The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians have lived in the Temecula Valley for over 10,000 years. They believed that Temecula was the place of union of the Sky-father and Earth-mother. They called it “Temeekunga” which translates to “place of the sun” or “Where the sun breaks through the mist”. Over 200 years ago, winemaking made its debut in California 20 miles to the east at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Shortly thereafter mission vineyards were established in Temecula in 1820. Temecula’s first commercial vineyard was established in 1968 by Vincenzo and Audry Cilurzo. Shortly thereafter Brookside winery and Callaway were established and thus Temecula’s wine region was born.
Temecula Valley’s geography, climate, and soil converge to create an environment ideal to grow world class grapes. Temecula Valley soils are a significant influence on wine quality. The soils are created from decomposing grantic materials and are excellent for growing high quality grapes. Grapevines require well-drained soils; they don’t like their roots to be constantly wet. The granitic soils permit the water to drain through quite easily. Granitic soils are a light sandy loam. These soils contribute to clean, pure varietal flavors without odd or herbaceous flavors that wetter soil may cause.
Another factor contributing to the quality of Temecula’s grapes is that as the sun warms the inland valleys east of Temecula, the air rises, forming a low-pressure area. The colder, much heavier air from the Pacific Ocean, which is just 22 miles (35 km) from Temecula, is then drawn inland. The Costal Mountain Range allows the colder air to pass inland through gaps and low spots. The Rainbow Gap and the Santa Margarita Gap are two of these low places in the mountains – and just beyond them lay Temecula Valley. The cool air flowing inland moderates the daytime temperatures and helps to create a pattern of warm sunny days and cool nights, ideal conditions for the best wine grapes.
Another meteorological factor affecting the valley’s climate is the “lapse rate.” It involves the altitude of the vineyard land and the height of the surrounding mountains. Temecula vineyards are located 1,000 feet (300 m) to 1,200 feet (370 m) above seal level. The surrounding mountains average 2,000 feet (600 m) to nearly 11,000 feet (3,400 m) elevation. These high elevations mean cooler air – a temperature drop of 3 °F (2 °C) for every 1,000 feet (300 m) feet of altitude gain. The heavy cold air that collects between the high peaks during the night drains off the heights much like water, joining cold moist air from the Santa Margarita River Channel to meander through the Temecula Valley, creating a double cooling effect. As a result, nighttime lows in and around Temecula are very cool. The cool nighttime temperatures are critical in developing high quality grapes.
Today there are over 35 wineries in the Temecula Valley producing varietals such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Syrah, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. Both Temecula and its wine industry have grown significantly over the last 40 years. Temecula is truly a special place and if you love wine, no better place to live in southern california! I am the exclusive agent for www.temeculacaliforniawineries.com, check out the site to read more on Temecula Wine Country.
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