Thanks to a Mediterranean-like climate and granitic soil, the Temecula Valley boasts nearly 2500 acres of vineyards and more than forty wineries. People first started growing wine grapes here nearly two hundred years ago, but its rise to prominence as Southern California’s most visited wine country is more recent history. Even then, pinpointing the oldest winery in Temecula requires some backstory.
Mission Wines — 1820
The first wine grapes grown in the Temecula Valley were planted by the Spanish. Beginning with Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769, Spanish priests began establishing missionary churches throughout southern California. In 1798, the Mission San Luis Rey, a.k.a. the King of the missions, was founded in Oceanside. A dependent church was established in Temecula, and one of its purposes was to provide San Luis Rey with grains and other agricultural products, including grapes for sacramental wine. However, the practice was eventually discarded, so while these were the first vineyards planted in Temecula, they did not establish the oldest winery in Temecula.
Cilurzo Winery and Vineyards — 1968
The commercial planting of vineyards in the Temecula Valley did not occur until years later, when lighting director Vincenzo Cilurzo and his wife Audrey left Hollywood behind, purchased 40 acres just off the dusty end of Long Valley Road, and planted vineyards. This was 1968, when Temecula went by the name Rancho California, and Long Valley Road has since been renamed Rancho California Road, now the main route passing through Temecula Wine country.
The Cilurzos began growing grapes in 1968, and in 1978 they would launch Cilurzo Winery. Those vineyards are still active, though they have since changed hands are now owned and operated by Maurice Carrie Winery. Meanwhile, the Cilurzos moved to a different Temecula Valley property and established Bella Vista Winery there. However, neither of these holds the claim to being the oldest winery in Temecula. While those 1968 vineyards did grow grapes, and those grapes were made into wine, for the first ten years of production, the Cilurzos sold any fruit they harvested to wineries outside of Temecula. Meanwhile, another winery began production within the Temecula Valley….
Callaway Winery — 1974
It didn’t take long after the Cilurzos proved wine grapes could flourish in the Temecula Valley for other vineyards to appear. In 1969, golf equipment and apparel mogul Ely Callaway purchased 140 acres in the valley and planted vineyards. By 1974, the vines were producing, and he established Callaway Winery, the first large production commercial winery to call the Temecula Valley home. Callaway Winery still operates today, with 20 acres of estate vineyards producing on its original site, and 50 additional acres of vines a few miles east. Though Calloway himself sold the winery and vineyards in 1981, they still produce wine under his name, and stand as the oldest winery in Temecula.
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