Temecula's Big Summertime Soiree Lifts Off

Hello, chardonnay. Hello, Lake Skinner in Winchester. And hello, Temecula-area wineries, artists, and hot-air balloonists. The Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, which turns 26 this year, is one of the biggest bashes in Riverside County, attracting SD and LA people alike. Oh, and SB people, and OC people, and... okay. Maybe it is best to say that the 909ers, the 619ers, and many 714ers, 818ers, and 310ers are out representing. In other words, it truly draws Southern Californians from points all over.

Here's why: wine, good wine, and lots of it, poured by chatty oenophiles representing some 19 wineries. (If they're pouring it, try the almond champagne from Temecula's Wilson Creek Winery; it's like the holidays in a glass.) Big, snapshot-y balloon events, like the famous Balloon Glow, where the pilots make those lightbulb-shaped, highly colorful envelopes light up to tunes. Balloon rides. And live music from bands like Cali's own Sugar Ray.

Tip: People are all over this event, so look over the schedule and arrive early. It's that popular. There will be food booths. And carpooling is also a smart way to get down and back. Dates: June 5-7 (hours vary; check schedule), Lake Skinner, Winchester, near Temecula

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