Temecula, an hour from San Diego and Palm Springs and 90 minutes from los Angeles, is a year round boutique getaway especially for foodies and oenophiles. Three of Temecula Valley’s winery estates, Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery, Ponte Family Estate Winery, and South Coast Winery are certified sustainable under the strict standards of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance program.
Here are the top picks for eating and drinking in Temecula:
1. Cork|Fire Kitchen at Temecula Creek Inn.
Surrounded by 350 acres of rustic, natural beauty overlooking a golf course, Cork|Fire Kitchen is part of the Temecula Creek Inn. Dining is indoors or on the new, outdoor deck overlooking the San Jacinto Mountains. Down-to-earth cuisine with artisan touches best describes Cork|Fire Kitchen.
As is the trend, food is sourced locally as much as possible from farmers like Temecula Valley Crow’s Pass Farms, Sage Mountain Farms, and Temecula Olive Oil Company.
Perfect for sharing, the inventive menu includes the CFK club sandwich made with Fallbrook avocado, pork belly strips, roasted chicken, local heirloom tomatoes, boutique romaine, and mustard aioli. The local gold and red beet salad is topped with arugula pesto, pistachio crusted Nikolau Family Farms goat cheese, and a blood orange and bacon vinaigrette. The pork chop comes with local butternut squash puree, sage brown butter sauce, green beansand roasted shiitake mushrooms. For dessert, a favourite is bread pudding laced with house-made caramel, vanilla poached apples, and whipped crème fraiche.
2. Meritage at Callaway Vineyard & Winery.
The valley’s first winery helped put Temecula Valley Southern California wines on the map in 1976 when an Estate bottled Callaway premium varietal wine was served to Queen Elizabeth II at New York City's Waldorf Astoria. The Queen, better known as a gin and tonic fan, requested a second glass. These wines are still known for their well balanced fresh fruit flavor, round body, and crisp character.
The Meritage menu reflects uses local, sustainable, and organic ingredients to create tapas, salads, and entrées that accentuate Callaway wines’ character sourced from local farms and small family ranches while pomegranates, figs, citrus, peaches, tomatoes, tomatillos, chilies, arugula, chard, cabbage, zucchini, rosemary, oregano, and mint are grown onsite.
The inventive, fresh seasonal menu cuisine includes wine-pairing suggestions. Guests' favorites include the organic spinach salad with roast pork belly, shaved fennel, roasted carrots, and pomegranate vinaigrette paired with Callaway Special Selection Mourvedre. The burger of grass-fed beef on house toast with mushrooms, onions, fontina, and Dijon mustard paired with the Callaway Winemaker’s Reserve Calliope is another winner.
3. Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery.
The 93-acre Wilson Creek Winery is home to a local favorite, almond sparkling wine and more importantly, the alfresco Creekside Grille overlooking the 30-year-old Cabernet vineyards. Popular menu items include squash risotto using local Crow's Pass squash puree, sage, crème fraiche, and Romano cheese. Their California cheese plate includes Shaft Ellie’s vintage blue cheese, Cowgirl Creamery's seasonal cheese, Drake Family Farms' honey apricot goat cheese, forelle pears, nuts, and hazelnut cranberry crisps. The Creekside Burger is made with natural California ground chuck; the Salmon Fritter is a Skuna Bay salmon cake with fontina cheese, bacon and brussels slaw on a corn meal bun. All Wilson Creek wines including currently released Wilson Creek Temecula Valley AVA Estate vintages are available at Creekside Grille.
4. Palumbo’s Ristorante in Old Town Temecula.
This landmark Old Town Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining sits in the middle of the block on Fifth Street. The cooking combines old family recipes and techniques with modern twists and the freshest ingredients. The sauces, soups, sausage, meatballs, ravioli, gnocchi, focaccia, and bread for the bruschetta, are freshly house made as are the tiramisu and the cannoli and all meals are made-to-order.
Using organic practices, the Palumbos also tend a seasonal, one-acre restaurant garden on their 5-acre property near Temecula Valley Wine Country. Herbs, vegetables, and greens are grown, as well as a variety of fruit trees (pear, plum, fig, orange, and lemon) that provide the fresh-fruit desserts. On the restaurant menu, starters feature steamed clams and mussels, and calamari fritti. Baked specialties include Gnocchi, Spaghetti Carbonara, Classic Lasagna, Manicotti Florentine, and Eggplant Parmigiana. A good variety of local Temecula Valley wines includes Bel Vino, Palumbo Family Vineyards, Robert Renzoni Vineyards, and Wiens Cellars while the local craft beer comes from Wiens Brewing Company.
Now in the seventeenth year of business, the restaurant caters to locals and visitors to the valley. The California/Continental cuisine, inspired by the use of local ingredients, is prepared daily by the culinary staff under the direction of Chef Chris Baily and Bracken Blucher.
6.Temecula Oil Company and Olive View Ranch.
At the complementary tasting bar, guests can sample fresh olive oil in Old Town at the corner of Front Street and Main Street. By advance reservation (on second and fourth Saturdays), visitors may tour the TOO Olive View Ranch east of Old Town Temecula. The learning experience highlights sustainable planting, growing, and harvesting practices; the unique mill and press; and cold pressing to extract oil from the fruit. After the tour, participants experience a tasting of TOO olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Throughout the year, TOO offers a variety of limited edition, hand-blended olive oils like Le Caprice de Nature, White Truffle, Hickory Smoked, Fajita Frenzy, Picante Pepper, Fresh Basil (made by crushing fresh, organic, California basil with the olives), Luscious Lemon (made with fresh, California lemons), and Citrus Reserve (premier olive oil with the flavor of fresh blood oranges). The TOO vinegars include blends like Pomegranate, Hatch Chili, Vanilla and Fig (made with the sweet essence of California ripe figs), and Honey Balsamic (made with honey from the bees at the Olive View Ranch).