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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
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
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
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