The first commercial vineyard was planted in the Temecula Valley just over 50 years ago, laying the groundwork for what is now an a designated California wine region boasting more than 40 wineries, many of which have produced award winning vintages. Here’s everything you need to know about Temecula wine.

Early history of Temecula wine

Temecula as we know it started out as a stagecoach line in the mid-19th century, and for a brief time a railroad stop as well. Its name was given by the indigenous Luiseño term translated to, “land where the sun shines through the mist.” Even in those early days, the winegrowing potential of the temperate valley was recognized by missionaries from Oceanside’s Mission San Luis Rey, who planted grapes for sacramental wines. But Temecula wine wouldn’t truly come to pass until 1968, when Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzo bought 40 acres to establish vineyards and begin production (now the site of Maurice Carrie Winery). A local reportedly told the L.A. residents that the local climate echoed that of Napa, California; which of course meant it was similar to traditional winegrowing regions in France and Italy. The Cilurzos set out to prove it.

Establishing Temecula wine country

Other would-be vintners began planting vineyards around the same time as the Cilurzos, and by the 1970s, small production wines were starting to gain notice in Temecula. By 1974, the region’s first large production winery, Callaway Winery, was started by golf club guru Ely Callaway. By 1984, there was enough viticulture throughout the region that the U.S. government formally designated it the Temecula AVA (American Viticultural Area) — five years before Temecula was officially incorporated as a city! Twenty years later, the growing region would be renamed the Temecula Valley AVA.

Temecula’s reputation grows

Every wine country needs a little boost to its reputation to enchant wine enthusiasts, and helping spread the word about the quality of Temecula Valley wines has been the award winning ways of South Coast Winery. The 35 year old winery has won the coveted Golden Bear award an unprecedented four times! The annual contest held by the California State Fair seeks to name the best winery in the state of California, meaning South Coast beat out wineries from California’s famed Napa and Sonoma wine regions, establishing Temecula as an AVA to be reckoned with. Since the rest of the state wised up to the quality of Temecula wines, mane more awards have followed for many Temecula wineries, from competitions around the country.

What makes Temecula Valley great for wine growing?

Several environmental factors contribute to the quality of Temecula grapes, beginning with the gorgeous sunshine the valley receives almost year round. However, thanks to the surrounding mountains to the east, and the appearance of ocean fog from the west, the uniquely positioned region cools considerably at night, just the way grapes like it. Likewise, the granite composition of the soil suits grapes well, as it easily drains, periodically allowing the roots to dry out, preventing the grapes from losing flavor to excessive moisture. This creates an ideal climate for varietals such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Temecula’s seasoned vintners have also succeeded with the famous Rhone varietals Cabernet and Zinfandel, as well as Mediterranean grapes Syrah and Viognier.

Where to drink wine in Temecula

With 40 wineries to choose from, there is no shortage of amazing wine tasting opportunities within the Temecula Valley, whether you prefer whites, reds, or sparkling wines made using the famed méthode champenoise. At Temecula Valley Jeep & Wine Tours, our guides will drive you several of the best in the region, so all you have to do is sit back, enjoy the ride, and enjoy the wine.