Temecula Valley Wine Country has rich history begging to be explored

Award-winning wines adorn the walls of Callaway Winery’s tasting room. Andrea Estrada photo

We all know Temecula Valley Wine Country. Most residents of the area have spent time there, discovering wines of all varieties, but did you know the first winery became reality in 1974, 15 years before the city of Temecula was incorporated?

According to Annette Brown, with Visit Temecula Valley, the first Temecula Wine Country pioneers began purchasing acreage and planting their vineyards in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1974, the founding of Callaway Winery marked the beginning of winemaking in the Temecula Valley.

Callaway Winery’s website said that founder Ely Reeves Callaway Jr. was born June 3, 1919, in LaGrange, Georgia. His father worked for the family firm which owned eight textile mills in the town. Young Ely’s success in business began at the early age of 10, when he used money he had earned from delivering magazines to lease an acre of land on which he planted peach trees. He made more than $700 from his first crop.

From there Callaway took up golf, attended and graduated from Emory University and joined the U.S. Army as a reserve officer. He was posted to Philadelphia where the Army had its main procurement facility for all its clothing.

“The contacts he had made in the post brought him a flood of offers from clothing manufactures, several of whom he worked for the next 27 years,” the website said. “In the late 1960s, Callaway’s extensive research led him to Temecula and to veteran viticulturist, John Moramarco, who believed that the area was ideal for growing premium wine grapes. In the rolling hills, Callaway found what he believed to be the perfect spot to plant his vines; a 1,600 foot plateau, located below the peaks of a foggy mountain range ‘where the sun shines through the mist.’ In 1969, the Callaway vineyards were planted and by the early 1970s, Callaway said ‘goodbye’ to textiles and ‘hello’ to wine. He defied experts who considered Southern California unsuitable and put Temecula on the map as a serious wine producing region.”

Callaway’s wine became renowned, and even reached the table of Queen Elizabeth in 1976. Suddenly, Temecula became the new place to invest in for wineries.

According to Callawaywinery.com, Callaway sold the business to Hiram Walker in 1981. He enjoyed a brief retirement before he came back “swinging” to become a leader in the golf industry, introducing the “Big Bertha” golf club that made his a household name before his death in July 2001.

Callaway’s story is just one of many in Temecula Valley’s Wine Country.

A few other notables include John Poole who opened Mount Palomar Winery in 1975. Just three years later in 1978 Hollywood couple Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzos opened another Temecula winery at a new site. Their original vineyard is now owned by Maurice Car’rie Winery.

Today, there are over 40 wineries, offering virtually every type of wine imaginable in the Temecula Valley, and thousands of stories just begging to be explored.

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