Temecula Valley’s natural beauty has always impressed. From an old Indian dialect, the word itself resonates poetically as “the place where the sun shines through the mist.” From incredible beginnings came the establishment of one of the best wine-producing regions in the state.
Today, visitors appreciate the stunning natural vistas but they come for the region’s tradition of producing high quality wines that have graced tables from Los Angeles to Buckingham Palace.
Early History of Wine Country, California
California wine producers owe their business as it exists today to Father Junipero Serra and his renowned strain of Mission grapes. Planted just seven years before American independence, they thrived in the Southern California climate. Local missions produced 50,000 gallons per year of four varieties of wine.
All winemaking techniques involved the most rudimentary handcrafted processes but adhered to strict standards set by the padres in each mission.
Wine Comes to Temecula Valley
Mission-based winemakers discovered Temecula Valley by the 1820s and established vineyards here. As Indian natives described, the mist lingers in the air much longer in the valley, accentuating the taste development of the grapes. Nighttime patterns of airflow through the nearby mountains into the valleys bring a beneficial cooling effect that also results in superior grapes.
Modern wine development in the Temecula region only dates back a half-century. The quality results, however, have enabled a solid tradition to emerge.
Important Modern Pioneers
“All we wanted to do was make good wine and get people coming here.” This statement from Audrey Cilurzo describes the informal mission that she and her husband Vincenzo pursued when establishing Temecula’s first modern vineyard in 1968 on land purchased by Kaiser Industries.
The former television technical director and his wife knew little of winemaking but were nonetheless driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to cultivate their own slice of wine country in CA. While exploring an opportunity to build a McDonald's franchise, they took a break to explore a sleepy town called Rancho, California, fell in love with the land, planted their own vineyards, and helped to conceive an industry.
The Cilurzos produced quality grapes but did not open their own winery until 1978. Telecula’s first modern winery came from the efforts of the dashing entrepreneur Ely Reeves Callaway Jr.
Callaway showed his business acumen at an early age. At 10 years of age, he spent money saved from selling magazine subscriptions to buy an acre of Georgia land. Peaches sold from that land earned him $700 in his first year, a truly tidy profit in 1929. Not long after, Callaway took up the sport of golf, inspired by the exploits of his famous second cousin, Bobby Jones.
He wove a rising reputation as a professional athlete and his war service into business success, concentrating in textiles. Then in the late 60s, the magical spell that Temecula wove over the Cilurzo family touched Callaway. Just as with the Cilurzos, the powerful call of the land enraptured Callaway when he first visited. He relinquished textiles in favor of a new passion and focus, making the best wine possible and marketing it worldwide.
Quickly, Callaway’s wines proved a fantastic success, made even more so by his charisma and marketing flair. At a July 1976 event marking the Bicentennial, Queen Elizabeth II herself toasted President Gerald Ford with a Callaway wine. Marketing thereafter emphasized the fact that the non-wine drinking monarch requested a second glass.
Tradition and spirit have always marked the production and consumption of delicious Temecula wines. Join us on a wine tour to learn more about the amazing wine produced here.