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Community Highlights: Meet Brian Farrell Jr. of Caelesta Wines and Vineyard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Farrell Jr.

Hi Brian, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. I always grew up thinking I’d go into accounting and finance before studying them both at USC. It was early into my first job out of college in finance when reality hit and I realized I needed to completely change paths. I quit my job without a plan and my only intention was to turn my passions into a career. I knew I wanted to create. I knew I wanted to blend science and art and produce something that brings people together. Fortunately, I was born to two wine nerds. While I was growing up, our family vacations were always wine-centric; visiting different wine regions, tasting, and spending time in vineyards.

We ended up planting a few hundred vines in our backyard and making our own wine for fun but for some reason, I never considered it a career until after I’d just graduated from USC. When I decided I wanted to get into wine, I realized I needed a scientific background. I worked odd jobs to support myself while pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science from Oregon State University. I then took my first job in the lab at a winery in Buellton and I was hooked. At that point, I saw people around me with degrees in Viticulture and Enology from Cal Poly and UC Davis and I felt I needed to expedite my learning and experience to make up for lost time. I then harvest hopped between Paso Robles and the Barossa Valley in South Australia so I could work two harvests per year for twice the experience.

While I was working in Buellton, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Paso Robles a lot with my family. Paso Robles fit us perfectly for a few reasons. We love French and Spanish wines, the California coast, and the fact that Paso Robles feels like the Wild West when it comes to the wine scene. In Paso, you aren’t locked into a handful of varieties like Napa or Sonoma. We can grow whatever we want, blend it however we want, and create wines that have a sense of place that cannot be recreated. We purchased land in 2015 and by 2017 we had 34 acres planted. After next year, it will be up to 37 and 10 different varieties. I make wine from the estate fruit and then sell the remaining grapes to some of the best winemakers in the area.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When we bought the land, it was completely raw. The first two years, which were all infrastructure and vineyard focused, were hectic and filled with headaches. Now that we are established, our road will always have bumps since farming has so many variables. This year, we have had to worry about smoke taint due to smoke from the Monterey fires blowing down to the Paso area. Smoke taint has ruined the entire vintage for northern California and has shown up in some parts of Paso. The jury is still out as to what wines are affected. Also, this is the first year I have ventured out on my own and focused solely on my wine. For the first three harvests for my brand, I was working full-time in the cellar for other winemakers. I’d work anywhere from 8-12 hours a day for them and then work on my wine for another 6-8 hours a day after that. There was very little sleep to be had and the stress was never-ending. However, wine is so incredibly rewarding for me and I thrive during harvest craziness so I can’t complain.

We’ve been impressed with Caelesta Wines and Vineyard, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We are family-owned and operated making small lot wines that showcase the Templeton Gap AVA of Paso Robles. We specialize in reds, mainly Bordeaux, Rhone, and Spanish blends but also make whites and rose. Our vineyard is organic and long-term, we aim to be regenerative as well. During harvest, I make the wine with the help of my parents and occasionally friends as well. I ferment in tiny lots ranging from a quarter ton to 3 tons. I also use a variety of vessels including concrete tanks, oak tanks, oak barrels, and stainless tanks. They all impart different characteristics and I love having different weapons in my wheelhouse to create unique wines. In Paso, the style demonstrates power with a lot of fruit and oak as the backbone. We aim for powerful but also elegance. Our goal is to make wines that can be opened upon release or cellared for decades. Right now, I am still the only employee. I make the wine, I sell the wine, I oversee vineyard operations. I sell the grapes. It’s a lot of work but there’s no one I’d rather be doing it with than my parents. Lastly, we are also farming oak trees that have been inoculated with Black Winter/Perigord truffle spores with the goal of being the first to cultivate black truffles in California. It takes anywhere from 5-12 to get truffes and we are now in year 5. We are bringing truffle dogs out to hunt for truffles in January with hopes of getting our first truffle harvest.

What matters most to you? Why?
Family and sustainability. In my mind, they go hand in hand. Everything that I am trying to build and create – the ranch, the wines, the winery – is done with future generations in mind. Our goal is to create something that is living and can give back to the world. The soil is alive and the wine is alive. It is on us to make sure that we are giving back to the land more than we take out. This allows us to continue to create what we love while also being able to share our slice of happiness with others for the long haul.

Pricing:

  • Reds- $48-54

Contact Info:


Image Credits

Nicole Joy Creative

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