By: Joe Hilbers
This marks the fifty years, 1968 - 2018 that have produced Temecula Valley Wine Country. As a Wine Writer we were fortunate to see first hand how from its early beginnings it has grown, expanded and continues to do so.
In those first years wine was only beginning to be a beverage of choice for many Americans. There was, however, a group of men and women devoted to spreading the word on a beverage that had a history of at least seven thousand years.
It was called the California Wine Writers Forum and was formed and led in those first years by two men, Robert Bowser and Fred Russell, now both deceased. With the first plantings of grapes in the Temecula Valley the region soon got the attention of this group of the Forum members which included this Writer.
It was new and a good deal closer in geography than trekking continually to the Central Valley and Napa. So there were constant visits to the pioneer vintners which included Ely Callaway of Callaway Vintners, John Thornton of Thornton Winery, Joe Hart, of Hart Winery, Peter Poole and Jim Carter of South Coast Winery whose family has farmed the Temecula Valley through three centuries.. These men were also the organizers of what was called the South Coast Vintners Association.
At that time I was editor of a monthly newspaper called 'The Wine Guide of California' and whenever I needed a story with a local angle I had only to look to nearby Temecula. As a result I spent much time there and followed the expansion as it occurred.
All of these memories returned when we attended the media event sponsored by Temecula Valley Wine Country recently held at The Forum in Inglewood.
One of the boosters of the region that continues to the present is the annual Balloon & Wine Festival which from its beginning included the region's wines. Championing this event for many years is Melody Brunsting of Melody's Ad Works and we met again at the Forum.
Now along with the success of the region's wineries is the large number of craft breweries to be found in the Valley. We visited two at the Forum event, Garage Brewing Co and ReGG13bfuge Brewery.
Other success stories follow like local products produced by Temecula Lavender Company and Temecula Olive Oil Company. And of course there are the many award winning restaurants to be found. We met and chatted with Matt Steffen, executive chef at Cork - Fire Kitchen located at the Temecula Creek Inn. And learned about the cuisine of Vineyard Rose Restaurant as well. Wineries present at the Forum event included Doffo Winery, Wilson Creek Winery, Baily's Winery, and South Coast Winery, two of the pioneer vintners, and Fazeli Cellars. And as would be expected Pechange Resort, Casino and the Journey Golf Course, all offered a large presence at the fifty year presentation.
As we leaving the Forum we met with Annette Brown, director of PR for Visit Temecula Valley, and told her she could expect to see us in the near future for more reporting on Southern California Wine Country.
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