For some time Latinos have been the labor force behind the most influential wineries fueling the wine industry in the U.S. The stories of the men who left their homes in Mexico and came to the United States to find work in the vineyards in the Napa Valley are not unlike other stories, like the young immigrant moving to the US to pick grapes and the migrant farm workers who see possibilities beyond the fields.
Some of them put themselves through school at night and work during the day to learn all they needed to know about wine. How to grow it, how to process it, the chemistry behind it, the best barrels and bottles, and how to taste it to make sure it’s the best.
Most came alone, leaving their families in Mexico. All had dreams of a better life. Those dreams included starting their own vineyard, owning land and planting vines. And all of them worked hard.
Today, many of these workers have become influential wine owners, with labels like Alex Sotelo, Ceja, and Robledo.
Mexican and other Hispanic immigrant families have become important and respected members of the winemaking industry on the West Coast of the United States. The following are profiles of some of these hard working families who earned success in the United States.
Alex Sotelo Cellars: Came for the first time to California in 1991 at the age of 18 searching for the American dream. When he arrived to Napa Valley, he knew that something amazing would happen. In 1991, 13 years after Alex arrived to the states, he released his first Napa Valley wine under his own brand – a major mile-stone for an immigrant. For him wine making is not just a job; it is his life.
Ceja Vineyards: One of the most notable Latino-owned wineries in the area, founded by Amelia, Pedro, Armando, and Martha Ceja – first generation Mexican-American winegrowers in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Robledo Family Winery: Reynaldo Robledo left his home in Michoacán, Mexico in 1968 at only 16 years old, to work in the vineyards of Napa Valley. In October 2003, the Robledo family opened the first winery established by a former Mexican migrant worker.
If you asked me which of these labels are my favorite, I would say all of them. The wines from Ceja, Robledo, and from my good friend Alex Sotelo are some of the best.
During one of my conversations with Alex, he told me:
“We are here not just making average wines, but focusing on making some of the best wines in the world” -Alex Sotelo
This post is also available in: Spanish
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