Bella Vista racking up awards, making changes

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Gizella and Imre Cziraki have owned Bella Vista Winery in Temecula Wine Country since 2004 and recently have returned the winery to update and improve it. Their work is paying off as their wines have been winning medals consistently over the past two years. Jeff Pack photo

Gizella and Imre Cziraki aren’t ready to retire anytime soon. They’re having too much fun running one of the oldest wineries in Temecula Wine Country, they said.

While sitting down with Imre Cziraki one morning at the winery recently to talk about everything they have going on at Bella Vista Winery, formerly called Cilurzo, Gizella Cziraki was busy milling around, cleaning up, organizing and getting ready for a day of business. Imre Cziraki, I can tell, has more to do when he’s done with the interview.

The friendly couple has owned the winery since 2004, but in the last few years, they have made a concerted effort to update and improve the facilities, tasting rooms and property, which is one of the biggest plots in wine country.

After owning a machine shop in Cerritos for many years, Imre Cziraki sold the business about three years ago, and the couple came back to work at the winery full time a year ago.

They have once again begun advertising and marketing the business and are beginning to see results. They’ve also made great strides in improving the winemaking efforts.

Recently, the winery has been collecting medals for the wines they grow on the property and at their vineyard in La Cresta, which Imre Cziraki has owned since 1982.

“Our winemaker Gonzalo Villanueva is from Napa and was in Napa for 45 years,” Cziraki said pointing to a lineup of more than a dozen wine bottles with medals around their necks. “And he’s been winning a lot of medals as you can see. Now we are working on our harvest, we already harvested our tempranillo, harvested our syrah, and we have some Hungarian grape varieties and we’ve harvested that.”

Cziraki hails from Hungary and started making wine at age 7 with his grandfather, who raised him. He said he’s been drunk three times in his life – age 7, 14 and 40 – so, he got the winery bug early in life.

“He made the best wine in the area,” Cziraki said. “And I was always by his side. They had competitions all the time, and he took all the glory every year. I was always fascinated by how he made the wines he made. I said, when I grow up, I am going to be like him and have a winery. So, it took me a long time to grow up.”

Cziraki gave me a tour of the upper portion of the property which has a small lake with fountains, surrounded by palm trees, near the old adobe home that Vince and Audrey Cilurzo lived in on the property.

The home caught on fire a couple of years ago, and repairs are still underway.

There is ample space for special events, and Imre Cziraki said he is working to upgrade the area to host more events and weddings.

Bella Vista Winery lives up to its name as well from several spots. They have one of the best views of Temecula Wine Country, overlooking Maurice Car’rie and Avensole wineries to the north.

Cziraki said he has plans approved to build a new tasting room on the property that will connect to a new road that will go in soon connecting from Rancho California Road, adjacent to Maurice Car’rie.

“First, I have to build the road,” Cziraki said. “Then I have to put in my minimum 15 acres of vineyard on the slopes and then I can start to build my tasting room. That’s going to be the best view in the whole town.”

And how long will he keep working?

“This is fun; it’s different and a lot of fun,” Cziraki said. “We have a family of a whole group of people and we have a lot of good friends that we met in this business, and we love them all really. Each of them are different; it’s just so much fun. I don’t consider that as working. I’m going to be 83 years old.

“I am going to keep doing this until I can’t move,” he said.

Jeff Pack can be reached at jpack@reedermedia.com.