Temecula, just an hour west from where we are, is a place with quite a few surprises. Initially, Hushby and I went there because we only wanted to see the much hyped about casino in town called Pala. A friend went there and recommended we should go. It was fun learning about Pala but we didn't realize, we were going to discover more on the way there.
Having too much time on hand and being the analytical person he is, Hushby usually like to go online and do some research of that place a day before. According to his sources, he said Temecula has a charming one street Old Downtown in the heart of the city. I had no idea what Old Downtown was, never thought the word OLD literally meant ancient. The moment we drove into the street, the buildings, the architecture and the people were objects not easy to pass by unnoticed. The downtown's late 1800s architecture was just as charming as the history of cowboys who used to live in this area. Imagine all those old movies of cowboys riding horses and drink their way through the day. When I walked down the street, it felt like I was transported back in time. Now though, the buildings are occupied by specialty stores selling specialty salts, wine, olive oil, all that California produce and touristy restaurants like Western style eateries selling steaks and hamburgers took over the once used to be, I'm pretty sure, cowboy bars, pawn shops and even brothels. Needless to say, I was still aesthetic to find this place. It was a good, less than an hour's drive getaway.
The pictures we took though, does not show much of the buildings. It wasn't a good day to take pictures for it was gloomy and way too cold for our tolerance. Here are just a few shots that could make it.
At an intersection
Old Downtown nestled in a canyon has a spectacular view of many snow-capped mountains - unfortunately, not in this peekaboo mountain view.
That's not beer, it's Root Beer.
Don't worry, nobody is tripped in this process. It's amazing how the city sustain original woodwork on the pedestrian walk.
A few hours browsing later, we took a drive to the wine country area. Again, once I learn about the Temecula's wine country, my impression was one vineyard, one field of grape plants and one tasting area. Nothing more.
Just 10 minutes away, we drove into the wine country and found there's a whole load of vineyard sprawl across the valleys and hills, seen never ending from our point of view. Vineyards after vineyards, hotels, spas, tasting shops and even tour bus were available for rent for groups who like wine country hopping. I was, yet again, delighted to find something like this on our way to the casino.
We chose to go to Ponte for the reason that Hushby read it online and it was a highly recommended place to visit. After passing by a few vineyards, I was bummed that I couldn't visit other wine places but once at Ponte, I was like a dog seeing a squirrel.
Once arrived, the parking lot impressed us with rows and rows of olive trees and of course, grape plants. The view was stunning even at 4pm. It was almost sunset for December and it didn't take us long before we walked into the building, the retail shop to get some samples of wine before it close at 5pm. The process was simple, 6 glasses of wine of YOUR choice for only $12. The list of wine is endless, starting from white to red to desserts wine for a sweet ending. I started of fine, one zinfandel, one chardonnay. A quarter of glass of serving each and I was still going strong. After that, I ordered another choice of merlot and I could feel the heat from my neck rising and my knees getting a little weaker. Usually, the most I can take were only two glasses of wine and I'd just hit the sack!
On that day though, I don't know if it was the energy or the environment that kept me standing, I was doing great. I had no problem other than the heat and being a little tipsy, I was able to go through 5 glasses in one hour. A break of my own record. But sorry, that's not what I needed to gloat about. It is the taste of the various colors of wine, the aroma of toasty oak, strawberries, pine, apples, pears and lastly my favorite, a $45 dollar dessert wine made of dark chocolate! Mmm Have I got you drooling yet?
The last glass was definitely a hard one with 20% of alcohol in it, I was quite drunk by the last sip. We went out to take some fresh air, while still sipping on the dark chocolate and guess what? Another pleasant surprise!
Ponte has it own restaurant built just behind the retail store. It an open air concept restaurant, situated between the farm filled with dried grapes at this point of the season. Nevertheless, it has a breathtaking view of the horizon and its fresh air is just as crisp as the first pop of a white chardonnay. Here I was standing at a wedding garden reserved for a group which I managed to get a glimpse before being shooed away for privacy.
Unlike me, Hushby is not a light drinker and he survived the six glasses. Just a bit tipsy and lucky for me, he was still able to decide that he wanted to have a table reserve at 6pm for two. So we went back in to get my sixth glass of wine, only to have Hushby hold it and sitting on the dining table for the rest of the night. I can't take it anymore.
What a way to spend our Christmas - good quality time making discovery yet not hurtful to the pocket. The restaurant, although look high end, prices are still affordable for the standard of the food they served.
After tasting, reading the dinner menu to myself. All red and fiery, proved that I am 100% Asian. Sunset from the vineyard is such a romantic scene which somehow look fake from my view. But it definitely gives us what to expect if we chose Napa Valley as the next destination.
Appetizer - mussel in white wine tomato sauce. The mussels were probably blanched, half raw and the taste is divine. Sweet from seawater and aromatic from the wine. Just perfect.
For her: Grilled lamb steak with red wine and balsamic vinegar sauce cooked with green apples was served with southern style, grits on the side. The sauce was cooked with their own lines of wine, and the depth of the taste was just mouthwatering. I'm usually not a sauce person but this sauce got me licking to its last drop!
For him, grilled steak with caramelized whole onion and mash potatoes. I don't have much recollection of his dinner plate, not because I was drunk but I had so much to focus on my own dining set, I totally did not pay attention to his.
It was getting colder and colder as the big, bright moon turn up. The heater above us wasn't really that helpful with the wind blowing on one direction. So hoodie up!
For dessert, a chocolate cheese cake with a generous serving of sweet raspberry sauce, also cooked with wine. When combine the two, the taste.... is heavenly. No words can describe it.
Lastly, some decaf coffee for me and fully caffeinated coffee for him to neutralize all that alcohol we consumed!
Spontaneous outing is really fun at times like this when there's nothing to worry about. No homework, no due dates, no deadlines for him, no meetings, no work.... all we had to do is kick our shoes back and enjoy. We work hard but we play hard too. I'm sure we all deserve a break like this once in a while, or so I say to myself for comfort LOL. I am so lucky to have this experience thanks to Hushby. Just a stone throw away, you can bet I'll make my way there again.