Temecula is Southern California’s Wine Country and is conveniently located about an hour and half away from Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Palm Desert, and San Diego, which makes it a nice get-a-way for many people living in these areas. This wine country region is rapidly growing and currently holds thirty-five wineries and counting. Ninety-five perfect of these wineries are located on two roads, Rancho California Road and De Portola Road also known as the “wine trail” because it was the original road where wineries were located. In addition to wineries, one can view the many impressive estates along the “wine trail” many that include equestrian facilities that house beautiful purebred horses. Rancho California Road, however, has the bulk of wineries. Occasionally, a winery can be found on one of the small roads linking these two main ones together but sometimes this can mean a dirt road. Having all the wineries conveniently located on basically two roads makes it real easy to go wine tasting and find what you are looking for.
Many of the wineries are situated on top of hills overlooking the valley, creating a very Tuscany-like ambiance of rolling hills, cypress trees and of course vineyards. A number of wineries are more than just that, they are full scale resorts with overnight accommodations, restaurants and spas for supreme wine country pampering. At any winery you should be able to pick up a map of the Temecula Wine Country and on the reverse side is for Old Town Temecula. This map can be a bit confusing because not every winery or restaurant for that matter is listed but it provides you with a decent outline. When the weather is nice some places to eat offer al fresco dining on outdoor patios or appetizers to munch on while sipping wine. Some wineries also have outdoor spaces where you can enjoy a glass or bottle of wine.
Every winery that I visited varied in wheelchair accessible amenities but the majority had handicapped parking. If they didn’t then I would move onto the next one because it was a sign for me that access was lacking. For those that did have accessible parking, paved ramps and pathways lead you directly to the winery but occasionally a pathway would have an incline of some kind but still level enough for ADA regulations. I never saw one tasting room door that open automatically; these doors are usually kept closed as to keep the wine at a specific temperature. I was disappointed to discover that many wineries did not have a lowered section of the tasting bar for wheelchair users; only two that I visited did. Furthermore, every winery I visited had a wheelchair accessible restroom.
When you taste wine there will always be a tasting fee and no matter how much wine you buy and is seldom waived. I got in the habit of asking about this every time because this is a curtsey that wineries in Northern California practice but not here in Temecula. Purchasing a tasting has flexibility at almost every winery you go to. A standard tasting consists of five to seven pours; some wineries use pour stoppers while others do it freehand. You also have the option to split a tasting with someone else or get a full glass of wine. To differentiate, wineries often spruce up their tasting rooms with more than just wine. Gift shops are really common and vary in selection and quality. Some offer items like estate-grown olive or avocado oils and one even had wine margaritas for sale. A number of wineries are affiliated with each other, so you may visit one and receive a coupon that is valid at two or three other wineries. No matter what winery you choose to visit, you will always find the option to purchase a wine club membership in which wine is shipped to your doorstep. A few wineries are open later in the evening on the weekends but otherwise, closing time is between 4pm and 6pm. Smaller and family-owned and operated wineries are often only open on weekends.
Examples of Wineries in the Temecula Wine Country
Chapin Family Vineyards is the last winery located on Ranch California Road on the way to Lake Skinner and is known for its red wine varietals. It’s a house that has been converted into a winery and tasting room. Getting to the handicapped parking spot was little awkward to reach because of where it’s positioned but was the closest spot to the tasting room. A short ramp brings you onto the patio that wraps completely around the house and has lots of tables with umbrellas to sit at. At first glance it looked like there was no lowered space for a wheelchair user at the tasting bar inside but the owner quickly chimed in and set it up. It made me happy that the owner was fiercely working the floor helping those in need. In fact, I was told that three people ran the winery and were all present. Deli plates were available to snack on while enjoying a glass of wine on the patio and a handicapped restroom was located inside just around the corner from the bar.
Churon Winery is at the beginning of Rancho California Road and rests on top of a hill. It is also an inn that is supposed to mimic a French chateau and frankly does a good job. Handicapped parking is available in front and a paved pathway leads you around to the front. Able body people enter thru the lobby and take the stairs down to the tasting room. However, wheelchair guests follow the paved pathway on the outside that meanders down to the tasting room. There is a door that you go thru to get inside which may or may not be locked. So either knock or before going down, let someone at the front desk know that you wish to go to the tasting room and he or she can be sure the door is open. The tasting room is real spacious with a large gift shop area but the tasting bar does not have a lowered section for wheelchair users. A handicapped restroom is on the lobby floor.
Cougar Vineyard & Winery is located on the “wine trail” on top of a hill and has two handicapped parking spots. The tasting bar inside was real long to accommodate more people and although it did not have a designated lowed spot for a wheelchair user, the counter was at a manageable height. Saturday and Sunday live music is performed from 2-5pm and a small deli is there if you need a bite to eat. An accessible restroom is available.
Leoness Cellars is located on the “wine trail” on top of a hill featuring Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, White Merlot, Muscat Canelli, and Cinsault Port wines to taste. Handicapped parking and restrooms were available. Friday thru Sunday food service is optional on the outdoor shaded patio for lunch or dinner. When the weather is really warm misters are turned on to cool guests and in the colder months heaters are used. I did not venture into this tasting room so whether or not there is a lowered bar section is unknown.
Lumiere Winery is located on the small side road of Calle Contento on top of a hill. After parking in one of two handicapped spots, I was immediately greeted by the owner and winemaker. Inside the tasting room was simple and modern and was warmly greeted by the pourer who is the mother of the winemaker and part owner. She knew everything about the wine and the story behind it all. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this winery had a lowered counter at the tasting bar. It needed to be setup but it’s there. Since Lumiere Winery is small and family operated at every aspect, the winery is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you are visiting on the weekend I highly encourage you visit this one. In every bottle, you can taste the extra love and care that is put into creating their varietals. One of my favorites was a white Merlot. I was told that if I bought a bunch of wine that the tasting fee could be waived but I only bought one bottle. A wheelchair accessible restroom is also available.
Masia de Yabar is located on the “wine trail” on top of a hill and features bold Spanish wines, like Malbec. The owner is from Argentina and brought traditional winegrowing techniques from his country. An outdoor patio area is partly shaded where you can sit and enjoy the view. Almost directly in front of the tasting room is a handicapped parking spot. Inside there is a wheelchair accessible restroom. No lowered counter at the tasting bar is available for wheelchair users and no tasting fee is waived with purchase of wine.
Miramonte Winery is one of the first wineries off Ranch California Road located on top of a hill and has a couple of handicapped parking spots. A long paved ramp takes you up to the actual winery where you can taste one of the many Rhone varietals. The large, shaded patio is filled with tables and chairs with the tasting bar at the front and center of it all. At this winery, you receive tickets for tastings, so you sit wherever you please and then go up to the bar when you wish to do a taste and bring your glass back to your table. If you are hungry, Miramonte Winery offers a few hors d’oeuvres platters. What sets this winery a part from the rest is the live music that’s performed every Friday and Saturday from 7-10, unless there is a wedding going on. Beer is also served during this event. Handicapped restrooms are around the corner from the patio area.
Mount Palomar Winery is one of the first wineries of this wine region and is located on top of a hill off Rancho California Road. After parking in a handicapped spot there is a slight hill down to the tasting room, so some muscles or power wheelchair are needed for the trip back to the car. Before reaching the tasting room, you will pass a small café that serves Mediterranean inspired food on a shaded patio but inside seating is also an option. Across from the café were accessible restrooms. The door to this tasting room was noticeably heavy. Inside you pay the cashier first for the tasting and then head to the bar. This tasting bar did not have lowered counter space for a wheelchair user.
Oak Mountain Winery is located on the “wine trail” on top of a hill specializing in classic Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wheelchair accessible parking and restrooms are available. A large terrace patio offers shad to guests who want to enjoy a glass outside overlooking the wine country. Inside the tasting room was on the smaller side but still plenty of space for any wheelchair. Technically, there is a lowered counter at the tasting bar but it was covered by a large wine margarita machine making the area impossible to use as designed. Oak Mountain Winery also sells different avocado oils and balsamic and everything is available to taste. The gal who was conducting the tasting chose to waive the tasting fee with a purchase of two bottles but this could change depending on the mood of who’s pouring the wine.
Pont Family Estate Winery is located in the center of the Temecula Wine Country off Rancho California Road and is not on a hill. The parking lot is paved with a few handicapped parking spots and a wheelchair accessible restroom is located just outside of the tasting room. The tasting room is quite large due to an impressive gift shop. The tasting bar did not have a lowered section for wheelchair users. Also associate with this winery is a fine dining, award-winning restaurant. Since this winery is located in a high-traffic area, many people were tasting which created a lively ambiance but then also did not receive stellar service.
Old Town Temecula
Old Town Temecula is on the other side of the freeway from the wine country and is a very charming area that most visitors spend at least a few hours exploring. The town itself has been around since 1882 when the railroads first appeared in California. It has kept its old-timey feel but is has remained sprawling with business, tourists and entertainers. Old Town Front Street is the most crowed but Old Town Temecula expands for a few blocks. Within these boundaries are countless places to eat and shop. A huge variety of cuisine exists here, so finding something you will enjoy is not the challenge, it’s finally making a decision. One of the best places I tried was called the Public House, which features carefully crafted organic entrées that are just to die for. On the weekends waiting for a table can easily be an hour, so prepare in advance if needed. One of the biggest draws to Old Town Temecula is the live music scene. On the weekends almost every restaurant has some kind of musical performer with amplified sound to attract your attention. At some places, the music is so loud that you don’t even need to go inside, you can enjoy the tunes from the sidewalk. In addition to eating a shopping, Old Town Temecula has a few museums, art galleries, spas and a community theater. There’s even a great farmers market every Saturday from 7:30am to 12:30pm.
Unfortunately there is no public transportation that is wheelchair friendly so this means you should rely on your own vehicle. If your wheelchair is able to break a part easily or fold up then you have the option of taking a regular taxi but currently there are none with a lift. Using a taxi to go wine tasting can get costly real fast as a trip to one winery would run around $20. If you are still interested in getting a taxi here are two to consider. One is Blue Crown City Cab at 951.973.6011 and the other is Red Top City Cab Company at 951.694.3333.