Lifelong gardener Jim Carter, owner of South Coast Winery, bottles fine wines on 38 picturesque acres in Southern California’s Temecula Valley. South Coast’s grounds house a luxurious spa and seven Mediterranean-esque resort villas, reminiscent of a remote Tuscan village. Jim’s specialty varietals have been recognized time and again in local and national wine competitions. Visiting oenophiles can spend time here unwinding with an open air massage, vacationing in a temporary home equipped with a marble Jacuzzi and sweet plump grapes at arms length, or learning about the winemaking process on a vineyard tour.
The idea for California Fruit Wine was hatched in 2009, when a friend of Alan and Brian Haghighi introduced the twin brothers to small batches of homemade fruit wine. Since those first sips, Alan and Brian have continued to help wine drinkers break free from grape-based conventions, utilizing such fruit as pomegranates, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pumpkins as the foundation for an ever-growing arsenal of flavors. The winery fills glasses with unique bouquets, and?like the microbreweries throughout Vista Business Park?buys its ingredients from vendors up and down the west coast rather than growing them or stealing them from the refrigerators of napping bears. California Fruit Wine's spacious facility, which is stocked with a stage, bar, and pool table, can also be rented out for parties and private events.
The sounds of conversation and laughter compete with the clinking of glasses in The Wine Artist?s lofty venue. The space sprawls over 2,500 square feet, with plenty of room to host private parties, bridal events, corporate events, and private cooking classes. Events at The Wine Artist feature unique wines, gourmet catering, and experiences such as wine bottling and team building activities.
The "secret" in Bacchus' Secret Cellar is gas. Argon gas, to be exact, which powers the bar's preservation system and ensures that the wines within stay fresh for long periods of time. There are about 50 wines—mostly reds—on tap at the counter, as well as 8 sparkling wines, 5 dessert wines, and 12 microbrews. The library of options encourages guests to sample several, so it's wise to order a flight: you can get a signature array of 2.5-ounce glasses, or you can compose your own for a unique harmony of tastes.
The bar is just the beginning of the cellar's wine selection. On the shelves that span the walls, more than 350 labels beckon to be uncorked. A bistro menu provides gourmet food to complement sips, from starters of oven-roasted dates to lamb burgers and prosciutto flatbreads, made by dropping a regular loaf of bread into a printing press by accident. There's also a full menu of cheeseboards, with goat, cow, and sheep cheeses from the United States and abroad.
After 20 years of event planning, Amy Brewen decided to take her show on the road—literally. With a map of Inland Empire's best venues, event spaces, and wineries already in her mind, she connected them all together into packaged experiences with the aid of a little creativity and a classic 32-passenger trolley. The antique vehicle, which maintains all its quaint charm from the wooden seats to the brass bells, was put to work running daily tours through Temecula wine country. As the fleet grew, Brewen added more tours to her repertoire. Today, she conducts excursions to local wineries, microbreweries, and eateries; holiday events; and transportation for tourists or wedding guests.
At Dudley's Wine & Gifts’ laid-back tastings, casually dressed patrons sip vintages to the stereo sounds of rock, soul, and reggae, eschewing the stuffy jacket-and-tie-please attitude of many wine events. At each tasting, knowledgeable staff members obligingly answer all manner of queries—from "What vintage is this pinot?" to "How come it's not spelled 'w-h-i-n-e'?"—helping to cultivate a welcoming and unpretentious atmosphere. Theme nights such as Thursday’s Singles Night and Wednesday’s networking event bring together groups of like-minded drinkers to slap each other’s backs and sip subtle merlots in Dudley’s bright, high-ceilinged tasting room. After swishing a glass, tasters can browse Dudley's cache of gift items, such as its famous tulip corkscrew, or entertain onlookers by reading wine labels aloud in Pig Latin.