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Located an hour north of San Diego and a few minutes more than that south of Los Angeles, Temecula Valley wine country just keeps getting better, with mature vineyards and beautiful places to enjoy. On my recent visit, I was impressed by how much the area had grown since my visit 20 years ago. Upscale wineries that rival Napa and Sonoma and scenic views as far as the eye can see.  At that time, you could count the number of wineries on one hand, and now 44 wineries dot the Temecula landscape. The young vines from years ago have matured and produce over 30 varietals ranging in tastes and complexities.

First on my list was Mount Palomar Winery, tucked away on Rancho California Road.  Operating since 1969, the tranquil property has been adding special events and new dining venues such as Annata Bistro and Bar (this is one of the few wineriy restaurants with a full bar). I tasted their ginger crush, made with muddled ginger and orange, plus gin and other zippy ingredients. Next I sipped the pomegranate martini, shaken with pomegranate purée, Tito’s vodka and house made sweet and sour. These drinks were decorative looking and tasted lively and refreshing.

The bistro’s big windows overlook the sweeping valley and the outdoor patio offers an Italian-piazza feel, complete with olive trees.  Dining on house-made hummus, soft pita chips, kebabs and olives brought me back to eating in the Mediterranean.

house made hummus

House made hummus and soft pita chips

The food and drinks are the perfect complement for enjoying the live music or murder mystery dinner show.  In addition to wines, Mount Palomar is proud of their outdoor solera aging cream sherry. Nearly a lost art, the solera is one of the last remaining in the country.

An essence of Europe is thriving at Europa Village. It has its own B&B and an excellent chef to keep bringing guests back.  Award winning chef Dean Thomas and his wife Nicole are on the property cooking throughout the day for events and weddings. Those who have had the pleasure of staying in the B&B, rave about chef’s scrumptious breakfasts – which means I need to stay the night soon.

And there’s more to this growing area, the property is being developed to house three distinct wineries with an old-world feel.  France, Italy and Spain will be represented with their décor and wines. I’m also excited for the new resort and spa to open for even more relaxation.  In the meantime, I’ll be sipping Annabel brut, named after one of the owners’ mother and distinct with her picture on the bottle.

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Temecula Valley wine country is a sleeping giant with guided wine tours and hot air balloons turning a visit into a vacation.

Mount Palomar Winery

33820 Rancho California Rd

www.mountpalomar.com

Europa Village

33475 La Serena Way

www.europavillage.com

Disclaimer- I was a guest of both wineries, as usual, my opinions are my o