Day Trip: Temecula Wine Country

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Southern California’s wine country, namely Temecula Valley, is no slouch to her more infamous cousin, Napa Valley.  From Eagle Rider Newport Beach’s driveway, an easy and scenic motorcycle ride will get you to the heart of the quaint downtown as well as several excellent wineries in a little over an hour.

The best route to take going out is by way of CA-74. Ortega Hwy offers some great views and riding as you climb up and over the hill.  From the Eagle Rider Newport Beach lot, take CA-73S to I-5S.  In San Juan Capistrano, exit at CA-74 (AKA Ortega Hwy) and turn left.  There is a gas station on your left to top off or fill up your tank.  Follow the signs to stay on CA-74 and then head south on I-15.  Exit at Rancho California Rd in Temecula and head toward Old Town Front St by turning left.

The first winery that we visited was Falkner Winery, located at 40620 Calle Contento on the left as you continue down Rancho California Rd. We arrived fairly early on a Friday and there were a few other small groups already there.  Most wineries offer two-for-one coupons during the week (some only Monday-Thursday), so check the wineries’ websites beforehand and print out a coupon.

This was my first wine tasting experience, and I was pleasantly surprised.  The wines were all excellent and our pourer, Caroline, was friendly, informative and lovely.  When I mentioned that I was writing a blog for a motorcycle website, she suggested a visit to a winery that housed an extensive vintage motorcycle and bike collection called Doffo, located just up the road at 36083 Summitville St.

Although we didn’t do any wine tasting here, we did stop by and stroll around the open barn where dozens of antique and vintage motorcycles lined the upper portions of the walls.  Worth a stop and they apparently have very good wines as well.

For lunch, we headed back down Rancho California Rd to Old Town Front St and downtown proper.  Parking was available in a public lot behind Pennypickle’s Workshop, a children’s museum, but Main St has ample spaces if you go mid-week or arrive early in the day.

There were several appealing eateries, many that serve handcrafted beers on tap, but we chose a Mexican restaurant called Rosa’s Cantina located at 28636 Front St, Ste 109. At-the-counter ordering is fast and easy and they offer daily lunch specials.  We opted for the pollo plate (one of the specials) and it was generous and delicious.

The downtown is quaint, clean and lined with both unique and touristy shops.  The wooden sidewalks are a nice Old West touch, but watch your footing as you can trip easily!  Many of the restaurants also have misters in the summer months and as you pass by, you’ll be treated to refreshing drizzle.  Remember that it can get very hot in Temecula during the summer, so hats and sunscreen are recommended.

Going back to Orange County, you have two choices:  you can go back over Ortega Hwy or hit the freeway, which is quicker, but less scenic obviously.  If you choose the freeway route, simply head north on I-15 to CA-91 W,  then CA-55 S toward Newport Beach.

Obviously, If you are over the limit, please be safe and get a hotel. There are many wonderful hotels and B&B’s out there, many of whom cater to the wineries and have shuttles. Be safe, wear a helmet, and have a great ride.

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