Program - Forgotten Barrel Winery
Rodger Grove has been a commercial real estate broker and active in all aspects of investment real estate since 1993. In 2010 an opportunity came to Rodger to further his interest in the wine industry, He started a small wholesale boutique wine business based out of Napa, and called it Forgotten Barrel. The term comes from his role as a wine “negotiant,” a merchant who purchases "forgotten barrels" of grape juice and finished wine from small farmers and then produces wine under his own label. In 2013 he wanted to expand the business to include a retail division. He chose to base this division in the San Diego area so that he could be more directly involved in the operations, and opened a tasting room in Sorrento Valley.
In 2016, Rodger purchased the historic Ferrara Winery in Escondido, and has been working diligently over the past 1 ½ years to restore the winery using care to preserve its historical character. This has given him the opportunity to significantly expand the operations. He now has the facilities to produce wines locally as well as in their Napa Valley facility. He is very committed to helping to put San Diego County back on the map as a very credible wine region and a popular destination for Southern California wine enthusiasts. By the end of this year Rodger will have completed a major restoration of the historic property and will be hosting private parties, corporate parties and small weddings in one of the counties true agricultural landmarks.
In the 1920s George Ferrara bought the winery with the idea that someday Prohibition would be lifted. He re-opened it in 1933, after the repeal of Prohibition. At its peak, the Ferrara Winery was producing 35 wines. The site has been registered by the state of California as an historical site because of its impact on the history of the wine industry. Over the years vines were taken out and houses put in. The Ferrara Winery continued to produce although its vineyards shrank with time. Eventually, six years ago, it closed.
When Rodger purchased the property, he inherited over 20 “forgotten” wine barrels with wine still in them. Most of the wine was unusable, although there was one special barrel of port that was very drinkable. The barrels, in spite of being more than 100 years old, are all very useable. The barrels are made from priceless old growth Sequoia redwood. The barrels that are falling apart and unusable as aging casks were repurposed into tables and other fixtures in the tasting room. One or two of the 5,000 gallon casks will be used to age the new winery’s finished product.
Rodger is fortunate to have a legendary master winemaker from Napa who recently moved to San Diego to help him. That man is John Robert Eppler, whom Grove met last year and during the course of conversation discovered he was moving to Oceanside.
This next season, with the grapes that will be harvested beginning in October, they will produce a new line of wines from San Diego. The Napa wine grapes will continue to be grown in Northern California, including three Cabernets, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. Northern California grapes are better for those wines, says Grove. These will be used for whites, roses and red wine. The grapes grown in San Diego County will be used for Rhone style wines, such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedra and Sangiovese grapes.
Grove plans to open the Winery to hosting weddings of parties of 100 or fewer at the restored barn that was built in the 1880s. The old bunkhouse is being repurposed as a private dining area.
Rodger finds it very satisfying to have so many long-time, in many cases generational, neighbors and Escondido residents come to the property, and share their stories of all the good memories they have of the Ferrara Family winery, and their excitement over being able to enjoy it again. Forgotten Barrel has been warmly welcomed by the Escondido community, and is very fortunate to be part of such a tight knit community.
Forgotten Barrel Winery is open Fridays, 3–7 p.m., Saturdays, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sundays noon–6 p.m. It is also open for clients and private parties by appointment. Call 888-620-8466. Or visit https://www.forgottenbarrel.com/