7th Annual Sabor del Valle FUNdraiser!

12821403_980994905314516_3197591635032258134_nJoin us at this years 7th Annual Sabor del Valle FUNdraiser at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

Purhcase your ticket via link

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5th Annual Sabor del Valle Event


SVL had the pleasure of covering the 5th Annual Sabor del Valle event on August 1st at History Park San Jose where Latino Wineries and Restaurants were brought together for an unmatched Food and Wine pairing benefiting four local non profits.

5th Annual Sabor del Valle Event

We were glad to participate in this years 5th Annual Sabor del Valle event. The group that brought together the event did an amazing job of bringing together Latino Wineries, Restaurants and local artists for an unmatched Wine and Food pairing all benefiting four local non profits.

5th Annual Sabor del Valle “A Taste of the Valley”

5th Annual Sabor del Valle

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


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!



Sabor del Valle Inaugural Celebrity Bartender Night

Sabor del Valle-celebrity-bartender-night

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.


Silicon Valley Latino 40 Under 40 Latin@s2Watch

Inaugural Silicon Valley Latino 40 Under 40 Latin@s2Watch Event

Silicon Valley Latino held its inaugural 40 under 40 Latin@s2Watch event celebrating up and coming Latin@s at Charles Schwab headquarters in San Francisco.

Wine Dos and Dont’s

“What is the proper tasting room etiquette?”

This is a question I appreciate, yet feel hesitant to answer.   I feel hesitant because I don’t want people to feel more intimidated by wine than they are already.  I feel hesitant because I often think the staff needs to be more worried about etiquette than the guests.  I feel hesitant because I’m kind of a free spirit and don’t like a lot of dos and don’ts.

etiquette Wine

However, after posting the question on facebook and really thinking about it, I realize there is indeed some etiquette that when followed will make wine tasting a lot more enjoyable for everyone.


TIPPING:  We get this question a lot.  So here it is, tips ARE NOT expected by tasting room staff.  This is especially true for the wineries you visit with Small Lot Wine Tours since more often than not our guests are meeting and tasting with the winery owners.  HOWEVER, if you feel compelled to give a staff member a tip because they did a great job they will look upon the tip as an unexpected treat.

NOTE: Many larger wineries forbid their staff to accept tips.  One winery I know actually makes you give the tips to the winery and donate to the charity that the winery chooses.

KIDS:  How I cringe when people say, “Ugh.I can’t believe they brought their kids!”   Are people who can’t find a sitter to be excluded from the wine tasting experience?  As a single mom I’m really taken aback by that attitude.  What if they are on the hunt for something specific?  What if they are on a cross country trip and decided to stop in world famous Napa?  I personally have no problem with anyone bringing their kids as long as they are WELL BEHAVED AND, PLEASE, do not let your kids sniff or taste the wine.  A winery can lose their license for something like that.

NOTE: Some wineries, due to insurance, do not allow children.  It is a good idea to call ahead and make sure it is okay to bring your well behaved kids with you wine tasting.

Here are a few more (dare I say it?)Dos and Don’ts

  • Pefume: don’t wear it.  It interferes with the wine aroma which is a huge part of tasting wine.
  • DO NOT EVER pour your own wine glass.  It’s against the law and it’s really rude.
  • If you want to taste something again or “Revisit” something, just ask.
  • It’s not an insult if you dump your wine.  Wineries would rather you dump so you can taste more wine than drink everything and be drunk.
  • Don’t take your glass with you…the days of souvenir glasses are over.


We went over etiquette for winery guests.  But as someone whose passion is hospitality let’s talk about etiquette for tasting room staff.

TASTING NOTES: Please don’t tell people what they are about to taste.  Just because you, or your winemaker, taste the flavor of buttermilk pancakes does mean that everyone is going to.  Let your guests enjoy the wine first then after they’ve tasted it, discuss what you taste and what they taste.  But the first sip should not have any biases.

TASTING FEE: For the love of God, waive them if they purchase.  Period.  Are you in the wine tasting business or the wine selling business?  The damage caused by charging a tasting fee on top of purchase will cost you a lot more than the $25 you made off the tasting fee via yelp, word of mouth, and by how bad you will look because most awesome wineries would never ever charge a tasting fee on top of a purchase.

WINE CLUB DISCOUNTS:  They get the discount if they join.  Not after they’ve made their first order. Yes, sometimes unscrupulous people join the club just for the discount and cancel when they get home, but they are far and few between.

TARDINESS:  So your guests are late.  It happens.  They are already stressed about being late, no need to make them feel even worse by greeting them with a scolding.

WINE LANGUAGE: Don’t assume your guests have had Cheval Blanc (I haven’t), or know what “RS” stands for, or that they don’t drink white zinfandel.  Rather, assume that every guest doesn’t know anything about wine and then adjust your lingo as a way to get to know them.  AND PLEASE, PLEASE, STOP using “Casis” as a tasting reference.  The vast majority of the public have no idea what a “casis” is, including myself!

NAPA VS. SONOMA:  Stop it already.  We are all friends.