Does the idea of spending the weekend at a luxurious high-end winery sound appealing? Throw in upscale lodging with views of a vineyard framed by large mountains, and it gets even more interesting. Add on exceptional fine dining, and now you really grab attention. All this can be found just a couple of hours south at Ponte Vineyard Inn in Temecula.
Most people pass through Temecula on their way to the San Diego area and barely notice the dramatic views surrounding this fast-growing community. The best panoramas are found in the wine country just east of town in the foothills heading up toward Lake Skinner. As I looked across the vineyards toward the San Jacinto Mountains, it was reminiscent of Mendoza, Argentina, home to the world’s best Malbec wine. The Salta region of Argentina also came to mind.
This part of Temecula along Rancho California Road is Winery Row, with all the area’s famous vineyards occupying a five-mile stretch. The facilities at each are first class, with most featuring Tuscan- or Spanish-inspired architecture that blends perfectly into the surroundings. They all look as though they were recently built and at great expense.
Ponte Vineyard Inn
The crown jewel of the Temecula vineyard region is the Mission-inspired Ponte Vineyard Inn, set on the 300-acre Ponte Winery. The lobby area reminded me of San Diego’s Grand Del Mar, with rich hardwood floors and furnishings throughout. The check-in experience was quick, easy, and made even more pleasant by the glass of Ponte Sparkling Rosé that I was served. After my long journey, the taste was so refreshing that I requested an encore.
The common areas leading up to the rooms are very large and decorated the way you would expect a grand villa to be, with paintings of vineyard scenes gracing the walls. The rooms are also oversized, and most have large balconies looking out to the vineyard and nearby mountain ranges. The rooms feature the finest in down bed linens to ensure a very relaxing night’s rest. Bathrooms are also very large, and the room electronics area state of the art. Room balconies look out over the vineyard to the peaceful mountain vistas nearby. It is no wonder that Ponte Vineyard Inn was recently picked as one of the top 10 vineyard resorts in the world by American Express Departures magazine. For compete details, visit PonteVineyardInn.com.
The food is equal to the wine here at Ponte, and that makes it very good. Bouquet is the signature restaurant, set adjacent to the lobby and flowing outdoors, overlooking the lush landscaping and waterscapes that make this property so popular for weddings. Chef de Cuisine Riccardo Cuccaro has created an inspired menu including New Zealand lamb, filet mignon, and sapphire salmon. Bouquet is open breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Cellar, located in the basement, is the only full-service bar on a winery in Temecula and is very popular with locals. The food is also very good, and they have live music most nights. The noise stays here due to the secluded location and quality of construction, emulated throughout this property. Room service comes from The Cellar kitchen and very quickly, too. The Restaurant at Ponte is right next door at the winery and perfect for outdoor dining in the afternoon or evening.
Ponte Vineyard is a truly boutique winery and the only place to purchase its great wine. There is a large tasting room for sampling, and they have a very popular Wine Club with great offers on wine and hotel rooms.
The Temecula/Murrieta area is home to several great golf courses, including Redhawk and the Golf Club of Rancho California. Redhawk is a very challenging layout designed by Ron Fream and set on the south side of town. Many golfers will be frightened by the overly undulating putting green upon arrival, but the course is much more fairly designed. Redhawk features two very different nines, with the back more hilly and challenging. The Golf Club of Rancho California, formerly the SCGA Members Course, was designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr., whose work also includes Spyglass Hill. This course follows a gently rolling terrain with many water hazards to cross and deep greenside bunkers to avoid.