Wilson CreekAnsley Carper / Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 / No Comments »
Recently I went out to Wilson Creek Winery to sit down and chat with Bill Wilson. My visit began with the regular questions you’d ask a winery owner, like “How did this all start?” and “Does the whole family really work here together, happily?” and even “Is owning a winery really as glamorous as it seems?” The family is made up of sons Mick and Bill and daughter Libby, their spouses, Deanna, Jenifer and Craig; the matriarch, Rosie and Mr. Wilson himself, dad, Jerry. Soon after we started chatting, the conversation turned to the good ole days of WC, the early days, the winery in its’ infancy. Before I give up the stories only a few of us in Temecula know about this popular winery, I’ll recap some of the history of Wilson Creek.
The property was purchased in 1996 – which was the year of my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon from WC – after much discussion within the family and with the expertise Gerry and Rosie gained from making rhubarb and dandelion wine in their bathtub, the Wilsons were off and running, or crushing, in the wine business. Wilson Creek was the 14th winery in our valley, the list now tops somewhere around 40 I believe, and was and still remains unique because of the familial environment, feel and experience you will receive when you visit the winery. On any given day, you may see Gerry driving around in a golf cart or Rosie pulling a weed from one of the many beautiful flower beds surrounding the property; they have a tough commute those two…walking down from their home, thru the vines and into the tasting room. Rosie even prepared lunch for the staffers at WC until very recently! As the staff has increased, 142 employees to be exact, several of the family members have scaled down their hours at the winery but most are still involved on some level. “We wanted this winery to be a place we would want to go; one of the most relaxed places around and our goal was to be the most hospitable winery in the valley,” says Bill. He also said his parents got into the winery business for them, the kids, and now mom and dad get to revel in the glory of the kids’ hard work, “As it should be,” said Bill. Gerry and Rosie are surrounded by their children and grandchildren and are enjoying life.
Now for the story behind the vines….In November of 1999, the first of 2 ‘unofficial’ official openings occurred at the Creek; the Harvest Barrel tasting was the first and the millennium party followed soon after. A day or so before the Barrel tasting, Libby called the members of the Wilson Creek Winery softball team and asked if any of us were free to pour wine that weekend, several of us showed up, were handed denim shirts with the WC logo embroidered on the pocket and sent off to pour wine or serve appetizers. It was a busy day, a little confusing at times, but we had a blast. Soon after the barrel tasting we all got dressed up and went to the millennium party that was held in what was the room that housed the big barrels of fermenting wine and is now an overflow tasting room. Both of those events were successful and helped to spread the word about that new winery in Temecula, the super fun one with the almond champagne!! After the softball games we would go out to the winery and have what we called “labeling parties” with the players seated at a long table, amongst pizza boxes, empty wine bottles and discarded baseball caps, carefully placing labels on bottles of ’96 Cab and ’96 Chardonnay (Libby’s favorite) and a few other early samplings that are escaping my memory… The labels looked fabulous on the bottles for the first hour or so but soon after there were many shouts of “I have another one for the tasting room” as the section for bottles with crooked labels got bigger and bigger. The kids all ran around, playing hide and seek in the vines and usually had more fun than their parents; some of those kids are graduating from high school soon!
The good ole days at Wilson Creek have now become a way of life for the family. The winery grew quickly and now hosts weddings, music festivals, events, fills the tasting room, and as Bill says, ‘anywhere we can find a space that makes sense’ with 1000’s of visitors every weekend. My days spent at the winery in its development are some of the best I’ve spent in Temecula; I told Bill the other day I preferred the alternative method of payment they used in the beginning as opposed to the current time clock but that I’d come back and pour for them anytime. And I would because anyone who steps into Wilson Creek Winery becomes an honorary Wilson for a brief period of time, an extended family member as it’s referred to at the Creek and who doesn’t need that? When you stop by make sure you try the new peach bellini and orange mimosa champagnes, both have an almond champagne base and promise to be delightful.
Join me this spring for Yoga in the Vines at Merlot Mesa on the property of Wilson Creek Winery. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.