Temecula Wine History
Before becoming the stellar wine region of Southern California, Temecula’s history has some illustrious beginnings in the 1800s. It took a little over a hundred years before the Temecula Valley saw its first vineyards and wineries and blossomed into Temecula Wine Country.
The first Americans arrived in Temecula in 1831. They slowly and steadily settled the Temecula Valley region and by 1845, the Mexican Government granted Temecula Rancho to Felix Valdez in an attempt to slow down Yankee incursions.
In 1847, a violent battle in the Mexican-American War was fought near Temecula. Local Native Americans executed 11 Mexican soldiers and were hunted down with brutal consequences.
In the 1850s, Temecula became a stop on the stagecoach lines that were becoming the logistical route of choice in California. So popular was this route, a post office was set up in town which was a rare institution in California at the time. Settlement increased during the late 1860s as displaced Confederates moved West in the wake of the Civil War.
Because of the region’s isolation, Temecula retained many of its Native American, Spanish and Mexican customs and culture long after California was ceded to the United States. Throughout time, however, Native American lands were being purchased or seized and in 1875, the final blow was delivered when tribal nations signed a treaty relinquishing the remainder of their land in the Temecula Valley. A decade later, the Native Americans who remained were relocated to the Pechanga Reservation.
The the railroad line boosted Temecula’s economy when the route was extended to the region in 1882. Unfortunately, the line was abandoned later that decade due to damage from incessant flooding. The major industries during these years were stone quarries, cattle and shipping. During the American Prohibition of the 20s and 30s, the Temecula Valley operated its share of bootlegging and speakeasies.
In 1904, Walter Vail arrived in Temecula and bought nearly 90,000 acres in the region. His family would do much to influence and shape the town during the first half of the 20th century. The Vail family’s biggest achievement was damming the Temecula River and creating Vail Lake in 1948.
The family sold Vail Ranch to the Kaiser Development Company in 1964. They built the massive Rancho California housing development and transformed Temecula’s sparsely populated region. Real estate sparked and suddenly became the driving force of the local economy.
Temecula Wine Country’s first vineyards and wineries were established to draw potential home-buyers to the area. When the I-15 Freeway between Los Angeles County and San Diego County was completed, real estate development accelerated even more. The area’s wine industry grew and Temecula became a popular California wine destination.
Though Temecula became an incorporated city in 1989, the region officially became an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1984. Modern Temecula Wine Country is located east of the Rainbow Gap in Riverside County and the Temecula wine community has grown considerably since its humble beginnings. Each year Temecula Valley’s wineries host noted wine events and welcome increasing numbers of non-resident wine enthusiasts to the area.