An elegant chateau sits on the hill at the center of Leoness Cellars’ vineyard, overlooking 70 acres lush with grapes. The chateau welcomes guests who come to visit its tasting rooms and serves as a compass of sorts for those who wander too far on walks through the purplish fields. It looks on as couples recite their vows during wedding ceremonies, and it houses a complete production facility where daily tour groups learn about the age-old methods of crushing, aging, and singing soft lullabies to grapes. Chef Daragh Matheson fills the chateau’s kitchen with the aromas of Alaskan salmon, ahi tuna, and beef carpaccio—specialties that pair exquisitely with the cellars’ wines.
On certain nights, belly dancers in bejeweled costumes wind between the tables at The Greek Place, showing off their moves as gauzy scarves trail behind them. Back in the bustling kitchen, chefs stuff grape leaves with herbed rice, whip up fresh hummus and tzatziki, and layer potatoes, eggplant, and béchamel sauce in moussaka. A dessert such as the phyllo-dough-and-walnut baklava, along with a pyrotechnic-fueled closing ceremony, brings meals to a memorable end.
The savvy guides behind DeVine Tours give groups insight into the winemaking process during approximately five-hour trips that cover every step from crushing to tasting. During their daily tours, groups set out to a rotating lineup of stops that feature some of Temecula's finest wineries. Passengers have ample opportunities to taste bold reds, dry whites, and sweeter varietals, and purchase wine at each winery along the tour.
Granny's Waffle Sandwiches succeeds with a concept that's as simple as it is ingenious: take a sandwich, remove the bread, and replace it with a waffle. As you might expect, the results tend to waver between sweet and savory. Of course, there's basically no way to go wrong with a menu that features a Nutella and cream cheese concoction alongside a waffle loaded with turkey and cranberry sauce. Not content to merely experiment with waffles, the kitchen also crafts grilled cheese sandwiches that, again, do away with that disgusting bread in favor of something a bit more appetizing: a glazed donut.
Fresh. Healthy. Natural. These words aren't typically associated with pizza—unless you're dining at Earth Bistro. At this health-conscious café, cooks prepare savory pies using organic ingredients, free-range chicken, and pepperoni that's free of nitrates, GMOs, hormones, and preservatives. They also craft gluten-free and vegan options and pour organic wines and craft beers.
Situated at the crest of a 1,500-foot hill, the Falkner Winery overlooks the lush Temecula Valley. However, the view isn't the main attraction—it's a backdrop for the vineyard and its award-winning wines. The winery team grows the grapes themselves on their land, using viticulture practices they explain on informational tours. The grapes are then transformed on-site into their fleet of red and white wines as well as their smooth port, with most of the red wines aged at least three years to allow for an impeccably drinkable vintage. Their handiwork leads to some complex whites and reds, which visitors can sample at tastings, rather just waiting for bottles to give birth to sample-size vials.
The very drinkable wines also help complement the flavors in Mediterranean plates at the on-site restaurant, The Pinnacle. Its name is no empty brag—for the past seven years, 2013 included, it won Inland Empire Magazine's Best Restaurant award. The team—helmed by executive chef Gianni Ciciliot—prepare everything from Spanish braised octopus to wild mushroom and grilled chicken pasta and seafood-stuffed canneloni.