Wine tasting in Temecula is a lot like listening to smooth jazz; it’s easy and fairly predictable. The most recent Temecula Wine Country brochure lists 35 tasting rooms, most of which are open daily, within about a ten-mile range. Weekend crowds are dominated by buses and limos full of partiers from all over Southern California, and the wineries do a great job of accommodating them. Winery restaurants are proliferating; so are after-closing parties with live music – popular with locals and accessible to visitors who opt to spend the night at one of the area’s numerous hotels.
The tasting route we propose encapsulates the diversity that one can still find among Temecula wineries that are doing interesting things. Start at Mount Palomar (A on map), a giant winery with local roots. Everyone can find something to like here, in terms of food as well as wine. About a mile up the road from Palomar is Van Roekel (B), which will seem small and homey and is a nice place to picnic. Continue to Doffo Winery (C), situated just off Rancho California Road in what looks like a residential neighborhood. You’re likely to meet the Doffo family, especially on a weekday. (Note that they’re closed on Wednesdays.) Right across the street from Doffo is Chapin Family Vineyards, where Steve Chapin pours some excellent reds and there's a comfortable picnic patio with vineyard views. Next, head back west about a mile and take a left on Glenoaks Road to find Foot Path (D) – the proudly funkiest winery of the lot. Leaving Foot Path, go left onto Glenoaks Road and then make a right on De Portola, where you will encounter at least eight more wineries. We recommend a stop at Frangipani (E) or Robert Renzoni (F) – or both if you have time. Frangipani has indoor picnic tables, which are rare in these parts and proved invaluable when we hosted guests on a rainy November day. Renzoni also has a very nice picnic area perched atop a little hill that overlooks his vineyard.