In Australia, many of the “cellar doors,” Aussie-speak for winery tasting rooms, include restaurants — an excellent way to showcase a given estate’s wines.
For various reasons, winery restaurants are rare in the United States — with one exception. In Southern California’s winegrowing region of Temecula, no less than nine of the closely bunched wineries offer an array of dining experiences to guests.
Following is a quick look at five of those wineries and restaurants, provided by the wine estates. (We’ll have four more for you tomorrow.) Hours of operation may vary by season, or when special events are scheduled, so always call ahead for the latest information and/or to make reservations.
• Café Champagne at Thornton Winery.
Expect “contemporary fusion cuisine” paired with premium wines in a stylish setting, creating the perfect spot for the total foodie experience. (Open 365 days a year for lunch and dinner.) 951-699-0088.
• Carol’s Restaurant at Baily Winery.
Casual dining overlooking the grapevines at the Baily tasting room. Features California and Mediterranean cuisine, incorporating fresh herbs and vegetables grown in the adjacent garden. (Open for lunch, Thursday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Saturday lunch, until 3 p.m.; appetizers, 3-5 p.m.; dinner, 5-8:30 p.m.) 951-676-9243.
• Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery.
Seasonal ingredients and award-winning wines are the inspiration for a relaxing experience at Creekside Grille. Surrounded by grapevines, the view and ambience set the scene for a charming encounter. (Open daily for lunch; brunch on Sunday.) 951-699-WINE.
• MDO Bistro at Monte de Oro Winery.
For a great “wine first” and “food to complement” tasting experience, visit MDO Bistro. MDO’s wines provide Chef Taylor with a rich foundation of aromas and flavors to create terrific casual lunch entrees or pre-dinner snacks. Voted 2013 “Best of Inland Empire.” (Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) 951-491-6551.
• Meritage at Callaway.
Offers breathtaking views of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and glorious sunsets over the Temecula Valley, not to mention an exceptional menu along with light-hearted and spirited hospitality. (Open daily for lunch at 11 a.m.; call for dinner hours.) 951-676-4001.