A Hispanic Oenophile from Napa Sets Roots for his Wine Company in Oregon [Video]

Sam Para owner of Parra Wine Company Latin Business Today

A mentor and a co-op served to kick start this Hispanic winery business

Born and raised in St. Helena, the heart of Napa Valley and the center of grape agriculture, Sam Parra was destined to be in the wine industry. Sam worked his way through the wine business in Napa and Sonoma counties, eventually moving to Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2016 which would quickly propel his entrepreneurial journey to starting a winemaking business and making his own boutique wines.

He established Parra Wine Co. in 2019. The last name Parra is a Spanish and Portuguese surname meaning grapevine or trellis which inspired the company logo. His grandparents and uncles came to work in the Napa Valley area at the tail end of the Bracero Program . This was a program created due to the labor shortage in the United States during World War II. It was a series of laws and diplomatic agreements created between Mexico and the United Sates permitting millions of Mexican men to legally take agricultural work in the United States temporarily under short term contracts.

Much of his family has had their hands in the wine business in one way or another. Around 40% of his father’s side of the family work in the administrative, vineyard or production areas of business. On his maternal side, around 50% work in either the IT side of the wine business, the production, and some even founded Vinos Unidos in Napa Valley.

As a young kid, Sam recalls that he was allowed a splash of wine at dinner and would learn from his family all about where wine was grown and what to pair it with. It was an educational experience, part of a meal and a celebration.

When he was 21 and working in a tasting room,  he saw a surge of Latinos working in wineries. At this time, wineries needed labor for every aspect of their business. There weren’t a lot of people commuting to the Napa area to work tasting rooms. These days he says it’s very different. There is now a high percentage of retirees in the Bay area who work the tasting rooms as a part time, “fun” job, but back then, that was not the norm.

Sam got off to a great start in the wine business working at Pine Ridge Winery in the Stags Leap area. While working there, Pine Ridge had also founded a winery in a famous wine making area of Oregon, the Dundee Hills. In 1999, Sam was able to visit that area and fell in love with it. He continued to visit the area and it grew on him. This love and the high cost of living in the Bay area eventually pushed he and his wife out of the area. They moved from Sonoma County to Oregon in the summer of 2016.

His timeline to wine production escalated quickly. By December of 2016 he would meet someone who would be a catalyst to jump starting his entrepreneurial career by working at a co-op and helping to bottle wine. From January 2017 he buckled down and focused on  saving all his extra money to be financially ready to start his business. By the harvest season of 2018, he was ready to purchase and process 3 tons of grapes. Sam says that 1 ton of grapes will yield approximately 55 cases. With these 3 grapes, he started with 3 wines,  a dessert wine, a Viognier, and a Tempranillo Rosé which were released in April 2019.

This coming season, Sam plans to process 15 tons of grapes!

Check out our full conversation and get Sam’s insights on the wine industry and growing his Hispanic business. The following are some of the video topic highlights: 

  • The transition from working in the wine business to Sam’s desire to start his own wine making business.
  • A strong sales background which served him well to successfully market his first release of wine.
  • Making wine through a cooperative and how this can make the process attainable
  • Deciding when to pick grapes, the blending process and the legal aspects of grape varietal designations
  • The incredible importance of relationships, partnerships, community and a great customer experience.

Sam shares that getting shelf space at a store or getting on a restaurant list is very competitive and it gives him a lot of joy when he achieves these goals because he makes such small cases of his boutique wines. Sam says “winemaking is such a craft and it’s so personally rewarding, and of course financially rewarding to Parra Wines continuing to thrive”.

He also says that as a Latino, it’s important to set the example for those that are the backbone of the wine industry, doing the backbreaking work in the vineyard. It’s important to provide and share the resources and information out there that can help with grants, loans or seminars, etc. Sam says there is truly a lot of great information and tools out there for any Latino, or anyone who has a dream and the motivation to start a wine making business. Sam looks forward to leading the way in Hispanic business owned wines and cooperatives. It’s an exciting future for Parra Wines!

Reach Sam and Parra wines via their website or by emailing them at parrawineco@gmail.com. and on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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