the valley and hills covered with a white mist. But as he watched, the sun suddenly broke through the white mist and was reflected from the mist-shrouded hillside. This was a good omen.”
Nahachish called the people forth and said, "This place shall be known as Temeku."
With the coming of the Spanish, the harsh sounding Indian word was changed to the more euphonious Temecula. Those same rolling hills the Luiseno Indians saw have now been converted to a 27-hole championship golf course at the Temecula Creek Inn, and to beautiful and productive vineyards in Wine Country, just east of Highway 15.
It’s simply amazing how one can drive a mere 30 minutes from North County and find themselves in Paradise!
Temecula has so much to offer, whether for us day trippers, or for those of us who want to get away for some special quality time with that very special person in our life. We’ve just returned from a three day visit to Temecula, during which time we leisurely walked through Old Town, several times, learning more and enjoying it even more each time we strolled through the area. We will share that information with you and hope you find the same enjoyment we did.
When not playing at being a tourist, we rested up in luxurious comfort at the Temecula Creek Inn. It’s less than a five minute drive from Highway 15 and is a very quiet, very relaxing, very elegant place to stay. Their superb restaurant overlooks the golf course and you can dine sumptuously while watching golfers finish their game and then head for the bar where they can compare scores and shots they made . . . or missed.
Our mission was to explore and report on Old Town and on Temecula’s Wine Country. Herein, that report:
I had arrived 45 minutes early for a noon luncheon appointment at the Temecula Creek Inn with old friend, Alan Skuba. Instead of waiting in the lobby, I headed for Old Town, Temecula, having never been there before. It took my breath away! What a lovely ambience the Old Town merchants have created! This, I thought, is something our readers need to know about. All kinds of quaint little shops, neat, clean, beautifully organized. Though we men generally are not fond of shopping, I could see that this is something I could not only tolerate but, most likely enjoy. I was correct in my assumption.
We then met Alan Skuba and several other old friends at the Temet Grill, the world famous restaurant at Temecula Creek Inn.
(See photo at right) We looked out over a pleasant, gurgling waterfall and brook, watching the golfers as they finished up a round of golf, got caught up on all the years that have gone by, recalled many old friends, and dined sumptiously. The Temet Grill not only serves you fine food . . . but their presentation is magnificent!
We came back up a month later and began our research for this cover story. While we worked hard, we also worked in great surroundings. We took a suite at Temecula Creek Inn . . . enjoyed our patio view of the grounds, and took note of the daily breeze that comes through the valley about 3 to 4 pm every day. It’s that breeze that caresses the grapes in the many vineyards that make up Temecula’s Wine Country.
Later, we were given a golf cart tour of the grounds by Noel Guanzon, genial sales manager for the Temecula Creek Inn. At one point we felt that refreshing afternoon breeze gently nudge us and make us feel totally alive. Noel smiled and said, “that’s just one element that makes this such a nice place to visit . . . or to live.”
You have to feel the afternoon ocean breeze flow through your hair to really experience that suddenly wonderful feeling. The greenery, the gentle rolling hills, the ocean breeze, the warm, but not hot, sunshine . . . all combine for a beautiful day for visitors as well as the vines and their grapes in the surrounding vineyards.
Returning to our room to relax before dinner we found a fruit and cheese plate waiting for us. It was an amazing array of cheeses, sun-dried fruit and nuts. The plate consisted of Double Cream Brie, Boursin, domestic Goat Cheese rolled in assorted seeds, Port Salute from the region of France, St. Andre (a rich triple, creamy cream cheese), Gruyere, crumbled Gorgonzola, domestic Monterey Jack and smoked Gouda. These Temecula Creek Inn folks know how to treat their guests! We felt like royalty.
That was just the beginning. We went to dinner at the Temet Grill that evening. Executive Chef Salvatore Giuliano, whose California wine country cuisine is served amid a relaxed atmosphere overlooking the lush golf course and picturesque setting of San Jacinto Mountains, is known as a creative chef that mixes the finest of foods with artistic presentation. This evening was an example of that expertise. I had the Grilled Filet Mignon with Crumbled Bleu Cheese, Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus Spears, and Cabernet Demi-Glace. Evelyn had the Red Grape infused Loch Duart Salmon with black rice, and Tomato Basil Confit, Balsamic Reduction.
Wine, cheese, fruits, snacks at the Temecula Creek Inn
The next morning, Thursday, was reserved for touring Old Town. But first, we had breakfast, again at the Temet Grill. Little did we realize they would feed us so well!
I started out by ordering a Natures Blend of House-Made Granola, consisting of Rolled Oats, Pecans, Walnuts, Almonds, Flaked Coconut, Raisins, Sunflower, Sesame and Flax Seeds. I thought it would be a small to moderate size bowl. Wrong! It was quite a large bowl and would probably have served as a complete breakfast for both of us. However, I had already ordered my entree’ of their Frittata of Chili Relleno, Green Onions and Jack Cheese, with Black Beans, Avocado and Sour Cream. Evelyn ordered the Original Breakfast: Eggs Prepared to Order with Black Forest Ham Steak, served with Red Bliss Potatoes and Toast.
Breakfast over, it was time to go to work, if walking and shopping can be called work.
Just a horseshoe throw away from The Temecula Creek Inn is Old Town Temecula, a town which reveals the city’s charming history dating back to 1882. We went window shopping and visiting along the quaint, historic storefronts reminiscent of the historic golden west. More than 600 restaurants, antique stores and unique shops lead us to some mighty interesting people and stores. We barely scratched the surface. A perfect excuse for us to go back and visit again. Soon.
Situated in the heart of Old Town Temecula is the city’s Historical Preservation District in Butterfield Square. A favorite “stop-over” of present day shoppers and travelers, this district boasts quaint specialty stores and antique malls. One of the city’s most treasured jewels is the Temecula Valley Museum in Sam Hicks Park, which chronicles Temecula Valley’s rich Native American history when the Santa Fe Railroad came through the valley. The Museum gives an account of Old Town Temecula as the site of the Overland Butterfield Stagecoach Stop and California’s first inland post office. Museum guests view artifacts preserved from Western civilizations, including historic handcrafted artifacts, cultural items and historic ranch and farm equipment. Exhibits depict the Luiseno Indians and Mission San Luis Rey.
We met, visited, and joked with many of the shopkeepers in Old Town. It was as though I were back home in my old home town in Windom, Minnesota. Friendly folks with a ready smile and the time to visit.
Several of the stores particularly fascinated us. Take the Temecula Olive Oil Company for example. We met and chatted with both owners and staff and found them to be most friendly and helpful. I had never heard of an “olive oil tasting bar” before . . . but it’s right there. You can sample a variety of olive oils just as you would at a winery . . . and you’ll be greeted with great big smiles in the bargain. As you walk around the store you’ll be amazed, as we were, with both the wide variety of olive oils but how attractively they are packaged and displayed.
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Temecula
They are at 28653 Old Town Front St.
Just down the street and about a half block east is the Old Town Spice Merchants. Here again, a wonderfully organized store of glass bottles filled with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different spices, herbs, blends and teas. All catalogued, all fresh, all with a lovely aroma. You’ll also be greeted with a ready smile here by owners Anthony & Sue Del Bono. Back at the corner of Front Street and Fifth is the Palomar Hotel; built in 1910, it served as a hotel and still does; one claim to fame is Erle Stanley Gardner kept an office upstairs and would dictate his mysteries to secretaries who would type them up and then ship them off to his publisher. (It was rumored that Mr. Garnder was carrying on an affair with his secretary. Bet that’s never happened before).
Just across the street from the Palomar Hotel is an all new restaurant, The Edge. We dined there Thursday evening and are still raving about both the food and service. The brain child of brilliant businessman Simon Curtis, this restaurant has become a showcase of Old Town almost overnight. More details and photos on page nine.
There are so many treasures to be found in Old Town Temecula. You really must jump in the car, take a leisurely 30 minute drive and discover this lovely and colorful shopping area.
From Old Town we headed out to Wine Country, located on Rancho California Road. When we profiled Wine Country about six or seven years ago there were, maybe, 18 wineries. Today there are over 30 and there are more coming. The soil, the climate, the fresh ocean breezes, all combine for a perfect blend of ingredients to attract some of the world’s greatest wineries.
A view of the vineyards from a Villa patio - South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
We intentionally focused on just a few of the wineries as we had limited time and were unable to visit them all. One winery that we were very impresed with was the Briar Rose winery, owned by Les and Dorian Linkogle. A boutique winery, Briar Rose holds tasting strictly on an appointment basis. Their wines are very high end, selling for $30 up to as much as $1300 per bottle. They produce about 3500 cases of wine annually. They are tucked away at 41720 Calle Cabrillo in Temecula, call for directions and appointments at 951.308.1098.
The other winery that we were most taken with was not here when we visited all those years ago. The South Coast Winery Resort and Spa is something else!
A first cabin resort with beautiful villas, poolside cabanas coming soon, and a spa that will absolutely delight the ladies, as they get pampered from head to toe. There is also a large, yet comfortable restaurant, with top of the mark staff. The Vineyard Rose Restaurant offers 12,000 square feet and seats 160 clients indoors, another 270 outdoors on their scenic patio.
Naturally, there is a tasting room. A large one, with all the amenities.
We were given a relaxing tour of the grounds via golf cart and managed to see most of the campus, including the area where they make the wines, bottle it, and package it, awaiting distribution. The owner, Jim Carter, built this magnificent estate, resort, and winery on 39 acres. They make 65,000 cases of wine a year, 50,000 Still Wines, 15,000 Sparkling Wines.
Of the total 672 acres owned or controlled by South Coast Wineries, 397 acres are planted to a variety of grapes. The spa is an absolute knockout! 15,000 square feet with a third story veranda that overlooks a heated pool, and offers a fitness center and yoga studio.
The Villas offer 76 rooms with not only vineyard vistas, but you can actually go out on your patio and pick your own grapes to munch on! Or you can take a leisurely and romantic stroll through the impeccably manicured vineyards.
Over 320 employees are at your service at the South Coast Winery and Spa; they’ve won all kinds of awards and recognition. They are located at 34843 Rancho California Road. Call 951.587.9463 for information. There are all kinds of sights to see and things to do in Temecula. And . . . if you’re a history buff, there’s plenty of that as well.
One of the reasons for so much history in the area is that Temecula is at the intersection of two major trails. One runs from the Imperial Valley through Warner's Ranch, Temecula, Elsinore, and Corona, and lies in a series of valleys formed by fault lines. This was the Emigrant's Road and the route of the Butterfield Overland Mail. The other trail runs through the pass at Temecula, the easiest crossing of the coast ranges south of Santa Ana Canyon, providing a connection between coastal San Diego County and the interior valleys to the northeast, and from there to Cajon and San Gorgonio passes.
Temecula Valley became a rancho of the Mission San Luis Rey in the early 1800's. The diary of Fr. Jose Sanchez contains an entry of Sept. 25, 1821 describing his trek from Pala to Temecula: ". . . we turned towards the north through a beautiful canada (village) until we reached Temecula . . . distant about three leagues from Pala."
Editor’s Note: (canada = an old time word derived from ‘kanata,’ which in Huron (an Iroquoian language of eastern Canada) meant “village.” league = an old measurement term, about the equivalent of three statute miles)
The present-day town of Temecula is three and one half miles northwest of the original Indian village and is a product of the now defunct railroad built in the 1880's which once ran from San Bernardino to San Diego.
The old Mission rancho of Temecula had been divided after secularization, the larger part being confirmed to Luis Vignes in 1859. The smaller portion was granted to Pablo Apis, a Luiseño Indian of Temecula who had been educated at the Mission San Luis Rey. This grant is one of those rare instances where a rancho was granted to an Indian.
As of July 1860, the U.S. Census was taken for Temecula Township. Included under a heading "Temecula Indian Village" were 308 persons living in 43 dwellings. Don’t you wish you had been around to buy some land way back then?
I’m still kicking myself for not having bought land there in the early and mid 1970’s when it was still known as “Rancho California” (which I think is a much prettier name than Temecula).
That which attracted the Luiseño to the Temecula Valley continues to attract us today. Until perhaps eighty years ago there was a small lake and an abundance of springs. Today, there are mny tidy little lakes on a variety of golf courses, there’s beautifully manicured lawns fronting lovely homes in most every price range, and there are comfortable shopping centers conveniently located through the area.
Now . . . there you are. Plenty of information to begin either a day trip . . . or a two to three day getaway holiday for you and that special someone.
Fine scenery, fine dining, fine accommodations, plenty of adventure . . .and it’s only a 30 minute drive! No need to mortgage the kids to pay for plane fare to far-off places when Paradise is right in your own backyard.
Check them out! The Temecula Creen Inn, including the Temet Grill, The Edge Restaurant, Old Town Temecula, The Briar Rose Winery, and the South Coast Winery and Spa. There are plenty of other wineries, hotels, and restaurants in Temecula . . . and we’ll cover them in our next visit!