Radiation Writing
Temecula Sunset

Untraditionally Temecula

Gorgeous, California mission-inspired architecture. Romantic bed and breakfasts with vineyard views. Party buses filled with tiara’ed brides and their entourages wielding plastic penises and wine glasses.

This is Temecula, San Diego’s wine country.

At least, that’s the picture most visitors have. It’s certainly the one I had before last weekend. I was helping a good friend out (a bride, as it happens; she left her tiara at home) by helping her plan some of the logistics for her wedding there. She’s a savvy event planner with a classic sort of style, so Temecula seems a good setting for the vows she’ll be taking. And I love wine.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to tasting Temecula – for both potential menu items and new vintages.

Wines Vs. Vines

The wedding will take place at Don Fernando’s Vineyards, which I confused with a winery because I had never really thought about the difference.

I had been to Temecula once before. I stayed at one of the larger hotel chains and visited wineries such as industrial Callaway, popular Wilson Creek, and even the small, lesser-known, reservations-only Briar Rose. And the beginning of this trip wasn’t much different.

But I had never visited “just” a vineyard.

The bride, her fiancé, and their third wheel (AKA yours truly) set out on a culinary adventure, beginning with the farmer’s market, where Fernie and Steve have a succulent-selling booth. Apparently, there are more than just vines growing at Don Fernando’s.

Okay, so it’s not “just” a vineyard. It’s also a nursery. But visions of picturesque, vine-covered pergolas and Tuscan tasting rooms were still dancing in my head.

Temecula Up Close

Temecula Flowers

Flowers at Don Fernando’s Vineyard

Don Fernando’s is owned by the family of the groom – my friend’s future hubby. His cousins, Fernie and Steve, live there and seem to do a lot of the work. They were nice enough to put me up for a night, too. I knew I wasn’t going to be staying in a California mission-inspired bed and breakfast, but I pictured one on the property. Because, like I said, vineyard = winery, right?

Wrong.

All those pretty stone-paved walkways, grass-covered lawns, and 20-foot water fountains are for the tourists. If you don’t have tastings, event spaces, or vacationers (and don’t bottle your own vintages quite yet), you don’t have any of that stuff.

Instead, you have youngish vines with wires to help them grow big and strong. You have airplane hangar-style greenhouses for your succulent business. And you live in a mobile home that’s aged to perfection and full of complexity and flavor all on its own.

You have golf carts that kick up dust from the dirt road at the slightest turn of the tire. You have Noname (pronounced no-NAW-may) the cat mewling for her dinner and tangling up your feet when you walk. You have an abundance of wrought-iron patio furniture, a random stainless steel “BAR” sign obtained from a garage sale, and a live pine sporting red, green, and silver ornaments from last December. You have fresh-squeeze orange juice from the neighbor’s trees and oatmeal with almonds and fresh strawberries because it’s good for Fernie’s heart. You have new friendships, formed over a bottle of Crane Lake with a little bit of ice in it because it’s too sweet. You have Fernie and Steve’s place, a home full of love and joy and peace.

Temecula Dreamin’

This weekend I got to see a different side of Temecula – a side most people skip, either because they’re here for manicured grounds, gourmet food, and pampering, or because it simply never occurred to them that such a side existed.

Will I still want to check out more tasting rooms and revisit my favorite gourmet restaurants next time I’m in Temecula? Hell yes. But what I’ll dream about until then are cool evenings after bright, blood-boiling sunsets and conversations on comfy couches in a mobile home living room.

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About the Author Kathryn

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