Chris Ferrara launched his career and his family at Templeton’s Wild Horse Winery, where the budding winemaker landed his first job and met his future wife, Adrienne.
More than a decade later, after growing their Italian-focused label Clesi out of a rented space in San Luis Obispo, the couple has opened a new winery and tasting room just down the road from their former employer.
“I feel at home here,” Chris Ferrara said. “You can see Wild Horse from here. It’s like I’ve come full circle.”
The Ferraras purchased the 30-acre former goat ranch at 1873 Templeton Road two years ago and began building a 5,880-square-foot winery and tasting room that debuted to wine club members May 6.
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Ferrara declined to say what the couple invested in the property but called it “a lifetime investment.”
“I’ve been saving for this for a long time,” he said.
With a new website, the new tasting room now open Thursdays through Sundays, and the old spot behind Filipponi Ranch in San Luis Obispo set to close June 1, Ferrara is focused on the next phase: planting his own vineyards.
In coming weeks, he will plant about six acres of sangiovese and montepulciano. Eventually, Ferrara wants to get about 20 acres of southern Italian varieties under vine, though he is likely to continue sourcing Central Coast fruit for many years to come.
“I’m going to have a hard time giving up vineyards I’ve worked with for 20 years,” said Ferrara, who oversaw grower relations for Ken Volk at Wild Horse for many years. “We’ve got a real sense of community.”
The Ferraras also relied on those relations in recently launching a new label called Son of a Son, selling cabernet sauvignon and a red blend for about $20 each. Named for an Sicilian eating and drinking society, the wines have been selling well by the glass in the Los Angeles and Bay areas, Adrienne Ferrara said, and are finding a following with fans of Jimmy Buffett, whose iconic songs include “Son of a Son of a Sailor.”
But the Ferraras’ main focus is developing Clesi and their property, which backs up to the Salinas River in the Templeton Gap. Already dotted with pomegranate, walnut and apple trees — as well as coast live oaks that are hundreds of years old — Ferrara has added six acres of clementines.
“I grew up in a family of citrus farmers, so I had to give it a whirl,” he said.
The Ferraras, who live on the property with their three young children, are planning a big garden with tomatoes and whatever else strikes their fancy. They’re already raising chickens and hope to add pigs, envisioning a future harvest dinner where all the food comes from the property.
“It’s an open-ended project,” Chris Ferrara said. “It will all happen organically.”
Down the road, the couple hopes to convert an old barn into a commercial kitchen and possibly add a second winery building. They eventually plan to grow from the current 3,200 cases to about 5,000 or 6,000, but want to maintain the personal, family-run touch and slow pace of tasting with visitors.
“It’s an opportunity to come hang out with us here, see the chickens,” said Adrienne Ferrara, who also lectures on wine business at Cal Poly and manages branding for Cal Poly Wine. “It feels like such a good vibe here.”
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