Being with a group of writers from the International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) in my home town for three days was an eye opening experience. It’s not often you get the chance to explore where you live as a visitor. That’s exactly what happened to me. Until this visit, I had never visited the ranch where Temecula Valley Olive Oil Company makes their oils. I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t even visited their gift shop and tasting room in Old Town. It’s the type of thing that sometimes happens when family or friends visit from out of town. You take them places they haven’t seen before and in some cases places you haven’t either.

Our final morning began with breakfast at Journey at Pechanga. This magnificent golf course has won numerous accolades in the short time it has been open, including 4th “Best New Course You Can Play” by Golf magazine as well as a readers’ favorite in the North County Times and Inland Empire Magazine. We visited with Public Relations Manager Robert Bledsoe while we enjoyed breakfast prepared by Chef Tim Nalick. Journey’s End, the clubhouse and restaurant/lounge is an impressive venue. Breakfast was savory and had great visual appeal. I enjoyed Ranch Style Eggs; fried eggs with beans, charred salsa, cilantro and onions perched atop a crisp tortilla. Others enjoyed Crab Benedict and assorted omelettes. Tim came out to chat with us and his passion for cooking is evident.

Tim Nalick

Ranch Style Eggs

Crab Benedict

IFWTWA President Maralyn Hill with Robert Bledsoe

Buzz Olson

From Pechanga our shuttle took us to Old Town Temecula. The weather was picture perfect; bright blue skies, a light breeze and temperatures near 80. Our first stop was at Tesoro Winery where owner Buzz Olson welcomed us with a glass of wine and an Old Town Wine & Dine Walk card and glass good for discounts on wine and food in Old Town. Buzz and wife Kimberly initially planned on opening a bed and breakfast on Rancho California Road in Wine Country. They purchased a property and planted Kimberly Vineyards, but the B & B plans are on hold for now. Meanwhile winemaker par excellence Etienne Cowper is producing lovely wines and their tasting room is charming and inviting. Buzz poured us a sneak taste of his new Syrah and Il Terrazza Rosso (Terrace Red in Italian) and both hit the mark. The Il Terrazza Rosso has an extremely deep color, is served chilled and will be a perfect summer wine, crisp and refreshing.

Maralyn Hill & Buzz Olson

We explored Old Town, walking down Front Street to Main and ducked into a few shops, including the Temecula Valley Cheese Company where owner Shawna Smoot provided some delicious tastes from her large assortment of cheeses. Having visited the Temecula Valley Olive Oil Company‘s ranch the day before, we stepped inside their tasting room for some shopping and sipping. While some olive oil purveyors have you taste their oils with bread, Temecula Valley Olive Oil Company encourages you to taste it by itself so you get the true flavor. The oils are exceptional and they offer infused oils including roasted garlic and blood orange as well as a selection of crafted Balsamic vinegars. The store is divided into two rooms and provides a tremendous assortment of homewares and foodie items.

Time was growing short and we had one stop remaining. We stepped inside Lorimar Winery’s Old Town tasting room and Shannon Wellons poured our group several tastes from Temecula’s newest winery. Like Tesoro, Lorimar has captured the feel and character of Old Town and their first releases are showing lots of promise. Their white Duetto is a delightful blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier and the Fusion is a Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend which I really like. It’s a blend I’ve never seen before. Co-owners Mark Manfield and Lawrie Lipton purchased the old Providence Winery and hold special events there from time to time.

Shannon Wellons

A few members of the group were able to enjoy a quick bite at Soro’s Mediterranean Grill and a chance to meet owner “Papa” Soro. His hummus and pita plate really hits the spot. Linda Kissam from Kissam Consulting and Carolyn Fittipaldi from the Temecula CVB did a magnificent job organizing this visit to Temecula. If you haven’t been to my stomping grounds yet, I would love to welcome you.