Templeton Juniors, 1933

Templeton Juniors, 1933.
The LEGEND of Lorenzo Nerelli

Lorenzo Nerelli was born in the province of Foggia, in the region of Puglia, Italy, on January 23, 1883. He was raised on a farm and educated in Italian public schools. He arrived in New York in 1906 and migrated to San Luis Obispo County in 1915, after working for eight years on the railroads in New York. Lorenzo found employment as a charcoal worker but soon started his own business, hiring his friends as employees. Lorenzo and his crew of workers cleared most of the land around Templeton and Paso Robles. Lorenzo also worked for vineyardists Andrew York and James Robert Anderson on York Mountain. Lorenzo learned to plant, prune and harvest grapevines in their vineyards.

Lorenzo and his new bride, Cesarina Nonini, soon purchased their own 104-acre ranch at the foot of York Mountain. They planted a vineyard and built their own winery in 1917, naming it Templeton Winery. The jug wine they produced was Zinfandel. During the Prohibition years, they continued growing grapes and producing limited quantities of wine. Templeton Winery was the second winery in San Luis Obispo County bonded after Prohibition was repealed in 1934. The San Luis Obispo Telegram reported on page 1 on April 24, 1934, “Winery Going Up Near Templeton.” Lorenzo hired Joe L. Forti of Fresno to build a large winery on his ranch with cement brick brought from the valley. Lorenzo made high-quality wines, which he sold in bulk to wineries in northern California that were shipping to eastern markets.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The sons of the Italian families were eager to enlist. Lorenzo Nerelli was forced to close his winery when all three of his sons left to fight in World War II. Unable to sell the property, Lorenzo and Cesarina abandoned their York Mountain ranch, including the vineyards and the winery. They moved to Paso Robles to purchase sixteen acres of land on Pacific Street, where they planted a new vineyard. Lorenzo continued to grow grapes, selling his annual harvest to Pesenti Winery. He lived in Paso Robles until his death in 1968.


1844: José Pedro Narváez obtained the six square league land grant or 25,933 acres, Rancho Paso de Robles. He served as captain of the port of Monterey from 1839 to 1844. He served in the Mexican Navy.

1883: Lorenzo Nerelli is born on Jan 23 in Foggia, Puglia, Italy, the son of a farmer whose name was Thomas Nerelli. Lorenzo is brought up on a farm and attends public schools.

1904: Cerrina Branca emigrates to the United States from Italy.

1906: Lorenzo emigrates to America and arrives in New York City.

1907: Lorenzo works in the New York railroad yards for the next eight years.

1915: Lorenzo arrives in Templeton in 1915 in SLO County. He came directly to San Luis Obispo County from New York and finds employment in the Charcoal Burning Industry.

1916: He founds his own business in the Charcoal Industry and hires friends as employees. He burns charcoal from clearing fields in the vicinity of Paso Robles and Templeton, shipping the product to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. He also works in vineyards on York Mountain to learn viticulture techniques.

1916: Lorenzo marries Mrs. Cerrina Branca, a widow, born in Italy. She emigrated to the United States in 1904. he married and moved to Idaho. Mrs. Cerrina Branca had two children from her first marriage, Raymond and Alice Branca. The wedding of Lorenzo and Cerrina took place in Idaho. After the wedding, Lorenzo and his wife return to San Luis Obispo County with her children.

1917: Cerrina Branca Nerelli purchases a ranch of 104 acres outside Templeton at the foot of York Mountain. Lorenzo clears the land using the charcoal method and begins to farm the land. His ranch is described as a garden spot, the soil being rich and fertile. He plants fruit trees and a vineyard. They build a small winery and name it Templeton Winery.

1917: Lorenzo and Cerrina welcome their firstborn baby boy named Aldo Bruno on April 6. He is born on York Mountain. Three more children are born to Cerrina and Lorenzo: “Irish” Nerelli, Elmer Nerelli, and Alice Nerelli.

1920: Prohibition becomes law. Lorenzo continues growing and selling grapes. He continues to make Zinfandel and age the wine in large redwood barrels in his basement. His winery is raided several times by the Feds during Prohibition.

1933: Prohibition ends. Templeton Winery is bonded.

1934: April 24 the newspaper headline: “Winery Going Up Near Templeton”. “Lorenzo Nerelli is erecting a large winery on his ranch.” “The building is being put up by Joe L. Forti of Fresno. It will be made of cement brick which is being brought over from the valley.”

1936: Aldo Nerelli graduates from Templeton High School.

1937: Lorenzo produces good quality Zinfandel wine which is shipped in bulk with wine from York Brothers Winery to wineries in Lodi and throughout Northern California.

1941: President Roosevelt declares war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

1942: The Nerelli sons are drafted or join the service. Aldo joins the Army where he serves in both the Japanese and the European theaters in World War II. He attains the rank of Chief Warrant Officer,

1944: Lorenzo and Cerrina are unable to sell their winery and the ranch. They abandon the property and move to Paso Robles. Lorenzo goes into business. They purchased a property on Pacific Avenue where Lorenzo planted a small vineyard and orchard. Lorenzo continues to raise grapes and sells his harvest each year to the Pesenti Winery.

1949: Grandson Frank Nerelli is born to Aldo and Sylvia Nerelli. He will become the third generation of Nerelli Zinfandel winemakers in Templeton.

1968: Lorenzo Nerelli dies 4 Dec 1968.

Nerelli family tree