Put These 12 Temecula Wineries on Your Bucket List ASAP

Head to SoCal to sip on fantastic Bordeaux and Rhône varietals.

Wine snobs may scoff at the wines of Southern California in favor of the grapes of Napa, Sonoma, or even Paso Robles, but the vineyards of Temecula Valley have established a reputation over the last decade for producing fantastic Bordeaux and Rhône varietals, as well as those from Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

With more than 40 vineyards throughout the region, you can find something to satisfy any tasting desire, from lavish, over-the-top wine resorts to small, mom-and-pop operations. Any time of year is great for a visit, though it's particularly picturesque during the annual Balloon and Wine Festival at the end of May.

For the easiest, most chill tour ever, hop aboard an authentic, fully-restored 1914 San Francisco cable car and enjoy gorgeous, open-air views of wine country without the hassle of driving. Temecula Cable Car Wine Tours offers a five-hour adventure to three local wineries that includes lunch, as well as private and seasonal tours. Saddle Up Wine Tours is an all-volunteer company that uses its funds to rescue abandoned, neglected, or abused horses. Their tours can be customized to include up to three wineries, or you can skip wine tasting altogether for trail tours, sunset and bonfire tours, riding lessons and goat yoga. Ride through the vines in style with So-Cal Sidecars, where your private chauffeur will pilot you around on a motorcycle kitted out with a two-seater sidecar. They also do brewery, food, and adventure tours, or you can add a thrilling, low altitude plane ride over Temecula Valley to your wine tasting tour. However you decide to get around, make sure these wineries are at the top of your list:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Callaway Vineyard & Winery

In 1969, long before he became one of the leaders in the golf industry with the wildly successful Big Bertha line of golf clubs, Ely Reeves Callaway, Jr., purchased a plateau of land in the Temecula Valley that benefited from the cool, misty mountain range above and provided spectacular views of the surrounding hills and valleys. One of Temecula’s founding estate wineries, Callaway wines are 100% estate-grown and include cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, and syrah fermented with wild yeasts, as well as a number of dessert and sparkling wines. For an unforgettable experience, have dinner at Meritage, the farm-to-table restaurant on the premises, where you can experience their wines with curated food pairings.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings or at Meritage during the day. Book a winery tour via Tock or reservations at Meritage (accepted Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only) via Tock.

After a couple of decades as home winemakers in Texas and eastern Washington state, Rick and Jennifer Buffington purchased a small plot of land in Fallbrook and planted it with brachetto, a relatively obscure Italian varietal, grown mostly in Piedmont, that produces light-bodied, aromatic wines ranging from still to spumanti. Their success with it led to becoming a bonded winery in 2004, and purchasing their Temecula property a year later. There they planted additional Italian varietals from the familiar sangiovese, barbera, and pinot grigio to the lesser known ones like arneis, a white grape grown in Piedmont, and vermentino, another white variety that mainly hails from Sardinia and Liguria. Sangio’s Deli is on hand serving up pizza, charcuterie, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. Cougar Vineyard and Winery is open daily from 11 am–6 pm.
How to book: Reservations are highly recommended and can be made via the vineyard. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Briar Rose Winery
Photo courtesy of Briar Rose Winery

Imagine sipping a crisp chardonnay or an elegant tempranillo in Snow White’s cottage. Briar Rose Winery was replicated by a former Disney artisan in the 1970s as a gift for his wife. Now owned by the Linkogle family, the micro-winery produces around 3,500 cases, ranging from cabernet sauvignon and merlot to rosé fumé and muscat canelli, and an unusual bubbly called Talking Frog, a blend of vionier and lager. Note that Briar Rose Winery is open Friday-Sunday from 12–5 pm only, no animals are allowed, and no one under 21 is allowed on the estate.
How to book: Reservations are required and can be made online.

Leoness Cellars
Photo courtesy of Leoness Cellars

Known as much for its tall brick tower as it is for its signature cabernet sauvignons, Leoness Cellars founders share more than fifty years experience in farming in the Temecula Valley, first with avocados and citrus before moving on to grapes and wine production. Besides traditional tastings, there are several specialty tours with a focus on education in addition to sipping, from hosted tastings for groups to The Perfect Wine Experience, a private guided tour by one of the estate’s Brand Ambassador Sommeliers, where you’ll enjoy a red wine sojourn through their Rolling Hills Estate Vineyard, learn about the processes of farming and barrel aging, as well as a look at the winemaking facilities, followed by a laid-back tasting of Leoness’ premium red blends and single-vineyard varietals. The namesake restaurant on site is wonderful when you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience to accompany your wine adventure. Reservations are not required for tastings, but are recommended for groups of six or more.
How to book: Call the winery at 951-302-7601 for tasting groups of six or more. Reservations at The Restaurant can be made via Resy. Book tours online.

Sip Falkner Winery’s award-winning wines while overlooking the Temecula Valley at 1,500 feet elevation. The most popular choices from the wide-ranging wine list are the flagship Bordeaux-style Meritage and Super Tuscan Amante, as well as their “Seductive Series” line, created for customers who prefer a slightly sweeter style. There’s an array of tastings and tours, from basic to a full VIP experience that includes six select wines, a charcuterie board, a Falkner logo glass, and a $5.00 coupon off of a bottle of wine. Don’t miss lunch at The Pinnacle, Falkner’s upscale restaurant, for spectacular views from floor-to-ceiling windows and a Mediterranean-influenced menu.
How to book: Tastings for groups under eight do not require reservations. For patio seating and tours, call the winery at 951-676-8231 ext. 101 or email rmurgo@falknerwinery.com. Reservations for The Pinnacle can be made via OpenTable.

Vindemia Winery
Vindemia Winery

One of Temecula’s newer wineries, Vindemia Winery produces award-winning robust reds and crisp whites, including their cult favorite “More Cowbell” zinfandel, along with cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and viognier. Bring your own picnic to their outdoor tasting patios and rose garden, open daily from 11 am–5 pm, or book a sunrise balloon ride over the vineyards through their California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures, and enjoy a one-hour flight followed by a glass of bubbly.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings. Book a balloon adventure online.

Fazeli Cellars Winery
Fazeli Cellars Winery

Stunning modern Moorish architecture and warm hospitality are the hallmarks of Bizhan “BJ” Fazeli’s beautiful winery, which boasts one of the widest range of varietals in the Temecula Valley. Produced both from estate vineyards and select local growers, the names of the collections are an homage to Fazeli’s Persian roots—The Heritage Collection honors five Persian poets, Embrace the Chaos includes Pandemonium, Rukus, Mayhem, and Uproar, and the popular Season Collection celebrates annual solstices and equinoxes. If you’re visiting at lunchtime, stop by Baba Joon’s Kitchen for Mediterranean/Persian-influenced shareable appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads.
How to book: Traditional tastings are not offered, but flights and wines by the glass or bottle are available. Reservations for groups of six and under are recommended, but not required and can be made online via Yelp. For groups over six, bus and limo tours, reservations are required and must be made at least one day prior to arrival.
 

Akash Winery & Vineyards
Akash Winery & Vineyards

Akash Winery just opened their tasting room a couple of years ago, but for the Patel family, Nalini, Ray, and son Akash, the dream of owning their own vineyard goes back more than two decades. Along with celebrated winemaker Renato Sais, Ray and Akash (sadly, Nalini passed away in early 2021) produce two different lines of wine. The estate wines include cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, petite sirah, sauvignon blanc, and a couple of blends, while their Dreamville Wines are collaborative products using varietals not yet grown on the Akash estate. These include Dreamville Brosé (grenache), cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petite sirah, zinfandel and a couple of exciting blends. The winery itself doesn’t offer food, but Tap’s Tacos is available every Tuesday, and Bocconcini@Akash Pizza and Italian-inspired bites are on hand Friday-Sunday. The tasting room is 21+ only on Saturdays.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa

Perfect for a weekend getaway or mini staycation, South Coast Winery’s wines are entirely estate grown and bottled, and certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes sustainable winegrowing practices throughout the state of California. Stroll around the grounds, enjoy a wine tasting and dinner at The Vineyard Rose before retiring to your suite or private villa. For ultimate pampering, book a luxurious spa treatment at Grapeseed Spa—they offer a full range of services including romantic couples massage packages.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings. Book a table at The Vineyard Rose via OpenTable, or Grapeseed spa visits by calling 877-552-1731.

Carol and Phil Baily planted their first acre of grapes on Mother’s Day in 1982, slowly adding acreage while taking courses in enology and viticulture at UC Davis. Eventually their vineyard grew to 25 acres of mostly Bordeaux varietals, which undergo a more traditional style of winemaking and longer barrel aging, producing wines that are more complex and reflect the area’s unique terroir. They have two different tasting rooms at separate locations: the Baily Visitor Center, where you can sample the current releases, and the Estate Tasting Room, their reservation-only, state-of-the-art production facility. There, you’ll experience six years of one variety of wine, allowing you to taste subtle differences from one year to the next. Ask about the Library Wine of the Month program, in which Phil Baily chooses one or more library wines that are poured at both tasting rooms as a bonus to the regular tasting and available to purchase at discount.
How to book: Reservations are not required for tastings at the Baily Visitor Center. Reservations are required for the Estate Tasting Room by calling 951-972-9768.

Miramonte Winery
Miramonte Winery

Perched at 1,400 feet, Miramonte Winery has one of the loveliest views in the Temecula Valley. First focusing on varietals from the Southern Rhône Valley, they’ve branched out to include those from Spain and Portugal, including tempranillo, verdelho, albariño, touriga nacional, and macabeo. Refuel at Flower Hill Bistro, where you can indulge in shareable plates, flatbreads, salads and their popular 19-day dry-aged burger.
How to book: Reservations for tastings and Flower Hill Bistro are not required, but are recommended and can be made online via OpenTable.

Doffo Winery
Doffo Winery

Marcelo Doffo grew up on a family farm in Argentina before immigrating to the United States as a young man. A visit to his ancestral home in Italy inspired him to begin making wine, first in his garage, then on a small parcel of land he purchased in the Temecula Valley. Drawing on knowledge from his early farming days, he and his family meticulously cultivate cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfandel and malbec, in addition to red blends, a few dessert wines, grappa, and a cuvée-style sparkling wine enhanced with just a touch of muscat. Equally famous is MotoDoffo, Marcelo’s collection of rare and vintage motorcycles and scooters, including Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Gilera, Honda, CZ, Vespa, and others, along with a MotoDoffo apparel line and three MotoDoffo red blends released annually. During the summer months the winery has free live music on Friday evenings.
How to book: Reservations aren’t required for tastings, but are highly recommended, especially on weekends. Make yours via Tock.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.