With dozens of wineries taking root in Temecula, the region continues to crop up as a haute haunt for oenophiles. Here, two destinations at which to sip and savor now.
Sunbathe among the vineyards at Bottaia’s new pool, where the bianco sangria is the sipper of choice.
Whenever I’ve thought of kicking back poolside with a cocktail in hand—in this case, it’s bianco sangria featuring Bottaia Cartuccia white wine, mixed berries, blood orange puree and San Pellegrino blood orange sparkling water—I’ve never pictured doing so with breathtaking views of vineyards just beyond the sundrenched chaise lounges that dot Bottaia Winery’s new body of water. Located on Rancho California Road in Temecula, Bottaia is one of dozens of wineries tempting nectar lovers to satiate their palates outside of the well-known jewels of Napa and Sonoma County, and to put it lightly, the region is booming with varietals that swiftly rival their Northern California counterparts. The venture is the brainchild of the Ponte family, led by managing partner Claudio Ponte, whose adjacent 90-room boutique hotel, Ponte Vineyard Inn, boasts a Triple-A Four-Diamond rating and serves as the sister property at which to stay when visiting Bottaia. The inn also includes Ponte Winery, the family’s first entrance into the world of winemaking. “After farming the historic Brookside ranch in Temecula since 1985, and replanting the most suitable blocks to Italian varietals, my family and I developed a vision to produce these unique wines and introduce them to a discerning clientele,” says Ponte. “We have operated our namesake winery in Temecula for 15 years and researched the best Italian varieties for our soils and enology techniques for these wines. Then, armed with the knowledge, the grapes and well-aged wines, we built a very special and different winery: Bottaia. The word ‘bottaia’ means ‘cask-aging room’ in Italian. We chose this name [because] it matches our winemaking philosophy.”
Reservations are encouraged when visiting Bottaia Winery’s stunning terrace.
The best way to experience the offerings that abound at the partner properties is to book an overnight stay at the inn to break up your Bottaia experience into two days. Start by reserving a cabine at the pool ($100 per day with the inclusion of two chaise lounges) to soak in some “vino and vitamin D,” quips marketing manager Chelsey Beckley. Fuel up for the day ahead with bites from the poolside cafe—the ahi tuna wrap, Italian muffuletta panini and portobello fries are current bestsellers—and whet your whistle with a Casamigos silver tequila-spiked Riviera (with grapefruit and lime juices, agave syrup and a Grand Marnier float) or the fruit-heavy Paola (with Grey Goose pear vodka, lemon juice, agave nectar, strawberries and San Pellegrino lemon and blood orange sparkling waters). “For me, the pool and cabines are a nostalgic reminder of happy summers spent on the beaches of Grado and Lignano, a few miles south of Udine, Italy, where our family is from, with my aunts and cousins,” notes Ponte.
Ponte Vineyard Inn impresses from the moment you pull up to its elegant entryway.
Refresh in your cabine, which comes stocked with bath amenities, then head to the main building for one of three grape-focused experiences—tastings in the Barrel Room ($25 per person), a two-hour guided charcuterie and wine pairing ($55 per person), or an intimate opportunity to blend and bottle your own red wine to take home ($100 per person). My boyfriend and I choose the latter and head to the blending lab. “We wanted to offer an interesting, behind-the-scenes immersive experience for our guests as part of our core programming,” says Ponte of the class. “Other local wineries offer wine-blending events, but no other winery offers this as part of [its] core daily offerings. Each guest gets to taste four base wines, mix three separate blends and then bottle, cork, capsule and take home their creation that same day—all the while becoming a winemaker in our professional lab.” (We’re told to let our bottles age for two to eight years, making the experience ideal for special occasions.) We round out the afternoon with more vino on Bottaia’s picturesque terrace, where reservations are encouraged.
The grounds at Ponte are ideal for strolling with vino in hand—many weddings and celebrations take place on-site.
At the day’s end, we retire to our beautifully appointed quarters at Ponte Vineyard Inn. We dine at the on-site Restaurant at Ponte—the pan-seared diver scallops accompanied by cauliflower couscous, red bell pepper, garlic, snow peas, lemon and herbs, and sweet pea goat cheese puree are a highlight—before capping off a picture-perfect evening at the underground Cellar Lounge. It’s the only full-service cocktail bar open late in Temecula wine country, and it’s easy to forget you’re only an hour or so south of Orange County as you clink glasses to the soundtrack of a live guitarist. “Ponte is such a special place,” says Beckley. “We are front-porch friendly with an emphasis on exceptional service and great quality.” Now that’s something to toast to. Bottaia Winery, 951.365.3388; Ponte Vineyard Inn, 951.587.6688, guest rooms $365-$405 per night, suites $435-$775 per night
Bottaia Winery’s poolside cafe
Photography by: pool photo by christina sanchez photography | all others courtesy of bay bird inc./ponte vineyard inn/bottaia winery