TEMECULA – The Vail Ranch Restoration Association and Vail Headquarters have partnered with some Temecula Wine Country pioneers to establish a Heritage Vine Display at Vail Headquarters. It was the dream of Temecula Wine Country pioneer Audrey Cilurzo that somewhere in the Temecula Valley there would be a display of early Temecula vines, and she suggested Vail Headquarters for the location. Although the display will not be formally planted for viewing until early 2018, preparation has begun.
The earliest known grapes in this region were brought in the late 1700s from Europe by the padres of the San Luis Rey Mission. The cuttings were planted in small clumps of soil, wrapped in cloth and nurtured during the long voyage around Cape Horn to the new mission in what is now Oceanside. Cuttings from those vines were later brought to the Temecula Valley, which was an agricultural outpost for growing grain as well as grapes for use at the mission.
In the late 1800s, some residents of the Temecula Valley made a two-year, round-trip journey to Europe to secure other varietals for winemaking, but Temecula was not recognized as a wine grape growing area until Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzo planted the first commercial vineyard in 1968, the first in a now-flourishing industry that presently has a world reputation for producing fine wines.
When contacted about the Heritage Vine Display, Roger Honberger and his cousin Patc Winbury were enthusiastic about donating heritage vines from the vineyard they jointly own at their properties at Pechanga. The mission and zinfindel cuttings came from their great-grandfather’s Felipe Cazas’ vineyard. Cazas planted the zinfindel cuttings from the two-year voyage to Europe. Greg Pennyroyal, vineyard manager for Wilson Creek Winery, who also teaches viticulture at Mt. San Jacinto Community College, will prepare the vines for planting and will send samples of the mission vines to University of California Davis for DNA testing to authenticate their origins. In January, clippings from the original Cilurzo vines from the 1968 planting will be added to this unique collection at Vail Headquarters.
During the historic handoff of the vines Honberger and Winbury stood on the porch of the historic Vail bunkhouse, now the home of Winchester Western Saddlery and in view of the foreman’s house, Cheflavor occupies it now. Their grandfather James Freeman lived with his family, including Honberger’s mother and Winbury’s father, in the foreman’s house in the 1910s and 1920s. and many of their uncles and other relatives lived in the bunkhouse for many years. Honberger and Winbury were pleased to donate the vines to the Heritage Vine Display as a living reminder of their family.
Rebecca and Darell Farnbach of the Vail Ranch Restoration Association received the cuttings with Martha Culbertson, Audrey Cilurzo and Greg Pennyroyal also present.