It’s impossible to conceive of agriculture in California, including viticulture, without Mexican field workers. They’ve been a mainstay of the vineyards since the Bracero program of the 1940s, which, while it formally ended in 1964, nonetheless brought the field hands to California to stay.
Now, a group of Mexican-American vintners has launched the Napa Valley Mexican-American Vintners Association (NVMAVA) in part to celebrate the rich heritage that Mexican workers have brought to the industry.
“We’re long due for this. There’s been a history of Mexican farming and culture in winemaking for decades, but we haven’t been successful in organizing, until today,” says NVMAVA’s founding president and owner of Mi Sueño Winery, Rolando Herrera.
The organization started with only 12 members, but Herrera expects it to grow rapidly. “Now that we’re formal, we’re getting calls from other small producers I didn’t even know!” he says.
As a nonprofit, NVMAVA promotes California wines produced by Mexican-American vintners, advocates quality standards for its members and supports the contributions of Mexican-Americans to the wine industry.
Wine Enthusiast: What was the purpose of launching Napa Valley Mexican-American Vintners Association?
Rolando Herrera: We had a couple reasons: We’re long overdue. We’re not the first ones doing this; there’s been a history of Mexican farming and winemaking culture for decades, but we haven’t been successful in forming an organization until today. It’s important to unite Mexican-American vintners, to help and support each other, and promote ourselves and brands.
WE: How many members do you have? Are there many Mexican-American wineries and winemakers that are not in the organization?
RH: [NVMAVA] has only 12 [members]. One individual and the rest are wineries and labels. Now that we’re formal, we’re getting calls from other small producers I didn’t even know! So our goal is to grow and invite all those vintners to be a part of NVMAVA.
WE: Why call it “Napa Valley” Vintners Association if it includes some Sonoma wineries?
RH: Great question! We had a long debate about that. One option was just to be a Napa Valley association, but that would’ve diluted the members to very few. So why call it Napa? Because we want to take advantage of the name and history. People like myself, Ceja, have been in Napa most of our lives, so we want to be known as Napa. And we opened it to Sonoma County to strengthen and give us the opportunity to grow the organization. It was a tough call, but looking back, it was a smart decision to open it to Sonoma.
WE: How about the rest of California?
RH: We want to stay focused on the Napa-Sonoma area. That’s not to say we’re not interested in supporting other organizations outside Napa-Sonoma, but we want to focus on Napa and Sonoma. But that doesn’t mean we won’t eventually open it up.
WE: What is NVMAVA’s relationship with Napa Valley Vintners?
RH: We’re also members of NVV and we have been for years. Obviously, we have a great relationship with them and are very proud to be members. They’re our role models and we need their support to promote ourselves and we want to contribute back to the community. We want to help and share with those new farm workers and cellar masters who have the entrepreneurial spirit and want their own labels. That’s one of our main goals. We also want to provide scholarships to kids who can’t afford U.C. Davis. That’s the next step.