Gathered around a small bar, with overflowing charcuterie trays and a potluck lineup of wines, Tony Ferrara humbly serves up a taste of his past. One of the few remaining bottles of Ferrara Generation III Tawny Solera port-style wine sits side-by-side with a bottle of Ferrara Christmas Port. Tony’s brother, father, and grandfather all had a hand in making Generation III; it was an investment of time begun by Gaspar Ferrara in 1932. Each year, a portion of wine was added to the barrel, and a small amount taken out and bottled, while the rest of the wine was allowed to age over time to form a dark, sweet, caramelized dessert wine. The Ferrara family tended to this port year after year, tucking the wine in a roomy barrel, in a quiet corner of the winery, making additions annually, and taking only a little to enjoy along the way.
Our company holiday party feels much like a family gathering, thanks to Mitzi and Rodger Grove’s gracious hospitality, and also to the presence of Tony Ferrara. Mr. Ferrara lives in the neighborhood near Forgotten Barrel and has been a close friend and advisor to Rodger. His first-hand accounts of the people and the practices at Ferrara Winery offer us a glimpse of the past, and deepen our appreciation of what stands before us in the present.
Tony pours a little dessert wine into my glass; I swirl, I sip, and I smile. He then tells me to eat a cookie. The little sesame-seed-covered, not-too-sweet, shortbread type cookie holds up well to the super sweet port. He brought four trays of cookies to the party, festively decorated and unbelievably soft morsels of Italian tradition, made by Tony himself. I ask him what the secret ingredient is to getting them so soft, and he smiles and with a twinkle in his eye says, “Love”.
Tony Ferrara’s connection to the homestead and winery, located at 1120 W 15th Avenue, runs deep. He grew up on the farm, shared the workload with his family, celebrated their triumphs and grieves their losses. Although the family had a long-standing successful run at winemaking, challenges to health, and changes in the wine industry, forced the inevitable end to Ferrara Winery. The hardworking spirit of our former occupants lives on in the careful and loving reconstruction of a thriving winery at this same location. Forgotten Barrel’s tasting room displays old Ferrara bottles, both empty and full, along with a handwritten sales journal from 1946 and a California State Map Book of Wineries from the same year. More than memorabilia, the winery buildings and houses on the property stand as a testimony to the fortitude of the Ferrara family. Our day-to-day activities at the winery trace the footsteps of winemakers and winery workers over the past 86 years. Just like the Solera, Forgotten Barrel is a new addition, the gift of the present poured on top of layers of the past.
Each year, the winemakers maintained the Sicilian family tradition of spicing some Tawny Port Solera up for the holidays. The Ferrara Christmas dessert wine was much anticipated, and enjoyed in Christmases past. Rodger Grove was in possession of two bottles of Ferrara Christmas Port and chose to open one to taste at the company party. Tony Ferrara pours a little in my glass. He smiles, I smile. It isn’t everyday you taste a sip history! Sweet and spicy, I savor every drop, and then he pours me another taste. I smile and think to myself, I would like to stay in this moment and linger in the uniqueness of the experience. But moments are fleeting; I take another bite of cookie. Kaylan, the tasting room supervisor, has made a Christmas version of Forgotten Barrel Papa Dude. He is eager to do a side-by-side comparison with the Ferrara Christmas Port. The present and the future come crashing in at once as Kaylan’s spicy wine runs over my palate. It tastes sweet and full of cinnamon; it is bold, and loud in contrast to the more seductive aged wine. Tony says, “It’s good. It needs more time for the flavors to blend.” Kaylan is taking it in, tasting each wine, and making mental notes for future tries. It’s a sweet moment of knowledge exchange.
Like any product that requires the refinement of time, Tawny Port Solera wines remind us of Christmases yet to come. They serve as a symbol of hope, that future generations will be able to experience the patience, investment, and good intentions of the winemaker. Good things take time; a little saved here and there will add up with its passage and give back ten-fold what was given. Sometimes, the recipient of our efforts will be people we will never have met, people who will wonder at the foresight and commitment of previous generations. This is the essence of Forgotten Barrel, to preserve and resurrect the history and character of Ferrara, capture the cultural heritage of winemaking in Escondido, and create a thriving winery for the community to enjoy moving forward.
During Escondido's State of the City Address on February 28th Forgotten Barrel and owner Rodger Grove were recognized for his contribution to historic preservation of the former Ferrara Winery.
The Ferrara family began making wine prior to Prohibition, and is recognized as one of the oldest grape-growing, wine-making families in San Diego County. After the repeal of Prohibition, the Ferrara Winery, located in a residential neighborhood at 1120 W. 15th Ave., re-opened and established itself for the next several decades as a prominent winery specializing in the Muscat varietal that grew especially well on the property. The State of California designated Ferrara Winery, as a state historical point of interest in 1971.
Unfortunately, business and production at the Ferrara Winery declined around the early 2000s, and the winery closed permanently in 2008. Parts of the property were sold off, and the winery fell into disrepair. The property sat vacant for many years, and it was expected that an investor would eventually purchase it to develop into a housing subdivision.
In March of 2016, Rodger Grove, the owner of a winery called Forgotten Barrel with locations in both San Diego, and Napa Valley, purchased the Ferrara Winery property with the purpose of bringing the historic winery back into operation as the new home of Forgotten Barrel Winery.
Mr. Grove has been working on substantial restoration of the property over the past two years and has passionately focused on preserving its historic nature. Forgotten Barrel Winery officially opened in June of 2017, welcoming visitors back into the original Ferrara Winery tasting room that had been dark for many years. All around the property, which includes vintage farm equipment, barns and a chicken coop, visitors, can enjoy artifacts preserved from Ferrara Winery. Chandeliers, old doors, signs and barrels have been repurposed to create an authentic experience. The winery is now a beautiful location to host weddings and other special events.
Forgotten Barrel Winery has become a popular destination in the heart of Escondido. They produced their first wine made on the property in the fall of 2017, and the label proudly touts the historic Escondido property as its home.
Forgotten Barrel Winery intends to continue the Ferrara Winery legacy of making delicious tawny port using a winemaking process called Solera which means each year new wine is blended into prior years wine year over year. To further the historic preservation of the Ferrara legacy, Forgotten Barrel has also brought the original “Muscat of Alexandria” vines on the property back to life. This is the only varietal grown within the City of Escondido, and they will be bottling it this year.
In addition to its winery, Forgotten Barrel is also heavily active in volunteer efforts. They are strong supporters of the Escondido History Center, and have participated in the 2017 Grape Day Festival, the City sponsored Wine Tasting at Cruisin Grand, and dozens of community events.
Forgotten Barrel has quickly established itself as not just a winery, but an important part of Escondido history. Without the Forgotten Barrel’s efforts, the Ferrara Winery property would most likely not have survived, and would have eventually been all but “forgotten”.
Forgotten Barrel is ready to host your wedding of 100 people or less. We have a gorgeous Barrel Room available for your reception and a lush green lawn for your wedding. Your guests will be able to mingle after the ceremony with a glass of Forgotten Barrel wine and appetizers in our terrace ajacent to the wedding lawn. The venue price includes white chairs for your ceremony and farm tables and chiavari chairs for your reception. Your wedding pictures will be amazing as you stroll around the grounds capturing the rustic charm of old equipment, redwood barrels and the vineyard. Contact the winery for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Forgotten Barrel is busy putting the finishing touches on our event space. If you dream about a small, intimate wedding at a local, historic winery; look no further. Forgotten Barrel will soon be hosting weddings of 100 or fewer people. The outdoor lawn space is green and lush, the barrel room is lit and cozy and the vineyard has that rustic fall feel. Our old barn and buildings are also the perfect spot for romantic and carefree engagement photos. Feel free to visit the winery and tasting room then scope out the venue for a spot to capture those picture perfect moments. We welcome you! We will be providing more information about the venue in the coming month. In the meantime, feel free to email us for more information about hosting your wedding or party at Forgotten Barrel. We look forward to sharing our historic winery with you!
We are excited about the opening of our newly renovated tasting room. If you haven't had a chance to visit us yet, we invite you to join us for a tasting, glass of wine or purchase a bottle to enjoy on our beautiful grounds. We have opened the courtyard, the front area and the side arbor sitting area. Newly planted trees along with existing ones provide plenty of shade. You might even meet Smokey our winery pup! You are welcome to bring your dog to the grounds (on a leash please)! We don't have any food for purchase at our location so please feel free to bring along your own picnic or snacks.
While you are there, you might notice other activity on the grounds. We have finished the tasting room, but our winery and event space are still under construction. The plan is to start making wine and bottling this fall out back in our winery and to have our event space ready for weddings and large groups next spring. In the meantime we are able to book smaller parties. Please ask if you want more information!
We are excited to join the other local Escondido wineries offering delicious wine and a relaxing place to hang out.
Maybe you’ve driven by the winery before and have never visited. Or maybe you make sure you do stop in for a tour and tasting each time you’re in Escondido. Either way, we hope we will see you this summer!
Here are some tips for making the most of your visit:
Hotel, spa and dining reservations can fill up quickly during the late spring and summer months, and the same is true for tour and tasting appointments at Forgotten Barrel. As soon as you know you’re heading our way, please give us a call at (760) 450-3439 or make your reservation online. Weekends and holidays, and even weekdays, can book up at our quaint little winery. Our wine club members enjoy many benefits, including wine shipments, invitations to winery events and savings on wine purchases. They also receive complimentary tours and tastings, up to a party of four, with an advance reservation. Take a look at our wine club offerings and see if any fit your tastes!
Get Ready to Taste!
Visits to the winery include a tour through the property and winemaking facilities followed by a tasting. If you love wine, this tasting is special treat as you will taste the unique qualities presented by each varietal.
Forgotten Barrel offers a wide selection of premium hand crafted wines using fruit sourced from Napa, Sonoma, Central Coast and San Diego County.
The reincarnation of the former Ferrara Winery has transformed this once-forgotten homestead into a tranquil rustic hideaway in the city. Our winemaker, John Eppler, hails from Northern California, having worked in Napa for Robert Mondavi, Rosenblum Cellars, and his own brand, John Robert Eppler Wines. Visitors are sure to enjoy a friendly and relaxed wine tasting that will long be savored.
Keep up to date on the latest wine releases, events, and promotions!