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In Memoriam ~ Vincenzo Cilurzo

March 31st, 2016

audrey--vince

Temecula Valley Wine Country is mourning the loss of one of our pioneers.  Vincenzo (Vince) Cilurzo, passed away peacefully at his home on Wednesday, March 9th, 2016.

Vince first found his love for wine in the 1960’s when his wife, Audrey, bought him a home-winemaking kit. Although, Vince and Audrey’s path to become wine country pioneers happened quite by accident.  In 1967, after spending many years in Hollywood as an Emmy Award-winning lighting director for several television shows and specials, Vince and Audrey decided to join a waiting list to open a McDonald’s franchise in Escondido, CA.  They were on their way to Escondido when they happened upon the beautiful valley of what was then called Rancho California; what we know today as Temecula.  They fell in love with the area and began to research real estate.  In the midst of their research they met Dick Break who had planted a couple of experimental vines in the area and told the Cilurzos that he’d done some climate studies and that the climate was very similar to that in Napa. The rest, as they say, is history.  The Cilurzos hired Mr. Break as a consultant and at his suggestion planted their very first first vines in 1968; Petite Sirah and Chenin Blanc. This would become the first commercial wine grape vineyard in the Temecula Valley.

Vince and Audrey grew grapes for the next ten years and during that time they learned everything they could about growing grapes and making wine. In 1978 they opened Cilurzo Winery, one of the first three wineries in Temecula.  At a time when Ely Callaway, founder of Callaway Winery was touting “White Wine Is All We Make”, the Cilurzos championed the growing of red wine grapes.  In the years after, when Temecula Valley Wine Country was beginning to see a surge in newcomers wanting their own wineries, they spent countless hours mentoring, providing support and encouragement to those who came in search of their own wine country dream.  Throughout the history of our wine country, the Cilurzos have been fierce supporters, and for that, we’re eternally grateful.

Goodbye, Mr. Cilurzo, you’ll be missed, but your legacy will forever remain.

Photo courtesy of Tom Plant and www.lifeandvinemagazine.com

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