Walter Vail was originally from New Jersey. By the end of the 1800s, he had developed profitable silver mines and cattle ranches throughout the southwestern United States. In the early 1900s, Walter was living a life of luxury with a residence on Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. In 1904, at age 52, Walter bought nearly 90,000 acres of cattle land in Temecula. The land was named Vail Cattle Ranch.
Walter was killed by a trolley car in Los Angeles in1906. Soon after, his 16- year-old son Mahlon Vail became the principal operator of the Vail Cattle Ranch.
The Vail family would do much to influence and shape Temecula during the first half of the 20th century.
The major industries during these years were stone quarries, shipping, and cattle.
Perhaps the Vail family’s biggest achievement was damming the Temecula River and creating Vail Lake in 1948.
In 1964 Mahlon Vail had been successfully operating the Vail Cattle Ranch for nearly six decades. Mahlon was in his seventies and his health was failing. He sold the 135 sq. mile cattle ranch to Kaiser Industries for $21 million. Kaiser and others formed the Rancho California Master Planned Community attracting notables including then California Governor Ronald Reagan, who purchased a sizable portion of the Santa Rosa Plateau.
Mahlon Vail died in 1965.
In 1974, the founding of Callaway Winery (by Ely Callaway, of golf fame) marked the beginning of large production winemaking in the Temecula Valley. The first grapes were planted on former Vail grazing land.
Callaway, sold the winery in 1981. Today, there are over 40 wineries in the Temecula Valley.