Since the first vines began to climb across Hamilton Oaks Vineyard in 1989, Ron and Connie Tamez have worked with a dedication to craft a selection of fine wines. Having sworn off pesticides and herbicides, the two collaborate with ladybugs and red-tailed hawks that thrive by devouring crop-threatening pests. After picking, sorting, and crushing the naturally grown harvest, Ron and Connie complete the Old World process by aging the wines in French oak barrels for 20 to 34 months, or until each grape sees its own shadow.
Visitors are welcome to sample varietals such as chardonnay, zinfandel, and cabernet sauvignon during tastings. Sipping sessions last between 45 and 60 minutes and provide guests with the opportunity to picnic with a packed lunch on the sun-dappled outdoor deck and purchase bottles for favored mailmen.
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 wine tastings, networking events, and cooking classes. During these classes, students perch on wrought-iron stools around marble countertops as they learn to prepare food with wine or the cuisine of faraway countries such as Italy, Thailand, or Narnia. Afterward, they savor their creations amid the pale tiled floors and dark-wood accents of the Tuscan-style space.
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.
Grapes have played a tremendous role in human history—many members of the Hapsburg dynasty were at least half-grape—and they tended to do their best work at vineyards. Today's Groupon treats you to one of the San Diego region's better graperies with $75 worth of gourmet cuisine and drinks at Callaway Vineyard and Winery's Meritage in Temecula for $35. You'll also get 10% off everything at Callaway's wine store (just print your Groupon twice to use it once in the restaurant and once in the store). You may use one Groupon for every two people at your table, so you, your identical twin, and your identical twin dates can all enjoy a night of wacky mismatches and delicious food.
High atop a hill in the Temecula valley, surrounded by clear blue skies and lush rows of Rhone grapes, sits Miramonte Winery, where the winemakers soulfully craft their red wines, off dry rosés, and inspired whites. A big, open veranda wraps around the building to provide an airy venue for wine tastings, and Mojo, the winery dog, curiously greets visitors before going off to lay in the sun.
The deep flavors and aromas in Miramonte's wines come not only from the way the Rhone grapes grow in the valley, but also from the expertise of winemaker Reinhard Schlassa and passion of owner Cane Vanderhoof. A UC Davis alum, Schlassa has made wines with icons of the industry on three continents, and he continues to perfect his craft at Miramonte Winery.
Dating back to 1969, Mount Palomar Winery ranks among Temecula's oldest wineries. Today, its historic winery and sprawling vineyard stretch across more than 315 acres nestled right in the heart of Temecula wine country. Guests can climb atop the grand staircase, which offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding vineyards and mountains at 1400-foot elevation. The beautiful scenery gives way to numerous venues for weddings, social outings, and corporate events.
Loosely translated as Manor House, Masia de Yabar Vineyard and Winery mimics the style of a Spanish villa—a gently gabled, terracotta roof caps low stucco walls with arched outlooks. The villa hints at the Yabar family's Spanish ancestry, as well as their passion for winemaking. Today, the Yabar family oversees the production of a handful of wines and leads tastings in an earth-toned room. During tours of the vineyard and winery, they demystify the process of making wines by showing visitors their purple toes. In the shade of palms, they host art classes and live concerts, welcoming guests to relax on the patio with a spicy-sweet malbec or a full-bodied cabernet franc.