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The History of Wine Production in Temecula

In 1831, the first Americans arrived in Temecula. They began the slow but steady Americanization of the region. In 1845, the Temecula Rancho was granted to Felix Valdez by the Mexican Government in an attempt to slow down Yankee incursions.

A violent battle of the Mexican-American War was fought near Temecula in 1847. Local Native Americans executed 11 Mexican soldiers and were hunted down with brutal consequences.

In the 1850s, Temecula became a stop in the stagecoach lines that were becoming the logistical route of choice in California. A post office was set up in town soon thereafter which was a rare institution in California at the time. Settlement increased during the late 1860s as displaced Confederates moved to California in the wake of the Civil War.

Because of the region’s isolation, Temecula retained many of its Native American, Spanish and Mexican customs long after California was ceded to the United States. However, the Native Americans’ land had been being purchased or seized for years. In 1875, a death-blow was finally issued when they signed a treaty relinquishing the remainder of their land. They were moved to the Pechanga Reservation a decade later.

The regional economy was boosted in 1882 when a railroad line was extended to Temecula. 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 1920s and 1930s, the region took full part in the bootlegging and speakeasies that were common in America during Prohibition.

In 1904, Walter Vail arrived in Temecula and bought nearly 90,000 acres in the region. His family would do much to shape the town during the first half of the 20th century. Probably their most famous accomplishment was damming the Temecula River and
creating Vail Lake in 1948.

In 1964, Vail Ranch was sold to the Kaiser Development Company. They built the massive Rancho California housing development and transformed the sparsely populated region. Real estate was suddenly the driving force of the local economy.

The 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 wine industry has grown considerably since then and increasing numbers of non-residents are visiting the area. However, many of the region’s wineries still cater to a largely local customer base.

The region officially became an AVA in 1984 and the town of Temecula was incorporated in 1989. The region is extremely arid and without imported water, large-scale human existence would not be possible. Modern Temecula Wine Country is located east of the Rainbow Gap in Riverside County.

> Temecula Valley Wineries

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