Hot air balloons dot the early morning sky in Temecula Valley, Southern California’s wine country. Photo courtesy Temecula CVB.

Day 1:
After a leisurely morning drive from LA or Orange County arrive in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country for lunch. Taste wine-country cuisine with spectacular vineyard views at any of these vineyard restaurants: Café Champagne, Carol’s at Baily Winery, Creekside Grille, Meritage, Ponte Restaurant, or Vineyard Rose.

Enjoy an afternoon of SIP Passport wine-tasting. Driving distances in the valley are short so you can take time to visit several wineries and toast Temecula’s talented, winemaking-families and winemakers. Strolling through pedestrian-friendly Old Town Temecula, with over 60 specialty-stores, is a great way to work up an appetite before dinner. Don’t miss the Old Town Temecula Tasting Trail with Temecula Olive Oil Company, Temecula Valley Cheese Company, Old Town Spice Merchants, Old Town Root Beer, Old Town Sweet Shop, and the Lorimar Winery Tasting Room.

For tonight’s dinner, traditional Italian dining is offered at Palumbo’s in Old Town. Favorites, such as, Caprese, artisanal pizzas, and homemade pasta’s are served with Temecula Valley wines.

Straight-from-the-barrel tastings are one of the perks of visiting Temecula Valley during one of its many wine festivals, like last year’s Harvest Celebration barrel tasting at Europa Village winery // (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Day 2:
Launch the morning right in SoCal Wine Country with a hot-air-balloon flight to see Temecula Valley from above; remember to dress warmly as the morning air can be brisk. Then experience more of the great outdoors with Wine Country Trails by Horseback or a Temecula Carriage Company ride through the vineyards.

More SIP Passport wine-tastings follow, with lunch at one of the many winery restaurants that dot the valley. Enjoy additional views of the vineyards while sampling delectable vintages.

For a change of pace, head to Pechanga Resort & Casino, one of the largest casinos west of the Mississippi. Indulge in poker tournaments, Las Vegas-style slot machines or catch a show. Between gaming-action, dine at Pechanga’s award-winning restaurants. The Great Oak steakhouse, Paisano’s Italian, and the Seafood Grill all feature great food, served next to (what else?) award-winning Temecula Valley wines.

During California Wine Month, many Temecula Valley wineries will offer Perfect Pairings, some amongst the vineyards // (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Day 3:
Early morning golf at world-class courses like the Arthur Hills-designed Journey at Pechanga or the Dick Rossen-Ted Robinson, Sr. designed Temecula Creek Inn to enjoy the fresh air. Alternatively treat yourself to a luxurious spa moment at South Coast Winery or Pechanga. Relax afterward with an early-lunch.

It’s time to conclude your SIP Passport wine-tasting, with an entire afternoon to catch up on wineries you missed. Before heading back to the humdrum of everyday life, consider buying one of your favorite wines to enjoy at home and for sharing with friends.

If You Go:

Café Champagne
Carol’s at Baily
Creekside Grille
Ponte Restaurant
Vineyard Rose
Pechanga Resort and Casino
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa 

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About the Author:

Marc lived on four continents, has traveled to over three dozen countries, and sailed on more than sixty cruises. He co-owns Pride Travel with Nathan and publishes instructive articles for other travel agents on destinations, hotels, cruises, and insurance.