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Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Temecula Valley Wine Country

Enjoy my photo essay documenting the setup, flight and deflation of a hot air balloon on an adventure provided by California Dreamin’ in the Temecula Valley Wine Country of Southern California.

Although I’ve been photographing Northern California Wine Country (Napa Valley, Sonoma and Livermore Valley) and Central California wineries in Paso Robles and the Edna Valley for over a dozen years this was my first visit to Temecula Valley. And even though I’ve photographed hot air balloons in Napa Valley and at the Great Reno Balloon Race in Nevada I’ve never been up in one.
And while it wasn’t quite La Minerve — cruise ship in the sky, proposed by the physicist Robertson in 1804, my flight took place in a sturdy and beautiful 12 passenger balloon.
Wine country hot air balloon rides start early in the morning when the air is calmest, typically last an hour or more and end with a traditional sparkling wine breakfast. David Bradley and his wife Gail own and run California Dreamin’ Balloon Rides, a small family winery—Vindemia Vineyard & Winery—and a one room B&B in Temecula Valley.
Dave piloted the hot air balloon I rode in while another California Dreamin’ balloon set up next to us, launching and traveling a similar route to ours. As many as eight other hot air balloons were in the air over the valley during our flight.

Temecula Valley Hot Air Balloon Flight

The first order of business is to choose a launch site based on current weather conditions.
Once that is accomplished the unloading can begin. Dave told me the basket and passengers together weigh about 3 tons.

After spreading protective material on the ground 600 pounds of balloon are connected to the basket and extended.

Large fans are used to inflate the balloon. When erect it will be as tall as a 7 story building.

Dave took a walk inside the balloon for a final inspection and to be sure control lines were not tangled before adding heat.

The slowly rising balloon made a good backdrop for a group photo opportunity.

Finally the balloon was fully inflated, everyone was aboard and we were ready for lift off!

Immediately after we launched the ground crew began packing up so that they could follow us to the landing site.

On our hour-plus flight we flew at high altitudes and so low I thought we might be able to pick some wine grapes.

Our sister balloon always seemed to be nearby. Sometimes higher, other times lower. Other balloons were aloft as well.

We flew over Rancho California Road, the main Temecula Valley Wine Country wine trail.

We saw several wineries from the air. South Coast and Ponte wineries are in the photo below.

Dave told us a story about the first hot air balloon flight and pointed out landmarks.

Everyone shot lots of photos.

Journalists on the flight took a moment to send tweets to their followers.

Twitter users aboard this flight included @VickiArkoff, @Nancydbrown, @estarLA, @kristasimmons and me: @iNeTours.


And everyone had fun.

Soon it was time to find a landing spot where the hard working ground crew deflated the balloon and packed it away.

Once packed up we returned to Dave & Gail Bradley’s place for wine, breakfast and a peek at the Bradley’s 1 room B&B.


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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson