With the opening of his new winery and tasting room in the former Farmer’s Alliance building Friday, Ray Derby of Derby Wine Estates is combining the building’s historical past with a taste of the present.
“My motto is ‘preserving the past, to use in the present, to enrich the future,’” Derby said. “I’m not a builder of museums; this project was about preserving a historical building, but at the same time putting it to work.”
Derby bought the 11,250-square-foot building from Smart & Final in 2012 for an undisclosed amount (the San Luis Obispo County Assessor’s Office valued the property at $1.025 million at the time, and Clark Company Ranch Real Estate lists the property on its website as sold for $1.75 million).
Since then, Derby has spent the last two years renovating the 1922 building to be a fully-functioning winery.
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“This building, 90-some years ago, was built to process Paso’s primary commodity, which at the time was almonds,” Derby said. “What we’ve done, is returned it to its original purpose: It’s going to be processing Paso Robles’ No. 1 agricultural commodity, which happens to now be wine grapes.”
The updated building includes a 750-square-foot tasting room on the main floor (decorated in the Art Deco style that would have characterized the building when it was built), a 1,000-square-foot VIP lounge in the structure’s prominent tower and about 10,000 square feet (including an outside yard) for processing and storing wines.
Because of the building’s age, it also required some additions to bring it up to code, such as adding accessible bathrooms on the main floor and fire corridors throughout, and reducing the weight in the tower for seismic retrofitting.
The new winery will have the capacity to produce about 10,000 cases of wine annually, nearly four times more than it was producing at its former leased space at Carina Cellars on Adelaida Road.
Derby declined to disclose how much he invested in the renovations, saying that “how much it costs is probably one of the least important considerations” for the project.
The tasting room will officially open at 525 Riverside Ave. on Friday. The winery’s first bottling will occur in May.