous with Old Town Temecula, Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, and Pechanga Resort & Casino. The winter months are especially celebratory.

December includes Winterfest Holidays with events such as Santa’s Electric Light Parade, Ice Skating on Town Square, The New Year’s Eve Great Temecula Grape Drop, and jubilant New Year’s Eve celebrations in Old Town Temecula, at Temecula Valley So Cal Wine Country wineries, and at Pechanga Resort & Casino. January celebrates California Restaurant Month – Temecula style throughout the valley; and all 28 days of February embrace romance with special menus, offerings, and events.

Old Town Temecula also features the Old Town Temecula Community Theater with live music and dance, and excellent theatrical productions. Meanwhile, Pechanga Resort & Casino hosts exciting nightlife, club lounges, and headliner entertainment.

7-What-To-See and What’s Happening
Open 7 days, the Temecula Valley Visitors Center in Old Town Temecula (Third Street and Mercedes, adjacent the Temecula Civic Center) is winter visitors’ best resource for current, local information. The friendly, knowledgeable Visitors Center staff provides guides, brochures, and flyers; and graciously welcomes questions.

*All information believed accurate but subject to change.

The Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, the region’s official tourism marketing organization and resource for visitors is online at VisitTemecula.org; “Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country” on Facebook; and @Visit_Temecula on Twitter. For visitor information and assistance, call 888/363-2852 or 951/491-6085.

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