Silicon Valley Latino’s Magazine Pick-up Party hosted by Mezlan

Silicon Valley Latino's Magazine Pick-up Party hosted by Mezlan

We would like to thank all the SVL List Honorees and Cultura Ambassadors that came out to our Pick-up Party. We also want to thank our host Mezlan and Perezidential Homes for sponsor the wine tasting by Vino Latino. We look forward to seeing more of our SVL List Honorees and Cultura Ambassadors at the next Pick-up Party, stay tuned.

Jorge Titinger & Tony Quintero
Jorge Titinger & Tony Quintero
Silicon Valley Latino's Magazine Pick-up Party
Silicon Valley Latino's Magazine Pick-up Party
Pepe Gomez, Alex Ontiveros & Jorge Escobar
Pepe Gomez, Alex Ontiveros & Jorge Escobar
Sal Pizarro & Darcie Green
Sal Pizarro & Darcie Green
Raul Peralez, Alex Ontiveros & Frank Biehl
Raul Peralez, Alex Ontiveros & Frank Biehl
Lilia Ledezma
Lilia Ledezma
Adam Mendoza
Adam Mendoza
Raul Peralez & Alex Ontiveros
Raul Peralez & Alex Ontiveros
 Josef Castañeda-Liles
Josef Castañeda-Liles

We would like to thank all the SVL List Honorees and Cultura Ambassadors that came out to our Pick-up Party. We also want to thank our host Mezlan and Perezidential Homes for sponsoring the wine tasting by Vino Latino. We look forward to seeing more of our SVL List Honorees and Cultura Ambassadors at the next Pick-up Party, stay tuned.

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


Ray Singh Castaneda – SVL Cultura Ambassador


Ray Singh Castaneda is the Chair of the Sabor del Valle.  He’s deeply committed to provide services to children and youth and has dedicated many years to promoting Latino/Latina and boutique vintners as well as restaurants in Northern California.  Sabor del Valle was founded in 2009 and is an annual celebration of local wine, food, art, music and cultural richness of the Latino community with proceeds that benefit worthy non profits that provide social and educational services to individuals in need.  Some of them include Rotacare San Jose Free Medical Clinic, Teen Challenge Alum Rock Women & Children’s Center, Valdez Math Institute and TeatroVision.

Ray Castaneda - SVL Cultura Ambassador

Sabor del Valle is proud to convene Latino/Latina and boutique vintners from Santa Clara County, Calaveras County, Sacramento Valley, Napa, Sonoma and Mendecino County for its unique siganture event.

Additionally, Ray has been an active member of the Rotary Club of San Jose. Rotary is one the largest service organizations in the world and the Rotary Club of San Jose is one of the largest in the West Coast. Ray participates as an active member in the following committees: RotaCare, Hospitality, Fish, Event and Fun & Fellowship.


Please visit to learn more about Sabor del Valle and to purchase tickets for this year’s event.



The Grape Journey, from Vineyard to Wine Glass.

Vino 101


The Grape Journey, from Vineyard to Wine Glass.


Last month we talked about knowing what is in your wine glass.  Now we’ll talk about how wine is made.


Grapes will turn into wine all by themselves if left alone.   The natural yeasts that live in the vineyard will automatically start converting the sugars into alcohol.  If you’ve ever made your own apple juice you will know that within a couple of days that juice will begin to ferment and turn into cider.  Wine is a natural process.  But there are some things a winemaker does along the way that helps that natural process go from making a by-product of nature to something really delicious.




GROW THE GRAPES:  90% of winemaking is done in the vineyard.  If you have bad grapes, you won’t have good wine, no matter how talented a winemaker the winery employs.  Good grapes are the result of good vineyard practices (i.e. hand pruned, hand picked, low yields on the vines, etc.) and the right growing site.  Grape Vines are basically a weed..they’ll grow anywhere.  Cabernet could grow in Hawaii…but it would taste bad.   Therefore it’s important to plant the right grapes in the right soil with the right climate.  This is often referred to as terroir. 


Harvesting and Crushing:  Once the grapes are ripe, they are harvested.  Harvest is when the winemaker gets involved with the grape growing because they are the ones who choose when to pick the grapes.  The winemaker makes this decision by measuring the grapes brix (brix is the percentage of the grape that is sugar.  So if a grape is at 25 brix then that grape is 25% sugar).   They look at the seeds in the grape..if they are green the grape is not ripe.  They consider the weather.  Is it going to rain?  If so, how badly?  And last, but not least, they taste the grape.  If the grape tastes good, if it has enough brix, and if it is fully ripened, then the winemaker tells the vineyard manager its’ time to harvest.


When the grapes are harvested the grapes are crushed.  A big mass produced winery does everything mechanically.  The grapes are thrown into crusher/destemmer.  They say grapes, but actually, all the bugs, rotten fruit, mice, lizards, and other flora and fauna that are in the vineyard will go in that crusher/destemmer as well.  The juice will go into large stainless steel tanks for fermentation. The wine will “age” there too, with oak chips thrown in for flavoring.  This is the wine that is most often found on your super market shelf.


However, when it’s a small winery, the process is very different.  The grapes are first hand picked.  The winemaker or vineyard owner is usually there to do a preliminary sort to pick out the lizards, mice, and rotten fruit.  Then the grapes are taken to the crush pad where they are thrown onto a conveyor belt.  This is where the grapes as whole clusters can be sorted.  Next the grapes go through a destemmer that gently removes the grapes from the stem.  Those individual grapes are put on yet another conveyor belt where they are sorted again.  The grapes are then put in the stainless steel tanks for fermentation.  The weight of the grapes will crush themselves.


Once fermentation has taken place (fermentation is the process of converting sugar into alcohol) the wine will either go into barrels are tanks to be aged.


Usually, red wine goes into barrels.  Winemakers often refer to barrels as their “spice rack.”  Barrels can give flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, spice, etc according to where they were grown, how tight the grain of the wood, and how the inside of the barrel is toasted.


The winemaker decides how long the wine should age.  They also decide how to blend the wine and with what.  Perhaps a cabernet needs better aromatics, if this is the case they might ad a little bit of Cabernet Franc.


Once the wine is aged and blended, it goes into a bottle where if it’s a red wine it is usually aged an additional year.




All these decisions translate directly into what is in your glass and whether or not you’ll like it.  You might not like the loud spicy notes that American Oak gives wine.  Or you may love a chardonnay that smells like crème brulee.   Maybe you love the crisp sharp lines that stainless steal aging gives Sauvignon Blanc.  How the wine is made has a lot to do with whether or not you’ll like the wine.  Take the time to ask about the winemaking process when visiting wineries, you’ll not only increase your wine knowledge, but you’ll begin to figure out what you like and why.


For any additional questions please feel free to respond to this post or email us directly at