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Saturday, 20 July 2013 15:45

Base Your So Cal Vacation in San Diego

Downton SD View from Harbor Island PicmonkeyDownton San Diego viewed from Harbor Island. Photo by Joanne DiBona SanDiego.org

Nearly perfect weather, palm-lined beaches and a friendly, easy-going vibe make San Diego the quintessential Southern California (SoCal) experience. California’s second largest city also offers vacationers the ideal home base for exploring the entire SoCal region with easy access to nearby Anaheim, Los Angeles, Temecula Valley and neighboring Mexico.With direct flights from nearly 50 major U.S. and Canadian cities and a manageable, centrally located airport in the heart of downtown, arriving in San Diego is quick and hassle-free. Visitors can check-in and begin their vacation shortly after landing with dozens of hotels, ranging from family friendly to boutique and luxurious, located just a 10-minute drive from the airport in downtown and neighboring communities like picturesque Harbor Island, Shelter Island and Old Town San Diego.Downtown San Diego and popular neighborhoods are walkable, casual and friendly. The city’s urban core is surrounded by picturesque San Diego Bay and a vast outdoor playground, defined by 70 miles of stunning Pacific coastline. With easy-to-navigate public transportation, uncomplicated freeways and Amtrak servicing northern neighbors, Anaheim and Los Angeles, visitors can base their vacation in San Diego and venture effortlessly to other popular SoCal destinations. San Diego makes for the perfect SoCal vacation with the following suggested day trips.

Sea World San Diego PicmonkeyDolphins are fun at Sea World San Diego.

Attraction ActionSouthern California is recognized for its popular family attractions, and San Diego is home to several, including SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND California Resort, the world-famous San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Fortunately for families, the original Disneyland in Anaheim and Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles are just a quick hop up the road from San Diego and are part of the money-saving Southern California CityPASS. 

Getting there: Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner runs from downtown San Diego’s historic Santa Fe Depot to Anaheim with a station located at the Disneyland Resort; the travel time is just over 2 hours station to station. The drive from San Diego to Disneyland is an easy 90-minute cruise up Interstate 5, making it a cinch to get there and back in one day. Los Angeles is a longer drive north and a further stop on Amtrak which would most likely require an overnight stay while visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.

Money savings tip: Guests can package their trip to popular SoCal attractions and save money with the Southern California CityPASS. Valid for 14 days, this single admission card allows guests three days of access to Disneyland

Hollywood Boulevard Sign PicmonkeyIt's just a couple of hours north of San Diego.

Hooray for HollywoodFrom audience favorites Anchorman and Top Gun to film classics Some Like It Hot and Citizen Kane, many San Diego locations have played important roles in film history. Film buffs traveling to San Diego can walk in the footsteps of Will Ferrell, Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe and the master filmmaker Orson Welles before heading north to Los Angeles, the film capital of the world. 

Getting there: Just over a two-hour drive from downtown San Diego, Hollywood offers movie fans Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the chance to see one of their favorite film or TV actors in person. For visitors who don’t want to maneuver through Los Angeles’ expansive, and oftentimes complicated, freeway system, they can also take an Amtrak train to downtown Los Angeles and get around on the city’s rapid transit rail system; its most popular line connects downtown L.A. with Hollywood. A visit to Hollywood is a must-do for many SoCal visitors and can be an easy overnight stay from San Diego.

Keeping it local: San Diego visitors can get a feel for Hollywood at a variety of local settings. Kansas City Barbecue in downtown San Diego served as the backdrop for some of Top Gun’s popular bar scenes, and fans of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy know the importance of the “Panda Watch,” so a visit to the San Diego Zoo with the endangered pandas on display is a must-do for many visitors. The iconic Hotel del Coronado, set along the beautiful Pacific, was the backdrop for the 1959 comedy classic Some Like it Hot, featuring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

Wine Country, Social StyleKohill Winery tasting room PicmonkeyEast County wineries like Kohill are friendly.San Diego’s East County is a burgeoning wine region with new wines being harvested in the rural communities of Ramona and Warner Springs. Pair these offerings with a trip to the award-winning wineries of the Temecula Valley Wine Country, located just 45 minutes north of downtown San Diego, and wine aficionados can enjoy the romance of a wine vacation without leaving southern California.  

Touring the wineries: Numerous wineries located in San Diego and Temecula offer a wide variety of experiences. Some stand atop hills and provide sweeping views of the Temecula Valley, while others are set off secluded, winding dirt roads; almost all offer wine tastings and tours daily. Many San Diego tour companies offer round-trip wine tasting excursions to Temecula’s wineries, and Destination Temecula offers a variety of tours departing from several San Diego area hotels. Tours include deluxe transportation to and from wineries, with informative narration by knowledgeable guides along the way.

Beyond the region:  California’s award-winning wines reap international recognition, and San Diego is the perfect starting point for a California wine vacation. Guests can begin their journey in San Diego and Temecula Valley and sip their way through popular wineries in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo before ending up in the vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma County in northern California

Two-Nation Vacation

San Diego’s unique location along the U.S.-Mexican border provides the perfect home base for visitors to enjoy the best of both San Diego and Tijuana, a city that has experienced remarkable growth in its culinary and cultural offerings in recent years. With an incredible Mexican heritage and influence stateside complemented by exciting dining and arts south of the border, San Diego and Tijuana enjoy a close bond that make for a unique two-nation vacation.

Getting there: The Mexican border is located only 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of downtown San Diego, making a day trip to Tijuana quick, easy and convenient. Guests can drive to the border and park at one of many lots located on the U.S. side before walking into Mexico, and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System also transports guests from downtown to the border on a light rail trolley that runs daily. Avenue Revolucion, Tijuana’s main tourist center full of restaurants, shops and street vendors, is located only a short walk or taxi drive from the border.

Best of Baja: The easiest and most enjoyable way to experience Tijuana is on a day-trip tour. San Diego Scenic Tours offers full- and half-day tours that explore the top sights of Tijuana, departing directly from many San Diego hotels. For a taste of how the locals enjoy Tijuana, Turista Libre offers tours exploring some of Tijuana’s hidden gems, including a disco roller rink and water park, that meet and depart from the border.

 

Editor's Note: TravMedia.com provided TASTE News Service with information for this article. For more information, visit www.sandiego.org or Taste California Travel's Resource Directory where you'll find links to to the websites hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in San Diego County, as well as links to area wineries and beer-centric establishments. 

Both horse owners and riders-to-be are making the Temecula Valley a popular destination these days. Kimberly Adams, president and CEO of the Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, has suggested 10 ways to enjoy the region in equestrian fashion. Horse in Corral next to Temecula Vnyd PicmonkeyOld Temecula and new in side by side scene.

“Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is horse-friendly with guided rides, picturesque trails, equestrian events (dressage, show jumping, polo), and popular dining, dancing, and accommodations,” she says. Horse-friendly stays are ideal for midweek visits when trails are less crowded, Adams advises and rates for lodging are often less than those on the weekends.

Home to more than 1500 acres of winegrape vineyards and 35 wineries, Temecula is a popular destination for visitors from the population centers of San Diego and Orange County that are an hour away. The city of Los Angeles is not much further, being just an hour-and-a-half distant.

From the 1800s until the 1960s, Temecula Valley was predominantly grazing land for cattle. The Vail Ranch spanned more than 87,500 acres and Temecula’s Old West lifestyle flourished. When the Vails sold their ranch, the valley transitioned to a pastoral, master planned community that would incorporate equestrian ranches and agriculture including wine grapes. Today the valley is widely recognized as Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country and for its vineyards and wineries producing quality wines. The valley is also noted for its equestrian ranches, equestrian center, and equestrian trails.

Ideas for a horse-friendly stay

1-Gaits In the Grapes Guided Trail Rides

Equestrian trail guides Gaits In the Grapes (GIG) provides the opportunity for visiting horse owners to ride some of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country’s beautiful, private vineyards as well as the larger Wine Country trails network. Less-busy weekdays are optimum for these rides. GIG strives to ensure safe, quality time “in and out of the saddle.” Guides attend to owners’ horses while visitors enjoy winery tours, wine tasting and restaurant dining or enjoying a picnic with vineyard views. GIG is also a resource for overnight, horse boarding suggestions.

2-Saddle Up Wine Tours on Horseback

Saddle Up Wine Tours provides gentle horses and guides for rides like the Historical Wine Tour. Guests ride alongside vineyards, ranches, and wineries along the De Portola Wine Trail. En route to wine tastings, riders learn of historical wine country anecdotes. Wine-tasting destinations include wineries such as Oak Mountain with wine tasting in the mountaintop veranda with valley views; Keyways Vineyard & Winery, one of Temecula Valley’s original wine estates with Early California ambiance; and Robert Renzoni Vineyards, recognized for its production of premium, Italian varietals. Saddle Up also offers basic, 1-hour-or-more, trail rides daily with horses provided.

3-Horse Drawn Carriage Rides through The Vineyards

Temecula Carriage Company provides wine tasting tours. In a horse-drawn carriage drawn, passengers travel leisurely along a scenic route through the vineyards. Along the way wineries are visited such as Leoness Cellars, Wilson Creek Winery, Lorimar Vineyards & Winery, and Ponte Family Estate, to taste award-winning wines. Guests also enjoy a gourmet, wine country picnic.

4-Equestrian Trails at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

Once part of the vast Vail cattle ranch, the 8,300-acre Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve offers visiting horse owners nearly seven miles of multi-use trails in the Sylvan Meadows area. Open sunrise to sunset and popular with local equestrians, trails include Sylvan Meadows, Cajalco Trail, Tovashol Trail, Shivela Trail, and Stevenson Canyon. The terrain is open, rolling hills with some oak woodlands and areas of chaparral. Riders-in-the-know get picnic fare to-go in advance (Campini’s just south of Downtown Old Town Temecula; E.A.T. Marketplace in Uptown Temecula), and enjoy dining al fresco under the oaks at the Sylvan Meadows picnic tables.

5-Equestrian Events at Galway Downs Equestrian Center

The 240-acre Galway Downs Equestrian Center is the site of shows like International Horse Trials where attendees enjoy gourmet food and drink, music, and the excitement of as many as 100 riders on horses galloping over imposing cross-country jumps. Throughout the year Galway Downs hosts eventing (“equestrian triathlons” that include dressage, cross-country, and show jumping). Galway Downs is also home to the new Temecula Valley Polo Club showcasing local and internationally renowned players. Companion to polo matches are exclusive charity events where attendees witness the grace of polo at catered luncheons.

6-Steakhouse Dining in Old Town Temecula and Uptown Temecula

In Old Town Temecula, the atmosphere and prime-beef fare at The Gambling Cowboy and Texas Lil’s Mesquite Grill recall Old West glory days when hitching posts lined Old Town streets and cattlemen, ranchers, and cowboys walked the boardwalks. The Gambling Cowboy features an elegant, late-19th century setting, and classic, fine steak and seafood. Texas Lil’s is Temecula Valley’s original ranch-style steakhouse with a menu that includes Angus choice rib eye steaks.

North of Old Town in Uptown Temecula within Temecula Hotel Row is innovative Vail Ranch Steakhouse. With the specialty of dry-aged prime steaks, an on-site dry-age process enhances steaks’ tenderness, moisture, and flavor. The dry aged Angus beef includes New York strip and rib eye.

7-Get Country Western at Temecula Stampede

Adjacent the southern Old Town Temecula gateway arch is the expansive country-western music venue and dance hall, the Temecula Stampede. The music, lyrics, two-step, line dancing, and bull riding make this a popular outpost for equestrian enthusiasts who love to dance.

8-Horseback Trail Rides and Wine Trail Rides at Vail Lake

Vail Lake was the eastern boundary of Temecula Valley’s historic Vail Cattle Ranch; which extended to the west as far as the Santa Rosa Plateau. Guided horseback trail rides are offered on-site at the 9,000 acre property, some of which combine scenic lake-view riding and a canyon ride to one of the De Portola Wine Trail’s wineries. Included are wine tasting, wine country meal, and entertainment.

9-Temecula Equestrians in the 4th of July Parade in Old Town Temecula

With untouched chaparral-covered hills as backdrop to the west, and the Mission-revival style Temecula Civic Center to the east, the Star-Spangled 4th of July Parade along Old Town Front Street is a festive, annual tradition. Among the parade’s most popular entries are the patriotic equestrian riders and horses accessorized in red-white-and-blue.

10-Supplies for Visiting Horse Owners in Temecula

Because Temecula Valley is a burgeoning equestrian area, the valley is also horse-friendly for visiting horse owners to find supplies. Dan’s Feed & Seed, just south of Old Town Temecula, carries horse feed, tack, and other supplies as well as western wear. Nearby Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country and Valle de Los Caballos is Big Horse Feed & Mercantile with a variety of feed, tack, and equestrian-friendly apparel.

Editor's note: More information about things to do in the Temecula Valley can be found at www.VisitTemecula.org . Links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options can be found in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.    

Thursday, 31 January 2013 18:33

South Coast Winery Hits 1800 Medal Mark

With the addition of recent results from the Winemakers Challenge and San Francisco Wine Competition, South Coast Winery has now earned a total of 1,800 medals in both domestic and international wine competitions.

Jim Carter and South Coast winemakers PicmonkeyJim Carter introduces diners to South Coast winemakers Jon McPherson (left) and Javier Flores (right).

Jim Carter’s South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is located in Southern California Temecula Valley Wine Country. The operation has planted vineyards and grown to an annual production of 65,000 cases in just 10 years. The winery has won awards for 40 different varietals.

According to Peggy Evans, Executive Director, Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, "The ability to garner that number of awards in such a short span of time acknowledges the passion Jim has for this valley - and this industry as a whole. The dedication of time, energy and funds required to create a world class winery like South Coast demands a determination and a drive to succeed that Jim Carter displays in every way, every day. He has not only put South Coast Winery on the map, but has paved the way for the entire Temecula Valley to be recognized as a player in the California wine world. For that, we owe him a tremendous thank you."

The winery production facility, tasting room and some vineyard land are part of a 39–acre resort. The property provides 76 private villas and 50 specialty suites tucked away in the vineyards for overnight accommodations and has a 15,000 square foot GrapeSeed Spa with specialty vine–based spa treatments. The resort is also home to the Vineyard Rose restaurant, which has received the Wine Enthusiast Award of Excellence for the past three years.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is a two–time title holder of the prestigious Golden State Winery of the Year award conferred by the California State Fair.

To date, South Coast Winery’s 2013 Gold Medalists Include:NV South Coast Winery Gewurztraminer Sparkling2011 South Coast Winery Sauvignon Blanc Musque Clone2011 South Coast Winery Tempranillo Rose2009 Carter Estates PenroseFor complete listing, click here

 

Editor's note: If you're planing a visit to Southern California's up-and-coming Temecula Valley wine country, you may want to check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of all the wineries and even brewpubs in the area.

Region: Inland Empire     City: Winchester     Contact: www.tvbwf.com

Temecula Valley is Southern California wine country. There are vineyards, of course, but the area includes a wider variety of agriculture. This casual, picturesque valley is located 1 hour from Orange County and Palm Desert; 1½ hours from Los Angeles.

 

Orange Trees Temecula IMG 3775 SMALLOranges, other citrus fruit are important. Photo: Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.The following ten farms and ranches are family-owned, commercial enterprises. With advance notice, every one of them can welcome groups of agribusiness professionals, academics, researchers, and just interested enthusiasts.

 

1. Cunningham Organic Farm

Tour, learn, pick, sample and taste special tree crops in-season at eclectic Cunningham Organic Farm, nestled next to the Cleveland National Forest. Citrus abounds, including 13 different varieties of tangerines, oranges, Meyer lemons and fragrant, Buddha’s Hand citron, plus cocktail grapefruit (a sweet, juicy cross between a pommelo and a mandarin). With Hass, Fuerte, Reed, and Pinkerton avocados, the “alligator pear” is in-season almost continuously throughout the year. There are three different guavas. Also growing on the farm are loquats, bananas, kumquats and cherimoya. In autumn, look for Fuyu persimmons and it's likely you can witness the drying operation. A memorable picnic area hosts hill and mountain views. Currently planted are 60 acres. Groups up to 20 people welcome by advance reservation year-round.

 

2. Crows Pass Farm

In the heart of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is certified-organic Crows Pass Farm. Fresh Baby Red Potatoes IMG 3899 SMALLFresh Baby Red Potatoes at Crows Pass Farm. Photo: Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors BureauSeasonal row crops are the primary focus. These include baby lettuce, greens, escarole, fennel, peas, beans, squash melons, strawberries and fresh herbs and onions . Crows Pass Farm is an excellent destination for learning how a small farm operates and, with its emphasis on a high level of flavor and quality, how it successfully markets itself chef-direct to upscale restaurants all over southern California. Currently planted are 20 acres of a total 40 acres. The remaining 20 acres is completely fallow at present, and is planted in rotation. Groups up to 25 people welcome by advance reservation year-round.

 

3. Moonrise Farm

Saturday mornings at the Old Town Temecula Calfornia-Certified Farmers Market, “certified organic and biodynamic,” are traditions of Moonrise Farm. At the rural estate, all of the seasonal heirloom vegetables have seed sources over 100 years old and no genetic modification (GMO). Heirloom pumpkins are a special feature in autumn. A 20-minute tour yields an amazing bounty of knowledge, including insight into all-natural growing practices. Currently planted are 2½ acres of the 5-acre property. Groups up to 12 people welcome by advance reservation spring, summer, and autumn.

 

4. Liberty Acres

Liberty Acres is a testament to ingenuity, self-reliance and the modern pioneer family lifestyle. Off the grid with solar for electric power and a well for water, a family of four lives on-site at this excellent example of a fully self-sustaining agricultural property. A vineyard of cabernet grapes will soon yield private-label wine. Meanwhile, a fruit orchard (stone fruit, citrus, avocados and pomegranates), row crops, and blueberries and strawberries support Liberty Acres’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. A lavender field is the source for sachets and soaps that are sold. Currently planted are 3 acres. Groups up to 12 people welcome by advance reservation spring, summer, and autumn.

 

5. Morning Song Farm

Morning Song Farm is a certified organic grower of subtropical fruits and nuts. They also farm vegetables, which include heirloom tomatoes, leafy greens, herbs—and even grow edible flowers. A variety of intriguing tours is offered with or without a catered lunch. The Small Farm Livestock tour includes meeting gentle dairy goats, participating in milking, and witnessing cream separation and butter churning. Learn about llama fiber processing – from llama to spinning wheel – and take a turn at spinning. Alternatively, you can gather eggs and learn why Morning Song’s chickens are so special. The Macadamia Nut tour teaches why Macadamia nuts are so expensive and features opportunities to assist in husking, shelling and sorting, and sampling. The Grove and Garden tour is about enjoying seasonal fruit right from the tree – passion fruit, kumquats, guavas, blood oranges, and mandarins; and exploring the vegetable and herb gardens, including sampling what is ready to harvest. Beginning Bee Keeping instructs on how to start your own, backyard “local honey” operation, the necessary tools and equipment, differences between queens and worker bees and the how-to of honey processing. Currently planted are 20 acres. Groups up to 50 people welcome by advance reservation year-round.

 

6. Temecula Berry Company

Handsome, highbush blueberries are the signature crop of Temecula Berry Company. Learn about conventional growing practices for this popular indigo-blue fruit. After the informative tour, linger to pick blueberries (picking buckets are provided). Carefully lift leafy branches to discover clusters of sweet and flavorful berries. Currently planted are 12½ acres. Groups up to 40 people welcome by advance reservation; tours are during harvest only, late-May through first week in July.

 

7. Temecula Olive Oil Company – Olive Ranch

Family owned and operated and committed to using only 100% California olives to make the highest quality 100% extra virgin olive oil, Temecula Olive Oil Company’s ranch is east of Old Town Temecula. Tour and learn of the sustainable agriculture practices involved in the planting, growing, and harvesting of a wide variety of olives to capture the unique qualities and distinctive flavors of each. Learn about the extraction of the oil from the olives, then participate in an olive oil tasting--there is nothing else quite like it! Olive ranch tours are available with or without a grilled lunch. The motto here truly is “May olive your dreams come true.” Currently planted are 26 acres. Groups up to 60 people welcome by advance reservation year-round.

 

8. Leoness Cellars

Leoness Cellars is located along the De Portola Wine Trail of the Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. The family has as over 50 years combined agriculture and grape-growing experience in the Valley. Among a variety of private group tours is Touch the Vine and Taste the Wine, which includes an informative ride through the vineyards. You can sip and savor as you learn about harvest, crush, fermentation, barrel aging, and the Leoness commitment to sustainable farming practices and crafting award-winning wines. Their 20-acre vineyard adjoins the winery. Groups up to 100 people welcome by advance reservation year-round.

 

9. Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery

Garnering a reputation for exceptional quality in Temecula Valley, Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery is committed to small lot, handcrafted wines from varieties that are grown on their own sustainably farmed vineyards. Varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese, Viognier and Syrah. Specializing in full-bodied reds, Palumbo’s offerings include both single variety bottlings as well as a few special blends like the very popular Meritage blend, Tre Fratelli. The tour of the vineyard estate and winery cellar is informative and the wine tasting that follows reflects the Palumbo passion and commitment. Adjoining the winery is the family's 13-acre vineyard. Approximate annual wine production is 2,500 cases. Groups up to 30 people are welcome by advance reservation year-round.

 Temecula Vnyd IMG 3926 SMALLVineyards cover the flats and rolling hills. Photo: Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau

10. Callaway Vineyard & Winery

Callaway Vineyard & Winery’s farming philosophy seeks to sustain the long-term viability of the land. Many nesting boxes and perches are nestled throughout the vineyards, encouraging a stable population of hawks and owls. Cover crops are planted between vineyard rows to provide habitat for beneficial insects. The time-honored Callaway winemaking tradition uses unusually cold temperatures to slow and prolong the fermentation process, allowing the wines to retain their natural fruit flavors and aromas. Private group tours of the demonstration vineyard and winery are available. These may include wine tasting, wine and cheese tasting, wine and dessert tasting, or wine tasting with box lunch or luncheon buffet. Twenty acres of vineyard enjoys the winery, which produces about 25,000 cases each year. Groups up to 100 people welcome by advance reservation year-round.

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to websites of the wineries in the Temecula Valley, as well as links to hundreds of lodging and dining options in Temecula and the rest of the Inland Empire, can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

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