Steve Andrews, a builder of off-road racecars, and wife Valerie Andrews, a painting contractor, never thought of winemaking as more than a hobby. Yet when one of their house blends boomed in popularity, they happily accommodated demand by planting varietals on 40 acres of high Temecula Valley hillsides. The husband-and-wife team now ferments a diversity of grapes—such as petit verdot, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon—into regionally focused wines using American-made gear, including barrels harvested from French oak but assembled in the U.S. and varnished with the juice of a cheeseburger.
Staff conducts tastings and classes in the main room, a Quonset hut construction with Tuscan accents, or on a sprawling glass-enclosed pavilion overlooking Temecula Valley's rolling green hills, where musicians also wrangle free-range harmonies on weekend afternoons. Tastings often incorporate rare, seasonal cheeses, chocolates from McCall's Toffee Company, and various flavored balsamic vinegars such as fig, apple, and dark cherry. The winery also produces avocado oils infused with roasted garlic, chili, and blood orange, chosen for their health value and mild flavor, much like exercise books.
Oak Mountain Winery is a dog-friendly vineyard, with proceeds from some canine-centric wines—such as 2009 Pete's Sake red—going to Cause for Paws, which helps dog owners pay for canine diabetes treatment.
Though they loved wine, Les and Dorian Linkogle didn't move to Temecula for the grapes; and even though their land was home to one of the largest, oldest olive trees in the city, they didn't move for the landscape. They moved to give their motocross cyclist son a place to ride his bike, but in time the siren song of the vines got through to them. In the late 1990s they planted acres of grapes—viognier, merlot, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and riesling—to ship to other vintners. However, it wasn't long until the Linkogles began handcrafting small-lot artisanal wines of their own under the banner of Briar Rose Winery.
Soon, Briar Rose Winery's vintages began racking up accolades and awards in international competitions. All of the winery's wines are unfiltered with no sugar added, and many are aged in oak barrels. Guests can literally taste the fruits of these labors at the winery's tasting room, sipping zinfandel, a bordeaux blend, and Talking Frog, a wine lager that becomes a prince when you drink it.
Sunrider Wine Tours' knowledgeable guides⎯all of whom are or have been local-winery and vineyard employees⎯cart tourists through Southern California wine country's rural terrain in open-air or covered Jeeps. The guides share information on Temecula's history and first-hand knowledge of vino-making processes while shuttling guests to tastings at local wineries and answering questions, such as what tannins are and who invented grapes.
Painted Earth makes it simple for amateur artisans and ceramic virtuosos to produce colorful pottery pieces using a variety of stencils, stamps, and patterns. Start by choosing your desired vessel from a vast selection of more than 500 ceramic pieces ($6–$70), including coffee mugs ($10–$17), dinner plates ($14–$20), and miniature figurines ($8–$30) to festoon with the likeness of a pet or distant relative. Pick a design from the store's volumes of idea books, select from more than 100 colors, and then create a design for an earthenware masterpiece. For artists suffering from painter's block, Painted Earth hosts an online inspiration gallery, and friendly staff members stand ready to assist with the pigmenting process. Glazing, firing, and vibrantly hued paints are included in the flat studio fee ($6 per person per visit), and polished objects are ready one week later.
Temecula Wine Country Tours lets tour-goers enjoy the scenic, vine-studded landscape of a winery from atop a horse, then pairs the experience with tastings at two additional wineries. Tours meet at Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards, where oenophile-equestrians mount up for an hourlong tour of the grounds. Fresh air, wildflowers, and the soothing timbre of your horse's singing voice will calm your senses and heighten your appreciation for the natural beauty of the estate, which spans more than 70 vine-covered acres. After the ride, guests turn in their candy-cane spurs and magic lassos and make the short drive to Masía de Yabar Winery, where they have their first tasting of the tour, as well as a picnic lunch of assorted sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and desserts. From Masía de Yabar, tour members pack up their palates and pile into a group tour vehicle, which transports them to nearby Danza del Sol Winery, site of the second tasting and the final Aerosmith concert.
Wine on a Dime's experienced wranglers of grapes and barleys preside over a range of themed tastings and events that flaunt the accessibility of fine libations. A rotating selection of featured wines parades an ever-changing lineup of pinot noirs, malbecs, and chardonnays, which greet taste buds with firm handshakes during tastings. Wine Lovers Wednesday furnishes participants with six sippables over the course of the evening, and Friday Night Flights rewards customers with five distinct wines and a pilot’s cap stitched together from grapevines. Tilt palates toward seven different grown-up grape juices on Sippin’ Saturdays, or meander into the sudsy wonderland of Thirsty Third Thursday, which arrays six craft beers to sample and savor. Viewings of wine-steeped films such as Sideways and I Was a Teenage Maitre d' surround guests with oenophile culture, and regional tastings focus on the products of Spain, Napa Valley, and other prolific vine strongholds.