Wine Country Inn

Getting an early start in Temecula Valley

By: Anne Burke

The sound of an early-bird golfer whacking a ball came through the screen door of my third-floor room at Temecula Creek Inn. It was barely 6 a.m., but Temecula Valley Southern California’s upstart wine region gets an early start. My balcony afforded sweeping views of the area’s top attractions. Along with the golf course, I could see a hot-air balloon soaring over grape fields as the sun crept over the San Jacinto Mountains.

I dove back in bed and contemplated my agenda for the upcoming two days: a marathon tasting at the valley’s top wineries, break-of-dawn balloon ride, a stroll through fun and funky Old Town Temecula, sampling locally produced olive oils and a visit to a mom-and-pop lavender farm.

The Temecula Creek Inn was my base camp for this exploration of the valley. Located five minutes from Old Town and about 20 minutes from the tasting rooms, this property offering 130 guestrooms and 10 junior suites evokes a country lodge, with warm colors, gabled restaurant roof and pine furniture. The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians who settled this area 10,000 years ago now run a casino three miles south, and the inn honors the Native American heritage through arrowheads, beadwork and weavings displayed throughout the property.

This inn typically fills up on weekends with golf warriors and wine tasters and during the week with conference attendees taking advantage of the property’s 9,000 square feet of meeting space.

In particular conference planners should be aware of two spaces they’ll be unlikely to find elsewhere. The Player’s Plaza, set alongside a scenic pond and waterfall and decorated with tiki lights, offers a delightful setting for cocktail parties and receptions. The circa-1825 quarry-men’s bunkhouse, dubbed the Stone House, has been reinvented as a dining room for wedding parties and other groups. Diners will be wonder-struck when they step inside this historic structure, which maintains the look and feel of a much earlier time. Rusted, overturned buckets shade hanging lightbulbs and luminary candles flicker on the stone mantelpiece.

The inn is perhaps best known for its 27-hole golf course, which hosts U.S. Open qualifiers and is the recipient of a four-star rating from Golf Digest’s “Places to Play.” But for those who don’t know a putter from a croquet mallet, the inn’s greatest appeal may lie in the personal attention and warmth of its staff, some of whom have been on the payroll since James Colachis purchased this 300-acre property a quarter-century ago for his JC Resorts, anchored by the flagship Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego.

Along with old-fashioned hospitality, clients will get their share of scenery. The inn’s assistant golf superintendent, Bill Huss, escorted me on a tour of the inn’s sprawling grounds, which are nestled against rock-studded mountains. Also a knowledgeable historian, Huss showed me the route of the old Butterfield Stagecoach, which rumbled through here in the mid 1800s.

The inn inhabits its own, secluded corner off Interstate 15, so guests won’t be inclined to venture out for dinner. There’s no need to anyway. The Temet Grill is a spectacular dining venue. Chandeliers hang dramatically from a beamed ceiling, and a wall of windows affords a romantic view of the golf course and mountains. During my stay, I dined on executive chef Salvatore Giuliano’s crusted filet mignon and seared sea bass bathed in a demi-glace made with a red wine from the local Falkner Winery.

For clients seeking relaxation, options include a swim in the small, heated outdoor pool, a soak in the hydra spa or an in-room massage.

The Details

Temecula Creek Inn
90 miles southeast of Los Angeles on Interstate 15

Commission: 10 percent

Listen Up, Ladies: Starting in June, the Temecula Creek Inn is offering a “Sip in Southern California Girlfriends Getaway.” The gals-only package costs $298, and includes one night’s lodging, wine tasting for two at three wineries, an olive-oil tasting at Temecula Olive Oil Company and an olive-oil themed trio of gifts.

Hits: Golf-course views on all rooms; Stone House dining room; two, huge ballrooms for conference needs.

Misses: Scratchy bath towels and Central California wines on the wine-tasting menu

Out and About:
A Grape Escape Hot Air Balloon Adventure

Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle

Rusty Acres Herb Farm

Temecula Olive Oil Company

Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association