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Balloon Full of Hot Air

What a great gift! For my birthday last year, my lady bought (us, technically) a voucher for a hot air balloon ride in Temecula, CA. It was going to expire at the end of this month, so we booked a ride about a month ago. That fell through, as the weather didn’t cooperate, so we ended up rebooking for yesterday.

I had imagined it as being just the two of us and the pilot. In fact, it was us, the pilot, a co-pilot, two other couples, a pair of brothers, and a pair of sisters…. quite different from what I expected!

We all met at a winery at 5:30 AM, and we were then driven to the launch site in an open field a few miles away. It took probably a half-hour to get the balloon set up and we were up, up, and away!

Temecula Hot Air Balloon

Inflating the Hot Air Balloon

There was a heavy marine layer at about 900 ft. so, while the balloon was up in the clouds, we were hanging just below it. The pilot occasionally took us completely up into the clouds so he could get a better feel for how the wind was blowing. I have driven through fog more times than I can count, but it’s a completely different feeling to be floating through through the clouds.

The scenery was gorgeous, with huge estates, vineyards, and grapefruit groves for as far as the eye could see (and the marine layer would allow). At one point, the pilot took us way down, and we gently glided over a vineyard. We were so close you could see grapes on the vines, and my photos look like they were taken from a ladder.

Temecula Vineyard

Flying Over a Vineyard

When the hour-long flight was coming to an end, the balloon was guided down to a field. From there, the ground crew grabbed a hold onto the basket and steered us right onto the trailer! It felt even more calculated than an aircraft carrier landing… pretty amazing.

Fruit Basket at a Temecula Winery

Celebratory champagne (mimosa) post-successful hot air balloon landing

I had never heard very much about the wine in Temecula. Most winos I know haven’t been there, whereas they have all been to Santa Barbara for tastings, and many of them have been even further north to Napa. It now seems like Temecula is a well-kept secret. My expectations were admittedly low, but much of the wine I tried was really, really good. We have never joined a wine club before but couldn’t resist on this trip. I’m looking forward to getting my first, two-bottle shipment in August!


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