Waking up one recent Friday morning, the weight of the work week tightly wrapped around my still-weary body, I made a very out-of-character decision: drive an hour out of San Diego, to Temecula, for a massage.
Rancho California Road is the lifeline to one of Temecula’s quaint wine areas. Past the strip malls and through condensed residential areas, Rancho California opens up into a spacious expanse of vineyards acting as front yards and signs alerting passersby of wine tastings and tasting room hours. I turned down the country rock blasting through my speakers (as a fan of road-trip theme music and the victim of being stuck in a musical time warp, The Eagles and America seemed like appropriate choices for the day). I could already feel the stress escaping me—or me escaping it.
The coup de grace of Temecula’s winery repertoire may be South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. I’d read lots about this little retreat-to-the-east—at only an hour from San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County, it’s somewhat remarkable that such an idyllic little spot is located so closely to the social hubs of Southern California. The 39-acre property has been awarded Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” in both 2010 and 2011, and is a two-time Golden Bear winner for “Best Winery in California.” I was sold.
Now, through my work travels I’d been privy to some of the most indulgent and opulent spas out there. Because of that, I’ve developed a certain level of…shall we say…pickiness (okay, that’s an understatement). Expectation, really. That being the case, I’d researched the heck out of the place. In my mind, I wanted something that felt like a getaway from the hustle-and-bustle, yet would not require me to waste away on the freeway. Somewhere about which I could tell people of my adventures, and they’d say both, “Wow, that’s so crazy that you’d drive all the way out there by yourself to do that,” but also “Hey, let me know if you ever want to go out there again, it sounds amazing.” I didn’t think that was too much to ask.
I pulled into South Coast Winery and followed the winding driveway through grape vines and villas until I reached the GrapeSeed Spa, fronted by a sparkling turquoise pool and refreshing foliage. I dragged my tired body up the slate path and was greeted by a complete spa shop and a wonderful wave of lavender and cucumber scents. After checking in, I was directed upstairs to change and get situated. Once in my fluffy white robe and perched upon a very soft wicker couch, I could literally see relaxation in sight.
The 15,000-square-foot GrapeSeed Spa has plenty of amenities for the uber-particular spa-goer like myself. This includes a fitness studio (complete with yoga classes), outdoor whirlpool and swimming pool, sauna, steam room, and plenty of places to unwind. I’d opted for the South Coast Classic treatment, which is a Swedish massage that uses the spa’s signature grape seed blend. Several of the treatments are inspired by the vineyard surroundings, including the Champagne Facial and—inspired by genius—the Quick Fix Hangover Bliss Facial, for all of us who’ve found ourselves to have imbibed a little too much the night before.
My masseuse retrieved me and took me into a well-appointed room. After identifying that I definitely needed some attention around my neck and shoulders (as a result of my bad habit of hunching over my computer while slaving away on the job), I told her somewhat shyly, “It’s been a long week, so I apologize if I fall asleep during the massage.” She said, “I would take that as a compliment.”
And 50 minutes later, as I re-entered consciousness to her asking if I’d like a glass of red or white wine, I smiled, drowsily answered, “White, please,” and was greeted with a chilled goblet of South Coast Sauvignon Blanc a couple of minutes later. She also mentioned that next time I come back, I should try the deep-tissue massage—that she’d been working the knots hard and felt it’d be effective in relieving some additional tension. “Oh, okay,” I dramatically joked, taking her expert word for it since I was only fully awake for very little of the treatment. “You’ve twisted my arm.”
Outstretched on a very cushioned chaise, I sipped my wine, enjoyed a light lunch of hummus, pita bread and veggies, and lounged like a goddess on the pillared veranda above the pool, now a firm believer that every spa should offer a crisp libation after a treatment. Was this anything like Tuscany, from which the resort is inspired? I have no idea; I haven’t been to Italy (yet). But with its beauty and peacefulness, I certainly hoped.
I (begrudgingly) left South Coast Winery an hour later feeling like a touch of pampered celebrity mixed with a dash of sophisticated spa vagabond. Next on my to-do list is a HydraFacial (GrapeSeed Spa is the only resort and spa in Southern California to offer this skin-rejuvenating treatment) and a wine-paired al fresco dinner with live music at Vineyard Rose Restaurant, perhaps with a stroll around the vineyard for ambience.
Cheers and relaxation.
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
34843 Rancho California Road
Temecula, CA 92591
Katie Denbo is a past golf travel magazine editor and current PR maven and freelance writer who is a self-proclaimed beer snob, 80s music aficionado and lover of travel. She live in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter, @kdenbo.