by Fred McMillin
for October 22, 1999


Winery of the Week

Up, Up and Away with Callaway



Callaway Winery  
"General Eisenhower's long range weather forecaster for the entire war was Dr. Krick. I hired him to answer this question.

Fine wine grapes cannot be grown in Southern California--it's too hot. So here in Temecula, 600 miles south of Napa, why are the temperatures nearly as low as those of that great wine district?"

...Winery founder Ely Callaway, 1968 (from Robert Benson's Great Winemakers of California)

The Rest of the Story

Dr. Krick found the answer east and west of 1,400 feet-high Temecula, which is midway between San Diego and Los Angeles. To the east is the Salton Sea, with the lowest atmospheric pressure in California. To the west is the Rainbow Gap in the coastal mountain range. Thus, the cool marine air is pulled through the Gap 20 miles to Temecula and on to the Salton Sea area.

Armed with that, Ely made the proper decision and planted 105 acres of vines; the first, landmark crush occurred in 1974. Three years later author Benson asked some other very interesting questions, including...

Benson: "Why haven't you planted any Chardonnay?" Callaway: "If I had to speculate, I'd say we would have a good chance of growing fine Chardonnay, but from a marketing standpoint it seems a little wiser to go with other varieties, since northern California is producing so many great Chardonnays. We would merely be another fine Chardonnay producer."

Benson: "You are producing 18,000 cases annually, but attracting customers throughout the U.S.A. How large a production do you forsee?" Callaway: "We think that 35,000 cases is about as far as we can go. We're afraid our quality would be compromised if we grow much beyond that."

Ely was a bit conservative. There soon WAS a Callaway Chardonnay, and it was NOT lost among the competition. Our Sept. 19,1997 WineDay reported it ranked sixth in sales of premium Chardonnays in the nation.

As for that 35,000 case limit, sales now exceed 200,000! (and the quality is still there.) For much more about all of this, see "Just Say Callaway", that 9-19-97 WineDay. My panel is about to taste the latest releases of three other Callaways that have done well in the past, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Dolcetto. Stay tuned. (or phone P.R. Director Dan Solomon, 800-221-6107, X-337)


Apparently the native American Indians recognized the distinctive climate of the region long before Dr. Krick was studying it. Their word "temecula" means "the land where the sun shines through the white mist."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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