At Wilson Creek Winery, 28th District State Senator Jeff Stone and 3rd District Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington gathered with representatives from Visit Temecula Valley, Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, City of Temecula, Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as Temecula Valley winery owners and staff to recognize and celebrate Temecula Valley Wine Country’s 50th Anniversary. The first commercial vineyards were planted in 1968 by Vince and Audrey Cilurzo. The backdrop of the intimate event was some of the valley’s oldest vines.
The event opened with Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association (TVWA) President, Danny Martin, welcoming attendees and acknowledging distinguished guests. Winery owner and pioneer, Phil Baily, then shared how wine country began and how it was preserved. It all started with Richard Break’s, UC Davis graduate, recommendation to grow premium wine grapes in the region. According to Baily, this was against all conventional wisdom in the 1960’s. The belief was that due to high temperatures, good wine could not be made in Southern California. The critics didn’t know about the area’s secret – The Rainbow Gap, which creates a micro-climate as the cool ocean air is carried into the valley daily. Soon after Break’s recommendation, the Cilurzo’s planted their vineyards and others followed shortly thereafter.
Baily went on to share that wine country pioneer, John Poole, founder of Mount Palomar Winery, had the vision to plan for out-of-the-area visitors, setting up a tasting room and expansive grounds.
Looking back and the journey, Baily adds, “It’s the whole community that has done fantastic things to make this a really great destination.”
As representatives of TVWA, Baily and Martin presented Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and Planning Staff their Award of Outstanding Merit. Stone and Washington accepted the award on their behalf. This award is for those outside of the industry that TVWA finds have contributed to the success of Temecula Valley Wine Country. Baily explained the zoning options in the early days and how through the years the county has ensured the area be set aside for agriculture.
Washington explained how many people have been involved and worked together on the Wine Country Community Plan, “There is no one person or department that has made this a reality. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. I will continue to love and fight for our wine country. Thank you, Senator Stone for the legacy you’ve left behind.”
Stone thanked Washington for, “carrying on the dream of building this wine country into an international destination.”
As then Mayor of the City of Temecula, Stone fought for federal support to extinguish the glassy-winged sharpshooter, resulting in $13 million funding. From that an antidote was created and today many wineries outside of the region use it to keep the insect away. Wine country was devastated from the infestation and developers were ready to move-in and repurpose the land. Stone spear-headed a movement to learn from other wine regions how best to support Temecula Valley Wine County, and from this effort the Wine Country Community Plan was born.
Today’s event was reminiscent to the pioneers and inspiring to those that were attracted by the determination and passion of those that paved the way. In closing, a “Cheers to 50 Years” toast was conducted by TVWA Executive Director, Krista Chaich.
About Visit Temecula Valley – With natural gifts of climate and geography Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is recognized for scenic vineyards, award-winning wines, and 40+ wineries. The popular, boutique destination includes the Temecula Valley A.V.A. (American Viticulture Area) as well as Historic Downtown Old Town Temecula, Pechanga Resort & Casino, and Temecula Wine Country Golf Trail.