As we enter August, we approach a unique time of the year in Sonoma County, harvest season. Our recent warm weather is creating juicy and robust grapes that will soon be turned into remarkable wines. Latinos play a vital role in keeping the wine industry moving forward, from growing and picking grapes, to the production of wine, they are involved in every step of the process.
With so many Latinos working in the wine industry, it’s no surprise many of them are making the move into management and ownership. Here are some of the local Latino winemakers and wineries making a splash in Sonoma County.
Reynaldo Robledo immigrated to Napa Valley from Michoacán, Mexico at the young age of 16, where he began working in the vineyards. After three decades of developing his skills and knowledge in the industry, he created Robledo Vineyard Management, LLC in 1996. They now own approximately 400 acres across Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties. In October 2003, his family opened the first winery established by a former Mexican migrant worker. The Robledo Family Winery has become well known in the community for hosting festive parties on their property, like their annual Cinco de Mayo celebration. Join them October 5th for their annual Harvest Party, featuring live performances and music.
The winery has created a wide variety of wines including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, rosé, pinot noir, sparkling wines, chardonnay, and ports. They are particularly known for their sauvignon blanc. Their 2016 Robledo Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine to try. Their tasting room is open 7 days a week. To set an appointment, call 888-939-6903. 21901 Bonness Rd in Sonoma. 707-939-6903.
For Al and Dina Lopez, their love of wine is a team effort. Their vineyards namesake is a combination of their respective names, creating Aldina Vineyards. The Lopez previously worked in design and publishing, eventually becoming owners of the infamous Lowrider Magazine. After selling the magazine, they relocated to Sonoma County in 1998, where Al created a 4-acre vineyard on his property and began his venture into winemaking. In 2012, the Lopez created their wine label and the rest is history. Aldina Vineyards is a family affair, with their children Francisco and Monica Lopez currently managing the vineyards.
The brand is known for its cabernet sauvignon, but dabbled with other grapes in 2018, creating a rosé and chardonnay as well. Their 2014 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon is a great wine to taste. The vineyard plans to open a tasting room in Healdsburg, aimed to open in April 2020. They currently host events on their property and are available for private tastings by appointment. For more information or tastings, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 830 Cleveland Ave in Santa Rosa. 707-799-1821.
Ulises Valdez was the epitome of the American Dream. Before his passing in September 2018, he was considered one of the most knowledgeable and respected vineyard managers in California. Valdez immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 16 and began working in the vineyards of Cloverdale. Valdez continued to master his skills in grape growing, eventually creating Valdez and Sons Vineyard Management, which now farms over 1,000 acres. In 2010, they opened their winery. In May of that same year, their chardonnay was served to Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón at the White House.
They currently do not have a tasting room, but their wines are available online. A wine worth checking out is the 2016 Silver Eagle Pinot Noir. 595 Santana Drive, Suite D in Cloverdale. 707-894-4002.
Carlos and Linda Chavez began their endeavors into the wine industry as a hobby, creating small-batch wine in their garage in Healdsburg. The husband and wife team practiced their skills for 6 years while continuing to work in their careers, before launching their commercial wine brand in 2006. Their family artisanal winery claims to the first Salvadoran-Mexican owned winery in Sonoma County. They focus on creating small production vintage wines with robust flavors. The Chavez Family Cellars is also very community-oriented, their wines are often featured at community events around the county.
Their 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was the gold medal winner of the 2013 Sonoma County Harvest Fair and is worth a try. While they currently do not have a tasting room, wines can be purchased by contacting them directly. 1470 Grove St in Healdsburg. 707-431-9920.
Martin Guerrero and Olga Fernandez came to Sonoma County in 1985 from Morelia, Mexico. Upon their arrival, Guerrero began working in the wine industry, where he developed a passion for the craft and worked his way up to assistant winemaker. In 2004, he and his wife decided to venture into the wine industry and founded Guerrero-Fernandez Winery. The winery produces around 1,000 cases of wine a year, showcasing a variety of red wines. The winery consists of a very small team (2-4 people) and thus focuses on producing small amounts of high-quality wines.
The winery is known for its red wines, which typically age for 36 months. A favorite is the 2013 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which can be purchased online or in their tasting room, currently open Friday-Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm. Appointments may be made in advance. 7724 Bell Rd in Windsor. 707- 953- 7956.
Fausta Franco Guerrero grew up surrounded by the vineyards in Sonoma, and always knew she wanted to stay in Sonoma Valley. She and her husband, Rogelio Guerrero purchased a piece of land and planted their first vineyard in 2005. In 2011, they bottled their first wine under the brand name, Fausta. After some years with the name, in 2015 they decided to rebrand as Fathia, meaning Victorious.
The winery produces a variety of wines including pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, viognier and rosé of pinot noir. Their current release, the 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a great wine to sip. Their tasting room is open Monday-Sunday, 12-5 pm. Appointments are needed on Tuesday and Wednesdays. 8910 Sonoma Highway in Kenwood. 707-282-9419.
In 1983, the Ceja family purchased 15 acres of Carneros land in Napa, making them one of the more established Latino winemakers in the area. Ceja Vineyards became a family affair, and in 1988, they celebrated their first harvest. In 1999, Ceja Vineyards Inc. was created and they now own 113 acres of wine-producing land throughout Sonoma, Napa, and Petaluma. Their co-founder, Amelia Moran Ceja has been recognized as the first Mexican-American woman to ever be elected president of a winery.
The winery creates a diverse range of wines including pinot noir, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, rosé, blends, as well as dessert wines. Their 2016 Carneros Pinot Noir is a great floral, full-bodied wine to try. Their tasting room is open Friday-Sunday from 11-5 pm. Reservations are recommended for parties over 6 people. 22989 Burndale Road in Sonoma. 707-931-6978.
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