Studying Wine Tourism in the Temecula Valley
On any given weekend in the nearby Temecula Valley, stretch limos full of lively bachelorette parties and busses brimming with winery tasting room goers motor down Rancho California Road, the main drag of the region marketed as “Southern California’s Wine Country,” looking for fun and an authentic rural experience.
Tourism for the Temecula Valley represents $650 million a year, with wines and vines claiming a good portion of that business as perhaps 500,000 people visit the area’s 40-plus wineries. For some, this is not enough. Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has crafted a Wine Country Community Plan that would pave the way to expand to over 100 wineries in the next few years. For others, this is too much. Residents complain about the noise coming from the jazz concerts and weddings, while environmentalists wonder where the water will flow from for new wineries, hotels, and spas. Purists worry about the quality of the wine suffering, stunting the development of a notable “Temecula terroir.”
Temecula Valley is at a crossroads. This, to me, was the perfect time to launch a research study. I am an anthropologist, a specialist in human behavior. Since 2010, I have been doing interviews of officials and winemakers, tourists and viticulturalists, and picking grapes with migrant farm workers. Last year, the National Science Foundation funded my research and that of my graduate students for the next three years. I feel strongly that what we see today can only be understood in the context of southern California’s long and illustrious wine history.
Recently, I conducted archival research in Cal Poly Pomona’s wine archives, and I was able to interview members of three pioneering winegrowing families in the historic Ontario – Rancho Cucamonga area: Gino L. Filippi, Donald Galleano, and Paul Hofer III. Learning vintage history from the history-makers themselves was as instructive as it was thrilling.