On the heels of the Royal Wedding I was invited to a new experience in Temecula Valley Wine Country, a horse drawn carriage ride through the vineyards. This is not your ordinary carriage ride, the type that you jump onto for a stroll around the block and then have to depart. This is a carriage ride that provides royal treatment!
My tour began with four dear friends. We met outside Wiens Family Cellar on Rancho California Road. Our open-air carriage awaited us curbside. The carriage driver, Marika and her assistant Lauren sported top hats and tuxedo vests. The weather was overcast and a little cool when we began, but Marika had blankets waiting for us. The sun soon came out, as if on cue. Cotton, the gray French Percheron draft horse, pulled our carriage around the back of Wiens Cellar and through a private entrance into the vineyards. Our first stop would be Ponte’s Winery.
As we slowly made our way through the back dirt roads of the vineyards, I could only image what the Temecula Valley was like 80 years ago. Orchards, and farms along with dirt roads would have been the norm. Wagons, horses and footpaths would have lined the way to Old Town Temecula – previously known as Rancho California.
Along our carriage tour we saw rabbits, squirrels, hawks, orange groves, olive trees and lots of grape vines. The mountains, in the background, rose majestically framing the picturesque view of the valley. Row upon row of orchards lined up perfectly like little tin soldiers waiting to be chosen for some fine home.
Our carriage gently pulled up behind Ponte Winery and we walked around the gardens. Wine tasting is part of the tour so it was time to get a glass and taste away. Ponte’s has a nice variety of wine including sweeter wine like their Fume Blanc to a deeper well-rounded red like their oaky Tempranillo. The grounds are lovely with roses of many colors, fountains, and a nice restaurant.
After visiting Ponte’s we climbed back into our carriage and made our way to South Coast Winery. South Coast is a large facility with a spa, restaurant, villas for overnight guests, shopping and a working winery. They also offer hot air balloon rides, reservations are needed in advance and generally depart early in the morning.
On our way back to Wiens Cellar we stopped for a picnic. Dale Hagen had set up a lovely spread for us. There was a huge pitcher of lemon water, wine, gourmet cheese, breads, olives, fresh vine-ripened local fruit and chocolate truffles! There’s no rush on time, and it almost seemed as if time had stopped for a moment. The surrounding vineyards, flowers, and open air demand a pause from your busy day. A little more wine and food, rehydration from the lemon water and we were back on the carriage for our final leg to Wiens Family Cellar.
The wine at Wiens Cellar is nothing short of fabulous! They are known for their big reds, but their whites are equally as spectacular. For a special ending to your trip you can set up a VIP tasting at Wiens Cellar (offered Friday – Sunday). They provide three VIP tastings per day, so you’ll want to call ahead to secure your extra special royal VIP treatment. Wiens has a relaxing atmosphere with outdoor seating as well as indoor tasting. If you’re not ready to end your royal day you can purchase snacks at Wiens; cheeses, salami, crackers, and a bottle of your favorite wine. Take the party outdoors and relax under the sun or covered areas. During the summer and fall months many of the wineries (including Wiens) have concerts, so check the schedules.
Temecula Carriage Company, owned and operated by Marika Vierling, delivers a scenic and peaceful experience for the outdoor enthusiast and wine lover. This three-hour carriage ride visits three winery’s (tastings included – a $50 value), includes a gourmet picnic, a bottle of wine and background information about Temecula and the wine country. Price is $140/person.
All you need to pack is a hat, sunscreen, your ID for wine tasting, a happy attitude and perhaps a credit card (You may find that you want to bring a few bottles of wine home with you). Marika supplies everything else including a fabulous tour and plenty of photo opportunities.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out and enjoy the open air, great wine and the royal treatment with Temecula Carriage Company!!! A carriage ride will create memories that last a lifetime...
Temecula is located 60 miles Northeast of San Diego off highway 15. Take the Rancho California exit and head east about 5 miles. This will take you to the heart of wine country.
Temecula Carriage Company offers services for weddings, birthdays, and special occasions. Contact Marika at (858) 205-9161.