Travel

This Unassuming SoCal Town is Your Next Destination for Boozy Adventures

Temecula’s got everything from top-notch craft breweries to hot air balloon rides.

Temecula may be known as Southern California’s wine country, but vino isn’t the only reason to make the drive. In addition to over 40 wineries, Temecula also has a number of craft breweries nearby, making it easy to put together a self-guided winery or brewery crawl (or both!). Ideally situated less than two hours away from both Los Angeles and San Diego, Temecula has become one of Southern California’s favorite getaways, easily doable as a day trip or an overnight adventure.

Here is everything you’ll want to put on your agenda for a jaunt to Temecula:

Drink red blends while admiring vintage motorcycles

Named Temecula’s Winery of the Year in 2018, family-owned Doffo Winery is a go-to for lovers of Malbec and small-batch red wines. Founder Marcelo Doffo’s passion for vintage motorcycles is proudly displayed with the MotoDoffo Vintage Motorcycle Collection, which features over 200 restored motorcycles and scooters from around the world, making for a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. MotoDoffo has since expanded into an apparel line and its own wine collection, with three unique red blends released annually. 
How to book: Doffo has multiple outdoor seating areas, but they still get packed on the weekends, so reservations are recommended.

Cool down with a flight of sparkling wines

We can’t call it champagne, but the sparkling wines at Carter Estate Winery (from Temecula winemaking pioneer Jim Carter who also owns neighboring South Coast Winery) are produced with strict adherence to méthode champenoise. Grab a table at their patio and get a tasting flight of the different sparkling wines they produce, which are perfect for Temecula’s warm days. You can also get a tasting of the olive oils produced using the olive trees on property. 
How to book:  Make a reservation to join one of their outdoor tasting experiences.

Go on a winery or brewery tour — in a sidecar 

With so much to explore, it can be difficult to plan your itinerary. Sometimes it’s best to book a tour and enjoy the ride. In Temecula, you don’t have to be concerned about getting into a tour bus with strangers because you can sign up for a brewery or winery tour while remaining outdoors with So-Cal Sidecars. The vintage sidecars have been modified to seat up to two passengers per car, and drivers remain masked throughout the tour. 
How to book:  Make reservations at their website

Explore wine country on horseback

Take a break from the wine drinking with a 90-minute scenic horseback ride through Temecula’s vineyards. The tours are offered multiple times per day, but the sunset ride is the most popular time slot for good reason. The horse ride tour gives an intimate view of the vineyards that supply the Maurice Car’rie Winery in the heart of the wine trail.
How to book:  Make reservations at their website

Drink Belgian beers at Refuge Brewery

If you prefer hops to grapes, you’ll find quite a few brewery options in the industrial complexes north of Old Town, including Refuge Brewery. Specializing in Belgian-style ales, Refuge is perhaps best known for their award-winning Blood Orange Wit beer. The taproom offers 20 beers on tap, though, including prototypes of upcoming releases and barrel-aged brews. 
How to order: Patio seating with required food purchase from their partner vendor; takeout and delivery is available through the brewery

Taste sour beers at Relentless Brewing

Sour lovers know to head to Relentless Brewing, thanks to at least half a dozen sour beers on tap, including barrel-aged sours. If you’re not a sour fan, be at ease with the fact that there are a handful of stout and IPA options on the menu, plus rotating beer slushies. The brewery also has a full menu with big and small bites; the relentless fries are a must-try for the table. 
How to order: Patio seating and takeout

Get a mead flight at Batch Mead

Beer isn’t the only thing brewing in Temecula. The family-owned Batch Mead brews meads and hard ciders using mostly local ingredients — the lychee mead is made using fresh Hawaiian lychees and macadamia nut blossom honey, but we won’t complain about that. The tasting room is only open from 3-7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, so head here once the wineries close.
How to order: Outdoor dining or pickup and local delivery through the brewery

Try a Top Chef's cuisine at Small Barn

Old Town Temecula naturally has the most dining options in town, but one not to miss is the new Small Barn from Jean-Georges alum chef Angelo Sosa (whom you may recognize from Top Chef). Standouts on the Cal-fresh menu include a refreshing cubed watermelon salad topped with goat cheese, thyme, olive oil, and a kick of Tajin; a sweet tomato soup flourished with olive oil whipped cream alongside a cheddar grilled cheese; and an herb-roasted Petaluma chicken enriched with a pistachio basil pesto. Bonus: they have some of the best cocktails in town. 
How to order: Patio dining or call for pickup

Dine creekside at Cork | Fire Kitchen

If lively Old Town isn’t what you had in mind for dinner, then head to Cork | Fire Kitchen. Temecula Creek Inn’s on-site restaurant offers a relaxed fine dining experience that uses herbs and greens grown in the chef’s own garden to showcase responsibly-sourced seafoods and meats. The pistachio-crusted lamb sirloin is the power plate on the menu, but Chef Matthew Steffen’s take on clam chowder, which features Manila clams served with chowder espuma and gnocchi, is a must-try for our fast-approaching cozy season. 
How to order: Patio dining; call for pickup

Explore shops in a historic cattle ranch

Historic Old Town Temecula gives that vintage cowboy feel with buildings dating back to 1862, most of which have been given new life as restaurants and shops. Vail Headquarters is a good example of this; the former cattle ranch dates back to 1867 but has been restored to house all your hipster dreams from the cozy Daisy bar to a small-batch apothecary, a pottery studio, and plenty of dining options. Fuel up for the day with an iced coconut cream coffee from The Press Espresso.
How to order: Varies 

Take a ride on a hot air balloon

A hot air balloon ride that highlights Temecula’s sloping valleys and lush vineyards complete with a sunrise backdrop is worth setting an early alarm clock. The flight takes 60-75 minutes and you’ll end with a glass of champagne upon landing. Staff is required to wear a mask and gloves at all times and breakfast service is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. 
How to book: Make reservations at their website

Sign up here for our daily San Diego email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Fiona Chandra is an Indonesian-born freelance food and travel writer but she now calls Los Angeles home. When not eating and traveling, she’s probably watching crime shows.