This weekend’s adventure was very close to home. It was the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival. I had heard about the event from people that knew we had moved to Temecula, but I didn’t realize how big it was.
The Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival, first known as the Rancho California Balloon and Wine Festival was started in 1983 by Walt Darren, a commercial airline pilot and avid balloonist and by Evelyn Harker a veteran event organizer and fund raiser. Evelyn immediately suggested it might “fly” even better if it involved some of the area’s other natural attractions such as wine tasting, culinary presentations, and entertainment. She had other helpers to get the event “off the ground” so the following year, the spring of 1984, the first event began. At the time of the first Balloon and Wine festival there were only 6 wineries in the Temecula Valley. However, the attendance for festival was 4,000 people. This meant that over half of Temecula’s population (9,000) was in attendance. The very first year there were 35 balloons launched the first year.
The hot air balloons were launched at sunrise on Saturday and Sunday. We made it an early morning to see these magnificent and colorful rides on Sunday. It was pretty spectacular to see up to 10 balloons at a time spreading out the canvas, tying the basket down and finally adding the hot air to get the balloon off the ground. Hot air balloons, use the theory that hot air rises. Hot air is created from the burner above the pilot’s head. The heated air fills the balloon and it rises in the cool morning air. Winds need to be gentle, not tornado level. Under 7 mph is preferred.
Most of the balloons you see in movies, fly across the desert in the middle of the day in a hot air balloon. This is fictional because most of the morning flights in Temecula are finished by 8:30 am. Tethered balloons that are used for rides are finished by 9 – 10 a.m. when the winds and heat pick up.
Worth mentioning is the Evening Balloon Glow that is held both Friday and Saturday after sundown. We chose Friday evening to watch the event. There were about 6 balloons participating Friday’s Balloon Glow. The weather has to be just right for the Balloon Glow, but Temecula usually has the perfect weather for this event. The balloons were set up in the launch area and were inflated as if they going to take off, but instead of being allowed to ascend, they are held down by the ground crew. The propane burners are ignited periodically to keep the balloons inflated with hot air. The periodic flash of the propane burners causes the balloon to glow as well. The announcer had the pilots light in sync with music or as if in a code.
Today there are over 40 wineries in the Temecula Valley and a plan has been approved for an additional 120 wineries. There is a long list wines grown here in the Temecula Valley. Temecula wineries produce award winning Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc along with small quantities of Zinfandel, Viognier, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, sparkling and dessert wines. Temecula attributes the for such Temecula’s light, sandy loam soil, comprised mostly of decomposing granite, permits water to drain easily. This forces the roots to grow deeper to find water. The result is stronger vines and smaller grapes. This is ideal for highly concentrated flavor.
The elevation here in Temecula is 1,500 feet above sea level. This provides cool summer nights and afternoon breezes following relatively hot days. You can taste this in the best Temecula wines as bold fruit forward flavors and silky mouth-feel. There were wine and beer booths (be sure and purchase your beverage tickets at the ticket booth before standing in line to get your adult beverages.)
There were so many great food booths that one wouldn’t have trouble trying to decide what to eat. There are so many choices that everyone in the family can choose something different to eat. In total, there were 28 food and beverage vendors. From nachos to deli and a steakhouse, there is no shortage of varieties of food booths.
We loved the entertainment. We saw The Spin Doctors on Friday night. I wasn’t familiar with their songs, but the crowd went wild when they played for their early 1990s hits, “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”
My favorites played on Sunday! I’m a country girl through and through. We waited around until 1:00 p.m. when the first country music show begin. It was a long day after getting there to see the balloons launch at sunrise, but it was worth waiting for. There were 4 groups that afternoon. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the 90s, so there were more than a few people walking around sporting a sunburn. This first up was Country Music singer Raelynn. Raelynn was a contestant on Season 2 (2012) of The Voice. Although she was not a finalist, she was signed to Republic Nashville the same year.
Up next was Luci, an all-lady band from Los Angeles. I really like their energy and sound. You can see their web page at http://www.lovelucimusic.com.
The third and final opening Country Artist was Tyler Farr, who sings “A Guy Walks into a Bar,” “Redneck Crazy,” and “Chicks, Trucks, and Beer.” Tyler gave a great performance in spite of the hot temperatures and sun.
The Grand Finale was Justin Moore. He went above and beyond, coming out for at least 3 encores. Justin is best known for songs such as “If Heaven wasn’t so far away,” “You look like I need a drink,” and “Bait a Hook.” Justin Moore actually played until he closed the place down. Seriously, everyone was closing up when Justin did his final encore.
We left there happy we had gone and happy to get into the air conditioned truck. I would highly recommend going if not the weekend, at least for a day.
Contact Information and location