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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