Temecula – A Case of Preconceived Notions?


One doesn’t immediately think of Temecula when they think of California wine regions. Yet, along with the North Coast and the Central Coast, there is also a South Coast wine-growing region – a region which includes the Temecula Valley AVA. Located in a semi-rural section of Southern California’s Riverside County, the Temecula Valley is about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County and Palm Springs.

This close proximity to major population centers and relatively easy access has made Temecula a prime wine touring region – both for Southern Californians, and for visitors to the area. However, despite its convenient location, Temecula’s wine reputation has been hampered as much by uneven quality as by vineyard devastation ten years ago from Pierce’s Disease, a bacterial infection of the grapevine which causes the foliage, the fruit, and finally the vine to die off. Arguably, it hasn’t helped matters that the region easily became a tour-bus Mecca for much of Southern California. This, in turn, lured many wineries to adapt their operations to this type of tourist, largely the antithesis of the usual North or Central Coast winery visitor.

Grape growing isn’t new to the region, as Mission grapes had been planted in the Temecula area in 1820. In more modern times, Vincenzo and Audry Cilurzo established the first commercial vineyard in the Temecula Valley in 1968. Brookside Winery planted its vineyard in 1971, and produced the first wines from Temecula grapes. Callaway Vineyard and Winery began farming grapes in 1969, and opened the first Temecula Winery in 1974.

Most of the 34 wineries in Temecula are family-owned. Many are relatively new, having planted their grapes and/or opened their respective doors since the early 2000s. The timing is no accident, as most of the vineyards needed to be replanted after the damage by Pierce’s Disease. Yet, catastrophe often brings opportunity, and in this case many of the vineyards were replanted with more suitable varieties on better rootstalks, and grown using new viticultural techniques. Growers in the AVA practice sustainable farming in what has now become an agricultural preserve.

As new winemakers and new ideas continue to filter into the region, Temecula makes no apologies for the wines they grow, or how they market them. And, since the quality of their wines continues to rise, and the visitors continue to arrive – via bus or otherwise – the region seems poised to bolster its reputation.

Join us as we visit with nine vintners from Temecula Valley, to hear more about their approach to wine-growing and wine-making. There may be a lot more to Temecula wines than you think – presumptions aside, of course.

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Show #283
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5 Responses to “Temecula – A Case of Preconceived Notions?”

  1. 1 SoCalWineNews Mar 14th, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Excellent show.

    It generally has smaller vineyards with more varieties planted, which is the opposite of it’s brethren up north who have large vineyards with a smaller number of varieties planted. The demographic for this area is 29 million within a two hours drive, which could lead to the reason for more varieties planted. The larger the demographic the larger the palate diversity.

    Great job!

  2. 2 Bob Davis Mar 23rd, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I’ve listened to about half and found it interesting. I’d like to know if Eric tasted any of the wines and if he might put notes up on Grape-Nutz or are the 2 entities not mixed? (understandable) I’d like to get some current opinions on the wines. Just curious, no intention of buying at this time.

  3. 3 GrapeRadio Bunch Mar 27th, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Hi Bob,

    The purpose of the visit was to record interviews for GrapeRadio with several local producers. So, that task occupied the majority of my time and effort. That said, I did taste through all or most of the current offerings from each of the producers I interviewed. Initially, I began taking tasting notes on the wines during the more “conventional” type of visit. However, I found it becoming more difficult to take notes over meals, and/or while having conversation with multiple people, and stopped with the TNs.

    My impressions were that nearly all the wines were well-made, and were good to very good representatives of their varieties. It’s been my opinion for some time that Italian and Rhone varieties grown here seem to produce better wines, and I found that to be true this time. But, I was quite surprised at the increase in quality they’ve achieved with Bordeaux varieties as well. In fact, I brought a Temecula Cabernet to a recent blind tasting of Bordeaux varieties. While most of the tasters thought it was “new world” in origin, their collective jaws dropped when they found it was from Temecula.

    As to mixing of GR & GN content, Brian’s been after me for over a year to add more notes and reports. I guess I’ve just been too busy with retirement! 😉 Actually, there is a GN report linked up at the top of this page, to another area of viticulture that gets overlooked – Arizona.


  4. 4 Youndy Mar 28th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for another great show, Eric. I was in Temecula just last week for a bluegrass festival and stopped at several wineries with a buddy of mine. Really liked Hart. Talking with Jim Hart and going through all of his wines was the highlight. Agree with you that the Rhone varietals were the standouts. I hadn’t been to Temecula to taste since the late 90’s and the wines definitely have improved since then. Looking forward to the future.


  5. 5 penny auction strategy Aug 10th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I LOVE going to Temecula with the wife. We have 2 memberships now to two wineries and we have been there about 6-7 times now. In fact, it’s the first thing that we think of when we think of wine tasting since I proposed over at the Wilson Creek winery. Our second favorite tasting area would be the Paso Robles area.

    Protip: In Temecula, Wiens and Leonesse are the best wineries both in terms of atmosphere and wines. Wilson Creek would be the best for large groups. It’s a huge area and has a small park.

    My favorite wine from Wiens is the “2008 Crowded” and Leonesse has great whites with above average reds (like their cab).

    Go to Temecula. You’ll love it.


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