Temecula

Temecula, with its rolling green vineyards, country inns, and first-rate restaurants, bills itself as "Southern California Wine Country." The region, on the verge of a development explosion, is home to three-dozen wineries, several of which offer spas, fine dining, or luxury lodging and shopping. Not to be missed are the small, family-run vineyards whose devotion to showcasing Temecula’s unique combination of climates and soils—the terroir, as the French call it, results in some impressive wines.

The name Temecula comes from a Luiseño Indian word meaning "where the sun shines through the mist"—ideal conditions for growing wine grapes. Intense afternoon sun and cool nighttime temperatures, complemented by ocean breezes that flow through the Rainbow and Santa Margarita gaps in the coastal range, help grapevines flourish in the area's granite soil. Once best known for Chardonnay, Temecula Valley winemakers are moving in new directions, producing Viognier, Syrah, and other Rhône-style blended whites and reds.

The oldest wineries are strung out along Rancho California Road, east of Interstate 15; a few newer ones lie along the eastern portion of De Portola Road. Most wineries charge a small fee (usually from $10 to $15) for a tasting that includes several wines. On its website the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association offers suggestions for self-guided winery tours and has coupons good for tasting discounts.

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