There are many great ways to discover and enjoy Temecula’s Wine Country. Most of us simply get in our own car, select a few wineries, and get to tasting our area’s amazing wines. Easy and basic. Others prefer the designated driver route – that’s always the safe way to go. Take it a step further and rent a limo, or if you have a big group, a limo-bus. But for those on the adventurous side – those of you who enjoy the warm sunshine, the ocean breeze, and a little off-roading to compliment your wine tasting, then check out Temecula Valley Jeep & Wine Tours. You’ll see the wine country in a fun and unique fashion.
Owner, operator, and tour guide extraordinaire Julie Gilles invited the Taste of Temecula gang to experience first-hand what her jeep tour of the wine country is all about. We met her in the parking lot at Barons, on the outskirts of Temecula’s wine country (FYI – Julie can pick you up at your hotel as well). I call this little shopping center wine country’s “depot” as it’s the last place to stock up on picnic items, coffee, etc. before heading into the vine-covered hills. The five of us each claimed a seat in Julie’s candy-apple red jeep (it holds 6) and got the quick rundown of what to expect before jetting off to our first destination.
Julie has two types of tours – the “Vine, Dine to Wine” morning tour and the “Vine to Wine” afternoon excursion. The main differences between the two are that you typically can taste at 4 wineries when choosing the morning tour (3 for the later one), and lunch is included with earlier tour. But each includes winery tasting fees, exploring vineyards and citrus groves, a safe off-road adventure, and a complimentary wine glass with Temecula Valley Jeep & Wine Tours’ insignia. Pretty cool.
Seeing that Julie had a jeep-full of wine industry “experts,” she decided to only tackle two wineries for the day. She selected a couple of good ones – Stuart Cellars and Robert Renzoni. Julie decides which wineries she’ll venture to, depending on your wine palate and what you want to get out of the day. She also typically avoids the busier, more “party like” wineries on the weekends – especially Saturdays – unless everyone on the jeep is in agreement on visiting such places. Think more intimate, informational, and less stressful. Which is what wine tasting should be, right?
Once we arrived at our first winery – Stuart Cellars – Julie readied our glasses on the tasting bar and added her own little touch – a bag of oyster crackers and a Hershey’s kiss for each guest. This was a really cool “attention to detail” perk as not all wineries offer crackers to cleanse one’s palate or chocolate to pair with the ports. Good move. Julie also likes to be available to her guests in case they have questions about the wine, the tour, or Temecula in general. She doesn’t get in your way, but she doesn’t drop you off and disappear either. Again, very good customer service.
After completing our tasting at Stuart Cellars, Julie took us on a mini tour in her jeep behind the winery and along its estate vineyard – rows and rows of red, gorgeous grapes drooping on the vines, waiting to be harvested. We slowly made our way around the vines while Julie gave us a brief but informative history of wine growing in Temecula, grapes, vines, and wine making in general. You can’t drive this path via your car or limo and it’s off limits to the general public. Just another advantage of Julie’s jeep tour.
We cruised back onto rancho California and headed toward our next stop – Robert Renzoni Vineyards. Julie had already picked up our sandwich lunch order from Spuntino (located in the Barons shopping “depot”) and took us to a secluded, not often used picnic area right above Renzoni’s tasting room. Lunch outside in the warm wine country breeze, over-looking the rolling hills off of the De Portola Wine Trail? Uh, yes please! It was the perfect spot to re-charge before dashing off to our next adventure – 4×4 off-roading!
We took Ave Bravura off of De Portola Road and climbed up the hill until the pavement ended and a steep, narrow dirt road appeared. Time to put the jeep into four-wheel drive! After about a 5-minute bumpy – but fun & safe – journey, we leveled off at a plateau (2300 feet above sea level) that over-looks the entire Temecula wine country. We arrived to the unmistakable sounds of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra (aka the theme to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) blasting from the jeep’s speakers. Awesome! All of us jumped out of our seats and took in the breathtaking view – the vineyards, wineries, houses, local mountains, and Lake Skinner were all right before our eyes. Everyone took out their cameras and clicked away. This, my friends, is why you’re going to book this jeep tour – to be able to take in this spectacular sight.
So whether you’re a Temecula winery “pro” seeking a different wine tasting experience, a couple booking a romantic weekend, a small bachelorette party seeking a unique and adventurous outing, or a wine tasting newbie who would rather let an expert take the reigns (and the steering wheel), let Temecula Valley Jeep & Wine Tours be the perfect vehicle for your wine tasting excursion.
Call Julie Gilles at 877-891-TOUR (8687) to book your tour or visit them at http://www.temeculajeeptours.com