Callaway has changed. It was the first winery in California’s Temecula Valley, founded in 1969 by Ely Callaway who invented a successful new golf club. When I visited in 2002 it was the largest winery in Temecula and then owned by international drinks giant Allied Domecq who intended to double annual production to 300,000 cases.
But now it is privately owned and although the structure of the large winery remains, little of the capacity is used as they are now a boutique operation, producing just 10,000 cases. “Quality not quantity” is their mantra. Note that Allied Domecq retained the Callaway Coastal brand which is nothing to do with Callaway Vineyards and Winery in Temecula.
Temecula Valley is conveniently placed midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Exit interstate highway 15 onto Rancho California Road and Calloway is just 5 miles inland. It is hard to think of a wine region easier to get around. Vineyards spread either side of the road along the valley floor and wineries neighbour each other like plots on a suburban estate.
I booked one of the daily 45 minute tours which includes tastings from tank (photo of tasting sample being taken by our guide is below) and barrel and 4 tastings at the counter ($25). The tour was led by a knowledgeable assistant winemaker.
We started by looking over the vineyards, and learned that drip feed irrigation with an insecticide gives protection against sharpshooters that spread Pierces Disease. Small production allows hand sorting of grapes. 98% of the grapes come from the estate (bought in grapes are Pinot Gris and Muscat Canelli) but from 2017 all wine will be Estate grown.
Reserve wines are six months in bottle before release. I tasted six wines after the tour and I was impressed by their quality. Some wines are only sold at the winery.
My highest scoring wine was:
Callaway Estate Grown Calliope Winemakers Reserve Red 2014, Temecula AVA 14.6% abv ($42). This is a winery exclusive. It’s a blend of 74% Mourvedre, 14% Cinsault, 8% Syrah, 4% Grenache, which is a rich and mouth filling full favoured wine, delicious.
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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.
Disclosure: Peter May paid all costs associated by his tour, tastings and visit to Temecula and Callaway