NAPA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — What started as a side project for Mexican immigrants and winery owners Rolando and Lorena Herrera has become a dream come true.
Lorena is the oldest of nine. She came from a family of grape growers in the Napa Valley.
“My father taught us the art of grape growing. He taught us how to dedicate our lives to the land,” Lorena said.
Her husband Rolando arrived in Napa as a young boy in the 1970s.
A summer job with famed winemaker Warren Winiarski turned into the job of a lifetime.
He said, “I still feel like it was yesterday, opening that door and seeing that big cast, big cellar and saying to myself wow this is beautiful.”
Over the next 10 years, Rolando would advance from harvest laborer to cellar master.
As he grew, his curiosity for wine making did too.
“I remember in 1986 I did a little quick math in my head at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars,” said Rolando, realizing, “I could never own a winery, I could never make wine because I saw my paycheck was less than the cost of a new barrel.”
Despite that, his dream never wavered.
When the couple got married in 1997, Rolando knew he wanted something of his own.
With Lorena’s support, Rolando experimented with chardonnay, a grape he felt comfortable with, but there was pressure all the same.
“Even though they were my grapes and I paid for them, I was nervous like ‘Oh my these are my grapes, this is my juice, I better not screw it up,’” he said.
He didn’t screw up.
In fact, their 1999 Los Carneros chardonnay was served at a White House state dinner in 2001.
“The fact of having three of our, three different wines poured at the White House on three different occasions, that’s still today one of the greatest you know honors that we’ve had.”
The happy couple would grow from there to owning eight vineyards.
They pride themselves on owning 95% of their grapes.
“The biggest accomplishment for our business is that we established a brand without nothing. If Rolando and I did it, I think a lot of people can do it too,” Lorena said.
While the Herreras continue to dream of new heights, their love and passion for their families is as strong as these wines.
“To be here today as vintners, property owners, vineyards owners, winery owners, producers…. it’s a dream come true.”
In 2010, the Herreras, along with other California wineries, formed the first Mexican-American Vintners Association in the country.