GourMex SV 2016!


Be part of GourMex SV and live an extraordinary evening that celebrates a rich Mexican heritage in the culinary arts. Silicon Valley Latino is proud to be a media sponsor so we invite you to come out and Savor the mouth-watering creations from some of the trendiest restaurants in the Bay Area. Come meet the Mexican chefs behind the magic of it all. Mingle amongst 400 attendees as you enjoy premium wines from hand-selected vintages by their Mexican winemakers. Delight with the time-honored tradition of all grand fiestas and revel with company. Lift your glass and say cheers with Mezcal and Tequila.

Live GourMex SV 2016 at the San Jose Museum of Arts and sample from 30 Bay Area Restaurants and Beverage Purveyors.

Celebrate with us the many contributions of the Mexican community throughout the Bay Area.

Enjoy this video from last year’s event at the San Jose Museum of Art


Raquel Hug of Hug Cellars


We are excited to continue highlighting Latin@ owned wineries this week.  Enjoy our latest interview with Raquel.


I’m happy to introduce you all to my friend, Raquel Hug.  It’s not a mistake that her married name is “Hug.”  She is a warm and loving person whose demeanor always makes you feel embraced in warmth and sincerity.  The wine is no different.


Vintner: Raquel Hug

Winery: Hug Cellars

Location: Paso Robles

Varietals: Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Rhone Varietals, Pinot Noir, amongst others.


Where is your family from?  When, why, and how did they come to the USA?

My paternal family is from Tepatitlan, Jalisco. They all now live in Guadalajara and are panaderos  (bread makers).  They still own the original family panaderia in Guadalajara in addition to one more bakery owned by my half-brothers.

My maternal Abuelito was originally from Irapueto, Guanajuato. He left Mexico in 1916. My maternal Abuelita was from Chihuahua, Chihuahua. She left Mexico in 1910. My Abuelita’s family went to Abilene,Texas first where my grandmother learned to speak, read and write English. After Texas she moved onto Denver, Colorado and then followed by Nebraska and Kansas. Undoubtedly, as she followed the crops in search of work the living conditions posed an additional challenge taking her to live in boxcars with animals.

Like many Mexicanos who left their homeland in search of a better life for themselves and their children, my Abuelitos also left Mexico for a better future and eventually met in The United States, I’m just not sure where.

Eventually they settled in Chicago, Illinois, where my Abuelito worked at Carnegie Steel and my Mamá and siblings were born. With the exception of the last child, my Abuelita  carried across Route 66, was born in King City, California after leaving Chicago in 1947.

Re-living the Grapes of Wrath, only Mexicano style. Once again we were in search of a better life. They arrived in California and worked in the fields.  Traveling wherever the crops were maturing by picking cotton, grapes, chopping weeds, working the short hoe, fruits mainly in the San Joaquin Valley but also traveling to Healdsburg and Napa to pick plums.

My family wanted to teach us a strong work ethic and sent my brothers and sisters to work in the fields. We picked garlic, potatoes, chopped weeds, sorted tomatoes and picked cotton. As a young girl I recall traveling with my family to the Napa area to pick plums, before there were grapes. I learned early on that I did not desire this type of work for the rest of my life. It was then I decided to go to college.

I feel I have come full circle from picking grapes to owning a winery with my husband. I have always felt Blessed and full of gratitude, for having these many opportunities that define who I am.

Raquel HugWas Spanish your first language?

I think because my Mamá was born in Chicago, they were all very proficient in English. Although, they also spoke Spanish. I grew up hearing both languages at home (codeswitching).

The adults basically spoke Spanish when they did not  want the children to understand, but we did.


Did you grow up with wine?

No, not really, but I made up for it in college! LOL

I do recall my family, occasionally having Basque wine with dinner that was made by the sheep herders in the San Joaquin Valley.

After meeting Augie, I was introduced to fine wines. He was quite knowledgeable.


How did you meet your husband?

Augie and I met in Cambria at Camozzi’s Saloon, while celebrating my girlfriend’s birthday.


Whose idea was it to start a winery?

Augie and I went about it in a slightly different way. We first bought a small retail wine shop in Harmony, California. We specialized in wines from the Central Coast which allowed us to meet many people in the wine industry through this business.

One day we were given the opportunity, by a pioneer in the Rhone world, who would teach Augie how to make wine and sell it from our retail shop, the Central Coast Wine Room. We did this for several years.


You love to cook, what is your favorite food and wine pairing with your wine?

I enjoy cooking and I especially enjoy cooking the food from my childhood. Dishes like chile colorado, nopales y tortas de camarron, albondigas, caldo de pollo from our farm-raised chickens, picadillo, and chiles relleños which I usually pair with beer.  My favorite season is the fall and winter where I love cooking stews, lamb shanks, short ribs and pair which I pair with our Syrahs.


Your winery seems to focus on Rhones and Zins, what is a wine you enjoy that you do not make?

I enjoy Pinot Grigios and Sauvignon Blancs in summer. Although,  we did make a Sauvignon Blanc a while back.


What are some of your hobbies outside of wine?

I am a quilter and enjoy quiet time writing, collecting music, scrapbooking, and mixed media art. And most currently I am starting jewelry making.


Where is your favorite place to travel?

I enjoy the different wine regions throughout Europe such as Priorot,  Gratallop, Rhone Valley, Burgundy, Provence and Piedmont.


Where did you witness your most beautiful sunset?

 This one is tough for me. I see beautiful sunsets every day.


What wine of yours would pair perfectly with that sunset?

 I would pair a Rancho Ontiveros Pinot Noir.


Alex Llamas – Llamas Family Wines


Llamas Family Wines:

A few years ago while working at a tasting room in Napa Valley, I met a young gentleman who told me he was going to make his own wine.  He was bursting with excitement.  Now, six years later, he’s at my kitchen table sharing that wine with me and telling me his story.


Alex Llamas

Llamas Family Wines

Napa Valley

Wine Produced: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet

Alex LlamasSVL: It’s so wonderful to see you again!  Six years ago you told me you would be coming out with your own wine and here you are!

AL: ’08 was my first vintage.

SVL: Where were you born Alex?

AL: Well, there’s a difference between where you were birthed and where you graze.

SVL: Ok, so where did you “graze?”

AL: I was born in Coachella California but moved to Guadalajara, Mexico near Chapala.

SVL: So when did you come to the US?

AL: Well, that’s an interesting question.  My parents had a migratory pattern where we spent 9 months in the US and 3 months in Mexico.  We would start in Coachella to pick Thompson grapes.  Then we would move to Fairfield, CA to pick pears.  Then back up to Oregon to pick cherries and almonds.  On our way back to Mexico we would stop in Corning to pick olives.

SVL: How did you end up in Napa?

AL: One year the sugars were not right in pears in Fairfield.  Needing work, my father and my uncles went to Napa to pick grapes.  Based on just one day of them working, they were offered full time jobs by a vineyard.  We spent a couple more years as migrant workers but eventually settled in Napa full time when I was about 13.

Alex Llams1SVL: What about school?

AL: My mother put me in school as much as possible.   I’ve gone to 17 different elementary schools.  However, I was able to graduate on time and with honors at Vintage High School in 2008.

SVL: How did you get into wine?

AL: My father developed an affinity for wine from working for wineries so I tasted wine from a very young age.  But after high school I knew that I wanted to travel the world, especially Europe, so I looked for a job.   I landed a job as a busser at Mustards, then Domaine Chandon which eventually led to a job at The French Laundry.  Thomas Keller, who owns the French Laundry, put me on his team to open his restaurant, Per Se, in New York.  By working at all these high-end dining establishments I was exposed to wines from all over the world.  With the money I saved I went to Europe where I was able to learn more about wine.  By 2005 I knew that I wanted to make my own wine.

SVL: Who are your partners in Llamas Family Vineyards?

AL: Really, my entire family.  My business partner is my Uncle Oscar and his wife, Lola.  But through our family connections we are able to source fruit from some of the best vineyards in Napa Valley including Stage Coach.

SVL: Besides wine, what do you do for fun?

AL: I loved soccer until I tore my ACL.  But ever since 1998 I’ve really enjoyed spinning records (DJing).  I’ve DJed many parties including Thomas Keller’s engagement party.  I also love art and cooking?

SVL: Wow, what a great story you have Alex.  Thank you so much for sharing it with us!!


If you would like a tour or tasting of these wines please reach out to Ramon or Becky at Vino Latino USA


Fausta Franco of Fausta Family Vineyards


It’s exciting to see more and more Latinas jumping into winemaking.  Women long ago proved that they belong on the top rung of winemaking with the likes of Heidi Barrett, Merry Edwards, and Helen Turley.  They broke down barriers and proved that a woman can do the hard labor and yet use their gentle palates and touch to make wine that appeals to a wide audience.  We now have more and more Latinas joining the ranks and one of our personal favorites is Fausta Franco.

Fausta Family Vineyards

Fausta grew up in Sonoma in a family immersed in the wine industry with uncles who worked in the vineyards.  Now, with help of her very loving and supportive husband, she owns her own vineyard.  We are so proud of Fausta and all her accomplishments.  Fausta’s brand is Fausta Family Vineyards a small boutique winery in the heart of Sonoma Valley.



SVL: Did you grow up with wine in the house?

Fausta:  Yes I grew up with wine in our home. We would mostly collect bottles of wine and open one up on special occasions.


SVL: When did you know you wanted to be a winemaker?

Fausta: In the late 90’s when I started noticing that there were female wine makers in the industry. It gave me motivation to pursue my dream.


SVL: What are some challenges you face as a Latina winemaker?

FAUSTA: The major challenge I have faced as a latina winemaker is starting from the bottom financially and working my way to the top and getting my brand recognized and have it grow each day.


(Incidentally, her inaugural release reserve cab just earned a 90+ score from wine enthusiast.  Talk about brand recognition!!)


SVL: Where did you learn to make wine?

FAUSTA: With the help of my uncle and the classes that I took at Napa Junior College


SVL: You make cab, moscato, and viognier.  What is a varietal you enjoy that you do not make?

FAUSTA: I enjoy a Merlot and I don’t make it because I have not found a small lot that can sell me their grapes.


SVL: Viognier is not a common wine, why did you decide to make it?

FAUSTA: When we were making our portfolio of the different variety of wines we wanted to make, it was between Viognier and Chardonnay. We had both varietals on hand so I decided for Viognier. Just like a Chardonnay the Viognier has the potential to produce a full-bodied wine.  So I decided to experiment with the grape where I could make a different wine that has more natural aromatics.


SVL: What is your favorite food and wine pairing?

FAUSTA: My favorite food paring is our Cabernet Sauvignon with lasagna that I make from scratch. Also our Viognier is wonderfully paired with grilled chicken and our garlic spicy shrimp.


SVL: When you aren’t making wine, running after kids, and taking care of your vineyard, what do you do for fun?

FAUSTA: What I do for fun is watch mystery or suspense movies and try to travel with the family as the children are growing really fast each day.

If you are looking at getting out to visit some or all of the Latino owned wineries remember to get in touch with Ramon or Becky  at Vino Latino


Macario Montoya & Griselda Ceja Montoya – Campesino Cellars


This weeks Winery highlight takes us to Campesino Cellars with Macario and Griselda:

Macario Montoya

Griselda (Ceja) Montoya

Winery: Campesino Cellars

Varietals: Rhone, Rhone blends, and Pinot Noir

They always say that you never appreciate what you have in your own backyard until you leave it and that’s certainly true for Griselda Ceja, daughter of vineyard icon, Pablo Ceja, sister of Pedro and Armando Ceja who own Ceja winery.  She left Napa Valley for San Francisco to discover new adventures in the big city.   But what she ended up discovering was Macario Montoya.

Macario Montoya was born in Vacaville.  He ended up in San Francisco to work in finance.  But along the way he ended up meeting his soul mate, Griselda Ceja.  Their journeys brought them half way across the world and ultimately back to Napa to start their own winery, Campesino.

SVL: What got you guys interested in Wine?

Macario: I fell in Love with Pinot.

SVL: Did you guys grow up with wine in the home?

Griselda: I’ve always had a relationship with wine, obviously.  But truly fell in love with wine in the south of France.  There I drank wine from 10 minutes after waking up to 10 minutes before going to bed.

Macario: I grew up in Vacaville.  My parents loved taking guests to Napa Valley wine tastings.  They would drag me along with them.  It was so boring.  I hated wine and I hated Napa!

But when I lived in the city I saw a flyer for a wine sensory evaluation course.  I thought it would be a great place to meet girls so I signed up.  I didn’t meet a girl but I met wine.

After I met Griselda we decided to go to France together.  I always say that’s where I fell in love with wine and that’s where I fell in love with her.

SVL: How did you guys meet?

MM and GC: We met on a blind date.

SVL: Macario how did you get started making wine?

Macario: I started by helping Griselda’s family.  But then I happened to hear the Peña was looking for some help so I reached out to them.  I’ve been there ever since and am now the assistant winemaker.

SVL: You guys have two children.  I know you can never choose a favorite and I’m sure it’s the same way with your wines.  So can you share with me your favorite pairings?

Griselda:  I love the Alina (white Rhone blend) for every single day.  I love the rose` to spike my bubbly.  I love to pair them with anything spicy.  If it makes me cry, I’m all about it.

SVL: Macario, which wine are you most proud to make?

Macario: I’m most proud of the Syrah.  I love the vineyard from where it’s sourced because it’s the most consistent.  We have a history together.  It was the first wine I made and the first one to receive press.  It’s a personal challenge to rise to the standard of the original wine year after year.


Check out Campesino Cellars for yourselves at www.CampesinoCellars.com where you can learn more about the passion that Macario and Griselda have for wine and people.

Cecilia Enriquez – Enriquez Family Estates


We begin our Vino Latino wine series which will consist of interviewing Latin@ Winery Owners/Wine Makers over the next few weeks.  Thank you to Becky Tyner – Sandoval of Vino Latino for taking on this project for SVL.

Featured Winery: Enriquez Family Estates

Location: Petaluma, California (Sonoma County)

Varietals: Pinot, Tempranillo, And White Blend


At first glance you would probably not guess that Cecilia Enriquez is the CEO of her family’s vineyard and winery.  It’s not because she’s a woman, or because she’s a Latina, or because she’s about 5 feet tall, but it’s because she’s only 26, but she looks about 18.   As is with most things in life, what you see is not what you get.  Inside that cute little frame is a powerhouse full of determination, desire to learn, and success!

Cecilia Enriquez

Cecilia’s family bought the winery and vineyard in 2011 after the families visit to Sonoma.  While wine tasting Cecilia jokingly said to her father, “You should buy a winery and let me run it.”  A year later, her father did exactly that.  Cecilia’s reaction was, “I was joking!” But it’s obvious her parents knew more about her ability to succeed than she did, so they continued with the purchase and sent their young daughter to California to learn the wine business.  Since then Cecilia has learned to negotiate the sale of her grapes, pick barrels, choose blends, and come up with her own ideas on winemaking.  With each vintage, the Enriquez brand continues to improve and grow along with its young CEO.


SVL: I’m sure the wine business keeps you very busy, but when you have it, what do you do in your spare time?

Cecilia: Not work! Ha-ha.  I find a lot of joy in playing with my puppies, Riley and Tyler.  I also enjoy traveling, including going to Mexico as much as possible to visit family.  I’m also active in the local 20/30 club that is a lot of fun.

SVL:  Your mom and dad are from Mexico.  Where in Mexico are they from?

Cecilia: My mom is from Culiacan, Sinaloa, and my dad is from Guadalajara, Jalisco.

SVL: I know your parents are back east in New Jersey.  When you go home which of your mom’s dishes do you look forward to the most?

Cecilia: I love my mom’s tacos dorados and her chilaquiles are really yummy too.

SVL:  Did you grow up with wine in your home?

Cecilia: Yes, my parents love California Pinots and often had them at our dinner table.

SVL: You produce Pinot, Tempranillo and a white blend, so we know you enjoy those varietals.  What is your favorite varietal that you don’t produce?

Cecilia: I love Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese.

SVL: What wine region would you like to visit?

Cecilia: I would love to go to Champagne because not only do I love sparkling wines, but I also have a friend who lives there and it would be wonderful to see them!

SVL: Which of your wines is your favorite?

Cecilia: I don’t have a favorite.  I love them all.  But I’m most proud of my rose` of Tempranillo because it’s unusual.  There isn’t a lot of tempranillo produced in the USA and to have one made as a rose` is even more uncommon.

SVL: What would you pair with the Rose` of Tempranillo?

Cecilia: A hot day, flip-flops, and a pool.

SVL: Thank you so much Cecilia for sharing with Silicon Valley Latino.  We wish you continued success and happiness.

Cecilia: You are so welcome!  Let’s eat!



Travieso Winery- Campbell Winery

dave alex

Arcelia Gallardo @ HIVE in Napa


Wine Traditions, myths, and just plain silliness.

Wine Traditions, myths, and just plain silliness.

Vino Latino has a fun little program we call Vino with Amigos. It’s an in-home winetasting where we go to the comfort of your home and do a private wine tasting with your guests and educate using the wine made by our Latino vintners and winemakers. (Incidentally, we just launched a GROUPON deal for this, if you are interested). Last weekend, while at one of the in-homes, we saw our guests sticking their glasses under their chin and then bringing the mouth of the glass under their nose in a forward motion. Ramon and I just looked at each other with a puzzled look on our face. Finally, one of the guests explained to us that their friend is a Sommelier at a very well known resort in Napa and he told them that before you even swirl your glass, smell it by moving the glass in a forward motion starting from your chin and then past your nose. The reason is that you would capture wonderful little nuances that are destroyed when you swirl the wine before sniffing it. All evening long people were walking around doing this move convinced that it would enhance their wine tasting experience.


This got me thinking to all the silly things people do when it comes to wine. One of my favorites is when people talk about the legs of wine. The legs are those streaks of liquid that slowly stream the inside of stemware once the glass has been given a swirl. It seems that every wine class stops to talk about the legs. But here’s the thing, they don’t mean anything. They can indicate high alcohol, residual sugar, or it could mean that the winemaker added glycerin to the wine to give it a shine and viscosity that is pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t relate to quality, age, or anything else significant, so why bother? Our advice is if you are going to look at legs, look at the legs of your wife or girlfriend rather than streaks of liquid dripping down your glass.

Sometimes “wine experts” will explain why there is a punt (hole) at the bottom of a wine bottle. If the wine expert states anything having to do with the bung as fact, then it’s time to get up and leave and find a new expert. The truth is, no one knows for sure why there is this whole on the bottom of wine bottles. There are many theories. Some say it’s to trap the sediment. Some say it’s for the sommelier to be able to hold the bottle in such a way as to present the wine better. And others say it’s just the glass mold that was used hundreds of years ago and it hasn’t changed since.

This brings us the difference in bottle. You have the shouldered Bordeaux bottle and the smooth burgundy bottle. I’ve heard “experts” say the shoulders on the Bordeaux bottle is to trap sediment, which it does in fact do. However, the truth is that the bottle molds in Bordeaux had shoulders and the ones in Burgundy did not and they haven’t changed since.


We’ll close with one of our personal pet peeves found in many wine circles and that is the mispronunciation of the word “meritage.” “Meritage” should be pronounced so that it rhymes with the word, “heritage” for it is a purely made-up American word. A meritage is Bordeaux blend made in the USA. It can only contain Bordeaux grapes (cab sav, can franc, merlot, malbec, petite verdot, etc.). Many people like to put a French spin on it and pronounce it with a French spin so that it rhymes with “decoupage.” What is really infuriating is when wineries who make a meritage (to label a wine “meritage” a winery has to pay money to the meritage society) also mispronounce the word. There aren’t many terms in the wine lexicon that originate in the USA, so let’s be proud of one word that is purely ours.


Great Wine is in the Details

On our tours and at our in-home wine tastings, “Vino with Amigos”, we often have to explain that wines from small producers cost more, especially if the grapes are from Napa or Sonoma. We point out that nearly every single vine in Napa and Sonoma are hand pruned. Nearly every grape is hand picked. And small producers make wines in small batches, often using ½ to 1 ton bins. These are the 3 points we most often bring up to justify why the cost is more. This right here is enough to justify a higher price. But it goes way beyond that.

grapes floor


Let’s focus on Napa Valley and Cabernet for the rest of this article. In the central valley where the majority of grapes are pruned and harvested mechanically, they farm for quantity not quality. They spray indiscriminately for pests and weeds and they water routinely, with preset times. The average tonnage per acre in the Central Valley is about 8 to 10 tons of grapes per acre.

Meanwhile, in Napa the cabernet grapes are planted close together to bring down the yields. When the grapes first start to form the vineyard workers literally go through the vines and drop whole clusters of grapes so that there is only one or two clusters per shoot. Many vineyards will do yet another pass near harvest and drop even more fruit. Thus the average tonnage per acre in Napa is 1.5 to 2 tons per acre in the mountains, and 4 tons per acre on the valley floor- a far cry from the average tonnage in the Central Valley. The fruit that is dropped is left on the ground as compost.

grapes floorcloseup

Unlike the Central Valley, watering in Napa and Sonoma is not done according to a timer. Because water is such a precious resource, the vines get only what they need albeit just barely. Not only does this “stress” the vines which produces a higher quality grape, but it forces the grapevine’s roots to seek water on it’s own. A grapevine can go down as much as 30 feet in search of water. When irrigation is needed, the entire vineyard is not watered, only those blocks that need them. The only way to figure out which blocks need water is to walk the vineyard and take sample from the leaves.

When it comes to harvest, the same care is taken. Rarely in a small high quality vineyard are grapes harvested the same day. It stands to reason that merlot and cabernet may ripen at different times thus the need to be picked on different days. However, grapes ripen differently in the vineyard based on the soil in that spot of the vineyard, the way the sun shines on that spot, the wind, etc. So therefore even the same varietal may be harvested at different times. I know of vineyards that do up to eight passes just for cabernet alone.

But the careful attention to detail goes beyond watering, harvesting, and fruit yields. Most vineyards, especially small ones, all farm sustainably. Just because they aren’t certified organic doesn’t mean they aren’t using owl boxes, beneficial insects, bats, and a host of other natural ways to control and manage their land. All of this costs money.

So when purchasing wine keep in mind that you really do get what you pay for. A higher price usually means attention to detail, hands on farming, and overall a higher quality product.