By: Kathryn Bechen
Smith formerly owned her own event planning business and since about 1994, she has been an instrumental part of the quickly evolving SoCal winery wedding boom and has seen many changes. “Back in the grass roots days everything was very rustic but now wine country weddings are very sophisticated and gourmet,” she says. “The vines themselves are romantic because people like to feel grounded in nature as it emits emotion, and this area also provides a perfectly beautiful backdrop for photos. As people have realized this style of wedding is available, it’s become an alternative to beach weddings, “ she says. The Temecula area has also become popular for destination wine country weddings, says Smith, because it’s centrally located between San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Orange County, so if family and friends live in those areas, she adds that they can all be at the wedding within an hour. Smith says right across the street from Wilson Creek Winery is The Castle Bed & Breakfast Inn which is great for a honeymoon suite, and also Loma Vista Bed & Breakfast has been completely refurbished and can accommodate wedding guests.
Wilson Creek Winery will host about 150 weddings in 2009 in their “flower-filled wedding gazebos set among stunning gardens” on their 70 acre property, and couples from all over the country marry there after finding their facility online. They can accommodate 300 people indoors, and up to 1000 outdoors, and they offer several wedding packages that are all-inclusive for one set price.
Their facility includes a permanent event center with a complete kitchen that caters all the food and provides their own staff, equipment, china, linens etc. They will provide brides a vendor list for flowers, cake, officiant, and photographer, but couples may also use their own vendors and are welcome to do so, says Smith. Special needs such as gluten-free and Kosher meals can be accommodated, and in addition to their wines, they also provide non-alcoholic drinks for guests.
Smith says the Wilson family is involved in the winery and takes pride that it’s not pretentious, but has a simple and elegant feel. “It’s a genteel experience,” she says. “Out here you leave the city behind and it feels like you just took a breath of fresh air.” If you’d also like to stay overnight at the winery where you get married, The Inn at Churon Winery offers 24 guest rooms on 11 acres, with a discount for renting the entire lodging facility. Owner Judy Thomas says she is seeing increasing requests for small intimate weddings of 50 guests or less where the entire facility is rented out by the bridal party.
Custom built as an inn, all rooms at Churon face the vineyards and have private balconies, oversize granite bathrooms, built-in refrigerators built to look like a piece of furniture, and more. Two 800 Square foot suites serve as bridal suites and have oversized bathrooms containing both a shower and a two person tub. One suite has a sitting area with couches, chairs, and a pass-through fireplace. “We’re like a boutique hotel where you can sit and watch the hot air balloons rise up over the valley,” says Thomas.
Thomas says her husband Ron describes Churon, which they fondly call “The Chateau,” as “being in Tuscany without the 12 hour flight.” She welcomes couples to come and take a tour of the large grounds which include a long driveway, tiered lawns, and an elevated gazebo that has waterfalls and a moat surrounding it. “Couples get married at that particular spot, and their guests have use of the entire grounds,” says Thomas. It’s really an intimate setting because the gazebo is elevated and has beautiful wrought iron grates around the top of it, and the brides go down a very long stairway to make a grand entrance through big iron arches that lead up to the gazebo.” Churon also offers several dinner packages after the wedding ceremony. Both sit down dinners and buffet style dinners are available, and guests can partake in their award-winning wines, and can either be served in their Grand Lobby or outside. Thomas notes that if couples want to get married at Churon and not have their reception there, they are welcome to do so. She says they also do not necessarily need a wedding coordinator as Churon takes care of the details, but they are welcome to use their own coordinator if they choose, and also to use their own vendors such as officiant, cake, florist, photographer, and videographer.
“Our goal is to provide couples and their guests a very unique experience, because when you are out here, you feel like you’ve been away forever,” Thomas notes. She suggests that the best times to get married in SoCal wine country are mid-April for the best spring grapevines, or September and October when they start to change colors. ”By November the vines are starting to lose their leaves, and in the summer it’s hot,” she notes.
Want a billowy tent pavilion with twinkle lights, a grapevine covered trellis, and the beautiful San Pasqual Valley in the background for your 350 guests? Check out Escondido’s award winning Orfila winery. Orfila Events Manager Steffi Habermann says they now host about 70 weddings a year and have been doing weddings for about 15 years. The winery offers their facility and couples must provide their own tables, chairs, and hard rentals. One of seven of the winery’s preferred caterers must be selected, but couples may choose their own florist, cake, DJ, photographer, and linens.
Those couples not wanting to use a large tent are also able to be accommodated at Orfila. “Either way, they still get the spectacular view of the sloping hills with mountains in the background,” says Habermann.
So what’s the overall biggest appeal of a wine country wedding? “The whole feel of the view, the outdoors, and the unique experience,” says Habermann. “Couples will have beautiful photographic memories forever,” adds Smith.