Hispanic Winemakers’ Roots in Hard Work
07 Aug, 2012
Many of today’s Hispanic winemakers come from families who supplied immigrant labor for California vineyards during the mid-1900sThis article is part one of a two-part series that looks at the history of winemaking by Hispanic entrepreneurs.
During the mid-1900s the Napa Valley in California depended heavily on immigrant labor to harvest grapes and work in wineries. Most of the labor was Hispanic. Interestingly, many folks who worked in vineyards and wineries discovered they had a calling in winemaking and immigrant families involved in the early years of winemaking are now vineyard and winery owners themselves.
Just north of San Francisco and a bit south of the Napa and Sonoma Valley is the Carnernos Wine Region. It is a gem for wine lovers but is usually not visited by tourists who prefer to take wine tours in the more busy northern valleys of Napa and Sonoma.
Los Carneros has many wineries and vineyards that are owned by families of Mexican immigrants who came to the region as farm laborers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Most had to return to Mexico but came back to the area with some of their families. Working in vineyards owned by others only strengthened their resolve to grab the American dream and become winemakers.Late last year, Latin Business Today featured the story of Amelia and Pedro Ceja, both children of Mexican immigrant farm laborers who fell in love with wine making. Amelia and Pedro hold degrees from the University of California. Pedro’s is in engineering and Amelia’s in hospitality services. Pedro’s father, Armando, went to the University of California at Davis and partook of the renowned viticulture technology programs that the school offered.
Today the Cejas own a thriving boutique vineyard and winery called Ceja Vineyards. They make a variety of wines with total production of roughly 23,000 cases per year.
The Ceja Vineyards story is not unique. Many of the best vineyards in Carneros and along the Pacific are owned by families of Hispanic immigrants. Their stories are all similar. They came to find the American dream, toiled as families in the fields, saved and pooled their money to begin businesses. The wines produced by these vineyards serve to remind that it was not long ago that Mexican farm laborers were sought after for their work ethic. It was this attribute that would lead them to becoming some of America’s most prominent entrepreneurs.
Most of the family stories are similar. Hard work, pooled financial resources and material sacrifices allowed these families to become successful Hispanic entrepreneurs who are now Latino business leaders in their communities and in the wine industry. Following are just some of the notable Hispanic leaders and their families who have achieved outstanding success as winemakers.
In the next article you will learn several successful winemaking families.