New business poised to open at familiar location

Ryan Edell and Whitney Hale, Claremont residents and co-owners of Grafted Cellars Winery, which is set to open soon at 135 W. First St. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

by Andrew Alonzo |

When Sonja Stump Photography closed its doors last year at 135 W. First St., many wondered what would take its place in the historic building it had occupied for 23 years.

We need wonder no longer: wine tasting room and restaurant Grafted Cellars Winery is set to open soon at the Village location.

Owned by Claremont residents Ryan Edell, 40, and Whitney Hale, 31, the new location is an expansion to the owners’ original tasting room in Vista, California, and will offer patrons original alcoholic beverages in addition to pizzas, charcuterie, small bites, and salads.

“We had the inventory already, and the tasting room that we have right now is in a business area, so there’s not a lot of foot traffic,” Edell said.

“I’m just excited to open up honestly,” added Hale, a 2010 Claremont High graduate. “I think Claremont, especially, is very much about supporting local, about supporting the mom and pops, and that’s really what we are. We’re not just a third-party store.”

Hale and Edell, who were married in 2022, bought Grafted Cellars from its previous owners early that year. When they took over, the couple had a wine club of about 200 people.

Their wines are made and bottled at the Vista location with grapes sourced from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and Sonoma, Paso Robles, Temecula, and Santa Barbara in California.

“We tend to at the very least get sustainable grapes, if not organic or biodynamic,” Edell said.

Grafted Cellars makes about 40 wines, and will offer about half of those at its Claremont location.

Grafted Cellars Winery co-owners Ryan Edell, left, assemble furniture Tuesday at their First Street location. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

In terms of beer, Edell said, “we’ll do a Belgian white, then IPA, a hazy IPA, and then probably a rotating seasonal handle. We’ll also do sangrias on tap, a white and a red.”

The brews served come from Ogopogo Brewing, which is owned by Edell and a group of  friends.

Edell is a former professional baseball player. He played in the minor leagues of the Cleveland Guardians’, Oakland Athletics’ and Philadelphia Phillies’ organizations. His brewing journey began after the end of his baseball career in 2012.

As they have readied the new business for opening day, the couple say Claremont’s reception has been warm.

“The people that pass by, they always ask, ‘Oh my God, when are you going to be open?’” Hale said.

The owners are eager to open and are already planning for future meet the winemaker and blending course events.

“There’s nothing like this around,” Hale said. “For whatever reason, in L.A. County there’s no winery tasting room in a 30-mile range. Until you get Malibu, there’s nothing — even if you go in the other direction towards San Bernardino.

“I want to open up wine and wine drinking to every generation, because I think there is still this preconceived notion that wine is an uptight snooty sort of thing. I’m trying to make it more of a level playing field. I’m trying to make wine a lot more approachable, a lot more down to earth, a lot more friendly. And I plan to staff in that way too, where everyone treats you like family.”

Grafted Cellars is set to open as soon as it passes final inspections.

“We’re chug-a-lugging along,” Hale said Tuesday. “Hopefully we get inspections done either end of this week or next week. Hopefully we pass, and hopefully we can do a soft opening towards the end of this month or the beginning of August. But we’ll see.

“Again, I’ve said that so many times, so many optimistic deadlines, but it looks really good for end of July, August.”

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