Temecula Valley: 50 Years in the Grapes

Winegrowing goes back over 50 years in Temecula Valley

A stone’s throw from the millions of people who inhabit Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, the Temecula Valley sits in western Riverside County.

Robert Renzoni Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a hot August day in the late 1960s, Eli Callaway, a very East Coast businessman, was being driven on what is now Rancho California Road when he came upon a very pregnant woman working in a small family vineyard.

Fazeli Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“It must have been over 100 degrees,” said Audrey Cilurzo, who with her husband, Vincenzo, had planted the first commercial vineyard in the region.

Dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit and wearing white shoes, Ely Callaway wasted little time.

Robert Renzoni Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“He walked up to me and said, ‘My name is Ely Callaway and I’m the CEO of Burlington Industries and I only have two hours to learn all there is to know about the wine business.'”

Fifty years later, much has changed in Temecula.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Temecula’s Wine Country, a dream of a handful of pioneers five decades ago, has grown in both size and prestige having been named one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2019” by the prestigious Wine Enthusiast.

Ely Callaway and John Moramarco met on a dirt road in what is now Temecula’s Wine Country when Callaway was looking for property to buy.

Robert Renzoni Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1967, Moramarco who descended from a long line of viticulturists had been hired by Brookside Winery of Rancho Cucamonga to come to Rancho California to plant 1,000 acres of grapes. Brookside and the Cilurzos were the first to plant commercial vineyards in the valley.

Fazeli Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Callaway asked Moramarco where a good location would be for a winery. Moramarco pointed to the spot where the winery sits today.

In 1968, Callaway bought 150 acres. Soon after, he hired Moramarco away from Brookside to plant grapes and manage the vineyard.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The next year, Moramarco planted 105 acres of grapevines, including 40 acres of sauvignon blanc, 40 acres of chenin blanc, and 25 acres of white riesling.

Robert Renzoni Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1973, Callaway sold 25 tons of grapes to Robert Mondavi Winery, keeping just enough of his harvest to determine whether he should build a winery in Temecula.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After heading up giant textile manufacturer Burlington Industries, but being passed over for its chief executive officer position in 1973, Callaway “retired” to Temecula to oversee the vineyard. In January 1974, he began building the winery, with plans to crush and bottle the first Callaway wines that September. Moramarco served as the vineyard’s manager. The first wines were sold in October 1975.

Eli Callaway sold the winery to Hiram Walker & Sons in 1981 and went on to gain fame and fortune in the world of golf with his namesake company, Callaway Golf.

You can find almost every familiar variety in California here, from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah, Zinfandel, Grenache, and Merlot. There are also some grapes that aren’t so common, like Vermentino, Falanghina, and Counoise.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red blends are popular including classic styles like Rhône and Bordeaux blends. Grapes that originate in warmer climates, like Sangiovese and Tempranillo, also do well.

Robert Renzoni Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rather warm region is cooled by Pacific Ocean wind and fog that sails through the “Rainbow Gap” of the Santa Margarita Mountains. Today, thanks to more than 40 wineries and their multifaceted tasting rooms, the hospitality industry is thriving, with restaurants, hotels, golf courses, breweries, distilleries, and even a casino with a 5-star RV Park.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With great wines and beautiful scenery, Temecula Valley is a fun place to spend a few days or a few weeks in your RV with lots of options for all ages.

Where to Stay: Pechanga Casino RV Resort, Temecula

Pechanga Casino RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966

Temecula Valley Named Best Wine Destination for 2019

The Southern California wine region was named one of the best destinations for 2019

For years, the Temecula Valley wine country—an unassuming area of rolling hills set close to the Southern California desert—has been somewhat of an under-the-radar destination. But it’s a secret no longer. Wine Enthusiast has named Temecula Valley one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2019” shining a spotlight on the area’s winning combination of notable wines and top-notch hospitality.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The esteemed annual list is a product of extensive travel and tastings that Wine Enthusiast editors and contributors undertake throughout the year.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We seek locales that offer world-class wines as well as unforgettable restaurants, hotels, and cultural activities suited for the intrepid wine lover,” says the publication’s executive editor, Susan Kostrzewa. “The list balances classic, famed regions with emerging, insider gems that have yet to be discovered.”

This marks the first time that Temecula Valley was selected.

Fazeli Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The wines have never been better,” says Wine Enthusiast contributing editor Matt Kettmann, “and I’ve sensed an increased focus on grape growing and quality winemaking in just the past five years that I’ve been covering the region. Plus, there’s a lot more excitement surrounding their hospitality offerings now than ever before.”

Temecula Valley has been producing notable wines since the late 1960s, when early adopters discovered that a wide range of varietals could flourish here. Now, winemakers have had time to take their craft to the next level. In addition, some have opened hotels and gourmet restaurants to round out the experience.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Not long ago, Temecula Valley was just beginning to create tourism experiences with only a handful of wineries and offerings,” says Kimberly Adams, CEO of Visit Temecula Valley. “The pioneers had a dream and persevered; it was their passion—and that of those who followed—that continue to make this a destination people fall in love with.”

Fazeli Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Relative newcomers are making an impact, too—like Robert Renzoni and his vineyard, which he opened in 2008 on the west end of the De Portola Wine Trail. The tasting room is located on 12 acres of rolling hills featuring nine acres dedicated to classic Italian and Bordeaux grape varieties, uniquely planted in six segmented micro climate blocks.

The Renzoni family began creating wines over 100 years ago along Italy’s northern coast. Today, Robert Renzoni Vineyards continues the tradition begun by their ancestors.

“Back in the day, people used to laugh at Napa and Paso Robles,” he says. “It took determination and experimentation for those regions to get to where they are now.”

Robert Renzoni Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

He says Temecula is following the same trajectory: Dedicated winegrowers are settling here, doing their homework, and continually experimenting. Now they’ve had time to figure out what grows best; with a terroir and elevation similar to Tuscany, that’s been mainly the Mediterranean varietals.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Syrah and Sangiovese will make this region famous,” he says, but Petit Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Montepulciano, and Vermentino are flourishing as well.”

Robert Renzoni Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a recent visit we tasted a portfolio of five wines in their Tuscan Villa tasting room that included Barile Chardonnay, Barbara, Old Vine Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Montepulciano. Tasting fee is $15 ($20 on weekends). We purchased two bottles of Zinfandel.

Renzoni also jumped on the flourishing hospitality trend by opening an on-site trattoria, Mama Rosa’s, a few years ago. And he’s happy to see the area begin to receive national attention for all of its offerings. “Eventually, we’ll get to the point where people will say, ‘Remember when people laughed at Temecula?’”

Pechanga RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Stay: Pechanga Casino RV Resort, Temecula

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966

5 Cities with Perfect Weather in June

Where can you travel to in June to enjoy warm weather with blue skies and sunshine?

There are many wonderful late spring and early summer destinations in the U.S. Much of the country is more temperate in June (although some parts are already exceedingly hot or still quite cool). Warm and sunny days coupled with pleasantly cool evenings make for the perfect time for an RV trip.

This list features the best weather the country has to offer in June. Included is the average monthly high and low temperatures, along with the number of days to expect rain or amount of rain, according to US Climate Data. Here are five American cities with perfect weather in June.

New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe, New Mexico

83°/49°; 3 days of rain

Loretta Chapel featuring a spiral staircase, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one of the top destinations in the American Southwest. A city that embraces its natural environment, Santa Fe is a city whose beautiful adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape. A city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals. Santa Fe draws those who love art, natural beauty, and those who wish to relax.

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico’s capital city is beautiful in June. It has a very temperate early summer season and you’ll want to be outside almost every minute. If you plan a trip to Santa Fe in June, you will witness a carnival of the senses at ARTfeast’s Edible Art Tour (EAT), a two-night movable feast event.

Historic Route 66, Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams, Arizona

81°/49°; 1 day of rain

Historic Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The opium dens, bordellos, and other landmarks of Williams’ rough-and-tumble past are long gone. But some kinder, gentler vestiges of this town’s Wild West era remain.

Historic Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams boasts the final stretch of Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (on October 13, 1984). The original “super-highway,” as Route 66 was known in 1926, spanned more than 2,300 miles from Chicago to Long Beach, California and opened up the West to road travel. Today, the town’s Main Street is a National Historic District.

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The town of 3,000 residents, considered the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is also home to the Grand Canyon Railway, an excursion train that traverses the scenic, high-desert plateau between a historic depot and the canyon.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Temecula, California

81°/56°; 0 days of rain

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Taste and tour through a hidden-gem wine region boasting over 40+ wineries, stroll the wooden boardwalks of historic Old Town, shop Promenade Temecula or the local farmers markets, play a round of golf, or test your luck at Pechanga Resort Casino while camping at their 5-star RV resort.

Brian Head Scenic Byway between Cedar City and Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar City, Utah

83°/48°; 0.51 inch average rain

Some call Cedar City “Festival City, USA.” Because it has a lot of festivals. For Shakespeare, for livestock, for music, for wild flowers, for classic cars and films.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Others call it “Gateway to the National Parks” because it’s one hour from Zion, 90 minutes from Bryce Canyon and 3 hours from Capitol Reef or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And Cedar Breaks National Monument, only 30 minutes away. Like a mini Bryce Canyon, minus the crowds, Cedar Breaks contains a stunning assortment of hoodoos and cliffs. Technically an amphitheater, the monument is three miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, filled with craggy rock formations jutting up from the base like natural skyscrapers.

Columbia River Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pasco, Washington

78°/51°; 0.67 inch average rain

2019 Newmar Dutch Star ar Columbia Sun RV Resort in Kennewick © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland-West Richland, aka the Tri-Cities of Washington State, offer a plethora of activities from golfing and walking and biking trails to fishing and boating to tours of local vineyards and wineries. Award-winning wines can be tasted at many of the local wineries, from the slopes of Red Mountain to Tulip Lane there is an abundance of world class cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petite verdot to sample from most of the 200 area wineries in the Columbia Valley.

Worth Pondering…

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
—L.M. Montgomery

Casinos Cash-In with RV Resorts

Southern California casinos are betting big on RV campers by catering to that demographic with full-service campsites, like the one at Pechanga Resort & Casino

RV camping is on the upswing.

In a report released last August, the RV Industry Association forecast that 505,900 RVs were expected to be shipped to dealers in 2018, “capping nine straight years of growth and resulting in the highest annual total for the RV market.”

And demographically speaking, with both boomers and millennials expressing an affinity for RV camping, it’s no wonder casinos have found a new market to woo.

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

As a result, casinos are now setting aside precious marketing dollars and physical space on their properties to attract the growing RV-campers-who-like-to-gamble clientele.

In southern California, two casinos—Pala and Pechanga—have carved out big chunks of their casino land to cater to RV campers. Here’s a look at Pechanga.

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Pechanga Resort & Casino

Location: 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula

Opened: March 1, 2000

How big: 16 acres

How many sites: 210, all full-service

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Site details: All sites have 12 feet of grass on either side with electrical, water, and sewer hookups and free Wi-Fi and cable television service. Of the 210 sites, 112 are deluxe back-in sites, 24 are deluxe pull-through sites, 17 premium pull-through sites, and four luxury sites. In addition, there are larger spaces—the “Chairman” is 2,400 square feet—that include fenced sites, each equipped with a gazebo and picnic table. For those camping with other RV enthusiasts, there are 22 buddy sites, which allow campers to position their RVs so their doors are facing.

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Amenities: If you want to relax beyond the RV, near the clubhouse you’ll find a swimming pool and two spas. The clubhouse is available for use for an extra fee. RV resort guests can use the driving range at the Journeys golf course for free. There’s a 24-hour Laundromat, and throughout the campground, there are three restroom facilities, two with showers. Outdoor amenities include a fenced dog park and a guest pavilion with outdoor seating for campfires or just relaxing.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Pets: The resort allows three pets per RV at a fee for $5 per pet per stay, up to seven days.

Forgot something?: The remodeled Pechanga Mini-Mart, adjacent to the gas station, has been remodeled and carries everything you might need while you’re camping at the resort—from produce to snacks to beer and wine. Inside the Mini-Mart is Baja Express, which serves traditional Mexican food.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tip: Forget about making fresh guacamole. Let the folks at Baja Express do the work—just order a pint for $7.

Shuttle service: Shuttles are available 24 hours a day from the RV resort to the Pechanga hotel and casino.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Discounts: 10 percent discounts available to members of Good Sam, AAA, AARP, and military.

Accolades: Good Sam has awarded Pechanga RV Resort perfect 10s for five consecutive years. In 2017, both Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines gave the resort a Silver Award.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dining tips: Those who don’t want to cook in the RV don’t need to go far for other dining options. Pechanga has everything for every taste—from grab-and-go and casual fare to fine dining.

The Lobby Bar & Grill, located in the atrium, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with prices that won’t deplete your gambling budget. The mostly American-centric menu serves up everything from soups and salads to burgers and seafood, but don’t miss the steak and fries (hanger steak, $27) and the crispy Brussels sprouts with apple glaze and asiago cheese ($6).

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Outside of the main hotel and casino area, there is Journey’s End. It has beautiful views of the golf course and serves breakfast and lunch. If you’re looking for something light to munch on for happy hour, swing by after 3 p.m. The happy hour menu has a varied appetizer selection—from quesadillas and nachos to wings and pot stickers—as well as wine from Temecula wineries ($5).

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Casino gambling is colorful and dramatic and theatrical.

—Steve Wynn

Temecula Valley: Historic Old Town, Wine Country and More

The Southern California wine region was named one of the best destinations for 2019

For many visitors, the Temecula Valley wine country is a surprise. After all, a lot of people just don’t expect to see gently rolling hills blanketed with rows of vineyards so close to the California desert.

But the Temecula Valley has been producing top wines since the 1970s. And like the best vintages, this wine country just gets better with age.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For years, the Temecula Valley wine country has been somewhat of an under-the-radar destination. But it’s a secret no longer. Wine Enthusiast has named Temecula Valley one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2019” shining a spotlight on the area’s winning combination of notable wines and top-notch hospitality.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It’s a diverse growing region, home to everything from cooler climate grapes like Chardonnay to such warm-weather loving varieties as Syrah and Grenache. The tasting experience is varied, too. Visit posh wineries with lavish restaurants overlooking the vines, and summer concerts featuring top performers.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Stroll the streets of Old Town Temecula, with quality boutiques, eateries, and a relaxed Old West feel. Take a hot-air balloon ride or tasting tour in a chauffeured limousine, or play a round of golf. Or just hang out in a tasting room gain insights into this unique and surprising region.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Centrally located just east of Interstate 15, Temecula Valley is within an hour’s drive from San Diego, Orange County, and the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area. 

The name Temecula comes from the Luiseño Indian word “Temecunga” —“temet” meaning “sun” and “-ngna” which means “place of”.

The Spanish interpreted and spelled the word as “Temecula” translated to mean “Where the sun breaks through the mist”. Temecula is the only city in California to still retain its original Indian name.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

History buffs can wander the streets of Old Town Temecula viewing rustic buildings, sidewalks, and storefronts reminiscent of the historic golden west in the 1880s.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located in the heart of Temecula, the Old Town district is a unique blend of historic buildings, shops, restaurants, museums, hotels, weekly farmers market, and special events in one walkable, easy-to navigate area.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Taking a step back in time, we strolled along the wooden boardwalks past rustic western-era buildings, antique shops, and specialty boutiques. We checked out the shops with a stop at Temecula Olive Oil Company.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once the site of a stopover on the historic Butterfield Overland Stage Coach Line, scenic Vail Lake was created in 1948 when the owners of the Vail Cattle Ranch constructed the 132 foot high Vail Lake Dam. Owned and operated by the Rancho California Water District since 1978, the 1,000+ acre lake is a well known mountain biking destination and recreational mecca.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Today Vail Lake RV Resort offers camping and activities for the whole family, including camping, mountain biking, hiking, miniature golf, swimming, horseshoes, and just plain relaxing under the oaks. Offering both privacy and security, Vail Lake RV Resort is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature in over 8,000 acres of ancient, shady oaks, and natural California chaparral hillsides.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Temecula Valley, at an elevation of 1,400 feet, with warm days and cool nights, is an ideal location for growing high quality wine grapes.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

No matter which varietal of wine you’re looking for, you can probably find it in Temecula Valley Wine Country. Wineries here in the Temecula Valley grow and produce over 50 different varietals of wine; from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot to Mourvedre, Viognier to Chardonnay.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Temecula Valley is particularly well-suited to growing Italian, Spanish, and French grapes such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Montepulciano, Viognier, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo.

The majority of Temecula Valley wineries make only a small quantity of each vintage—not enough for national distribution. So, you won’t often find their wines in grocery stores or wine shops; they’re mostly available to visitors via winery tasting rooms. That means, when you buy a bottle to take home, you’re bringing back something truly unique.

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Where to Stay: Pechanga Casino RV Resort, Temecula

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966