Couple walking through a vineyard — Photo courtesy of Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors BureauOver 30 wineries await just an hour away from San Diego in Temecula Valley, a location ideal for grape growing due to its unique microclimate of morning mist, midday sun, ocean breezes and clear nights. Here, stretches of grapevines cover gorgeous rolling hills and provide a nice change of pace from the city. Not only can you taste award-winning wines, there's shopping and great restaurants at these wineries, too.
Getting to Temecula Valley is usually an easy drive up the I-15. Feel your body instantly relax once you pull off the freeway into the tranquil valley. However, on weekdays, be careful to avoid rush hour and freeway traffic associated with it. Also, decide whether you'd like to take an organized winery tour or visit them at your leisure. The wineries are in an easy loop, and not spaced out too far from each other. Go to the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association website for more information, including suggested self-guided tours.
Temecula's microclimate lends itself to growing primarily red wines. Enjoy a glass of red at Wiens Family Cellars in their friendly, spacious tasting room and at Leonesse overlooking peaceful, vine-covered hills. For flavored bubbles, family and pet-friendly Wilson Creek is your stop. Almond champagne is what they are famous for, though you'd be remiss not to sample their port and other wines. Europa Village utilizes Old World European winemaking traditions and produces a delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, for those of you who are white wine lovers.
Barrel tasting at a vineyard — Photo courtesy of Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau
If you're not going to take advantage of the wine tasting spittoon, a number of tour operators and limo services will pick you up in San Diego and take you on a wine tasting tour of Temecula. Or, if you just prefer a guided tour, get yourself to Temecula and hop on a tour from there. You may even get a birds-eye view of the valley by helicopter.
Cross back over to the west side of the freeway and end the day in historic Old Town Temecula. A variety of restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops await in this newly-restored village. Wander into art galleries, antique stores and other boutiques. Dine casually and then drive back to San Diego, wine in tow.
Keep in mind, these wineries don't produce high volume like those found in large retailers. Therefore, you won't pay bargain-basement prices, but you will get a locally-produced, quality bottle of wine that you can enjoy even more after personally visiting the winery.