Wine, root beer and rolling hills in Temecula
Let wine snobs snicker when they hear you spent a weekend at a vineyard in Temecula. I took a friend for an overnight stay at the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa (34843 Rancho California Road;  587-9463), a 39-acre slice of nirvana where relaxation is inescapable. Twenty-four hours wasn’t nearly enough time to enjoy the premises.
The bed. I could tell you all about the 76 villas (rooms start at $209) at South Coast and how most come with a fireplace, private patio and a wet bar with a mini-fridge. Instead, all I really remember is the Carter Collection mattress. Thanks to white sheets and pillows and a white comforter, the king-sized bed felt — and looked — as if I were sleeping on a cloud.
The meal. We sat inside the Tuscan-themed Vineyard Rose Restaurant (no item more than $45), but if the weather is nice, try to get a table outside, where you’ll overlook the vineyards. An array of entrees, from prime rib to frutti di mare, is available, but neither of us eats meat, so we chose the butternut squash bisque, the panzanella salad and the roasted vegetable papardelle pomodoro. The dish is light yet substantial, which leaves room for the local and international wines on-site.
The find. As you leave Temecula, grab a beverage at Old Town Root Beer Co. (28500 Old Town Front St.;  676-5088). Yes, there’s A&W and Virgil’s on tap, but you can get those anywhere. Instead, sit outside on the patio with a cold vanilla-tinged Crater Lake root beer from Oregon and a massive $2 pickle. Or get wild and have a bacon-flavored soda or a drink that claims to taste like peanut butter and jelly.
The lesson learned. I’m the sort of traveler who checks into a room, then doesn’t see it again for 12 hours because I like to explore. That said, the sun and the wine left me with zero desire to leave South Coast. In fact, the patio’s calming ambience was enough to make me nearly forgo the pool and dinner in favor of staring at the rolling hills and rabbits darting through the adjacent vineyards.
The tab. My friend and I split the bisque, panzanella salad and vegetable pomodoro, so for less than $40, we were stuffed. Add about $15 for five sodas and two bottled waters at Old Town Root Beer Co. and our expenditure for food totaled less than $65. With the $239 room, a complimentary bottle of wine and three free pours at South Coast’s tasting room, a 24-hour getaway can be done for as little as $300, not including transportation.
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