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Monday, January 13, 2014

Latinos in Wine

It would make sense that you'd find Latino winemakers in California as much of the work in the vineyards and in the cellars has been done by immigrant farm labor plus first and second generation people from south of the border. But for a long time it's been mostly, well, white males with a few females finally making inroads. (See previous post on women winemakers).

Some of the more successful ones might be Robledo Winery and Ceja Vineyards. Both operate mostly in the Carneros region of southern Napa and Sonoma. The Robledo story starts with a teenage immigrant going to Napa Valley and working in the vineyards for 30 years before starting his own vineyard management company then buying vineyards and finally opening a winery. The Ceja story is three generations of vineyard work before opening their own winery. The family also has a new craft brewery.

Ulises Valdez
Image from
Quintessa in Napa is owned by a successful businessman from Chile.

In Sonoma County one of the newer ones is the Valdez Family Winery. Valdez came to the U.S. in 1985 looking for work with no plan of ever managing hundreds of acres of vineyards let alone have his name on a winery. Valdez's Chardonnay was served at a White House state dinner with the president of Mexico.

A local wine tour company offers bilingual Hispanic Winery Tours showing there's a desire amongst Latinos to learn about their own wine heritage and successes.