By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
Last week I shared with you the wonderful time that my friend Lois Fishman (owner of Sitting Pretty) and I had at the Pala Casino and Resort. This week I’d like to relate what a great time we had in Temecula. I had been invited to participate in the Summerfest Media Farm tour which involved an Old Temecula Tasting Tour.
It had been at least 20 years since I’d been in Temecula and, I can say, with certainty that it has not changed in the ensuing years. The eight blocks still have that old-western feel. The town is made for walking. There’s an abundance of shops that face Old Town Front Street from which one can purchase clothing, sports and camping equipment, art, jewelry and other crafts, souvenirs, homemade jams, jellies, candies, etc. And, there’s a restaurant or food specialty shop on every block.
I noticed a couple of home made ice cream or candy shops. We drove through Old Town on our way to the Holiday Inn Express, where we checked in. The manager was very helpful in assisting us with our luggage. For an economy hotel, the rooms were a good size. A coffee-maker, refrigerator and flat-screen TV were among the amenities. We each had a queen-sized bed and I was able to place my suitcase on one edge of the bed and still have enough room to stretch out my legs. I noted that there were enough towels for two.
Though not as plush as the ones at the Pala Casino, one would not need four or five to thoroughly dry oneself. We drove back into Old Town and met with the Temecula CVB people and Audra Merrell of Pear Public Relations, the firm that organized this tour. We were given a map of where we were headed that evening. Taking the map in hand, Lois and I headed to the first stop on our Temecula Culinary Adventure.
Our progressive dining adventure began at the Lorimar Winery Tasting Room with appetizers furnished by Soro’s Mediterranean Grill. Tabouli, dolmas, hummus and chips, babaganoush and other Mediterranean delights were available for us. We were able to sample white or red wines. I chose a deep flavored Chardonnay to sample. Quite good. We chatted with the owner, who lived in Venice CA but made the trip down to meet with us travel journalists. The second course was also served in the tasting room at the Tesoro Winery.
Here we were served an absolutely delicious prosciutto bruschetta (homemade crostini topped with prosciutto, caramelized onions, poached pears and shaved romano cheese) in addition to caprese (a local grown organic tomatoes and fresh mozzarella drizzled with extra virgin olive oil plus a fresh basil garnish) by the owner of the nearby Palumbo Ristorante. I couldn’t resist having more than one of the bruschetta! I sampled a small amount of Riesling, which is grown in the Temecula Valley and was a Silver Award Winner for its deep, full fruit flavor.
The owners of Tesoro had grown grapes for other wineries for many years but decided to produce their own wine just a few years ago. They have complimentary wine tastings at 6 p.m. and regularly schedule wine tasting dinners. I must note that both the Lorimar Winery and Tesoro Winery tasting rooms have a warm, friendly atmosphere. Both rooms have seating arrangements so that you and your friends are welcome to stay and sit awhile while enjoying one of their fine wines. Course number three was at Sweet Lumpy’s Bar-B-Q on 3rd Street.
Lois and I shared a slab of ribs plus two sides. We chose fries (they were crispy) and coleslaw. Were those ribs delicious and meaty! And, as Lumpy’s likes to brag, the meat does fall off the bones. I hadn’t had ribs like that since Bryant’s in Kansas City MO.
What helped was that we were walking three or four blocks between each one of our stops, which helped make room for the next course. Our final course, dessert, was served at the Ville di Calabro Winery and Olive Oil Company. There were several choices that the chef John Daniel of Cafe Daniels had prepared for us: an absolutely decadent and utterly delicious chocolate lava cake, chocolate dipped strawberries, and even a passion fruit creme brulee.
As full as I was, I just had to sample (!) all three desserts. Before we left we also “just had to sample” their variety of flavored olive oils. Yes, we could have wine if we wished, but as I was the designated driver I had to say “no thanks.” We spent a couple of hours chatting with a couple of other writers but left at about 9:00 p.m. Several others had remained to wander about town and take in the different entertainment venues offered to Temecula visitors. Saturday, was going to be a breakfast meet and greet with Temecula’s tourism industry leaders.
Then, there would be a tour of local wineries, but Lois and I had to head home. It was a delightful two and a half days. I am looking forward to returning to Temecula soon. As a matter of fact I’ll be returning in September on another tour.
If you’d like to escape to Temecula here are some suggestions: For a one-day escape why not take a hot air balloon tour and be able to float among the vineyards, shop and stroll Historic Old Town’s boutiques, theaters and museums, a lunch at one of the restaurants that I have mentioned, or dine at Pala or Pechanga Resort and Casino.
For an overnighter: In addition to the above why not visit the newly expanded Promenade Temecula, enjoy lunch in the wine country among the vineyards, or watch the sun set as you enjoy a fine dinner al fresco in the vineyards. For a three-day escape, do all of the above! Enjoy a matinee performance at the Old Town Temecula Community Theatre; savor a gourmet dinner and listen to live music at any one of the many dining/nightlife venues in Old Town; indulge in a spa treatment and lunch at one of Temecula’s full-service spas; spend the afternoon enjoying behind the scenes winery tours and barrel tastings; or enjoy breakfast at one of the wine country resorts. For more information about Temecula go to www.temeculacvb.com or call (888) 363- 2852.