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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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