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El Llano, Michoacan is rarely mistaken for Napa Valley, but in hindsight it would play a significant role in the type of winemaker and person that I am today. It was in Michoacan, working alongside my grandparents that I received my early lessons in agriculture. I can still recall hiking with them into the mountains to tend special plots of land and discovering the unique qualities of the mountain grown fruits and vegetables. Little did I know that I was getting an early lesson in the concept of “terrior.”
In 1975, in search of a better way of life, my parents brought our family to the heart of the Napa Valley, St. Helena. Five years later my father would decide to retire and the entire family moved back to Michoacan. However, even at the young age of 15, my dream of working at a winery had already taken root. I yearned to return to Napa Valley where the opportunities seemed so much greater than those in El Llano.
It’s a journey that many of my countrymen have taken before me, carrying with them a “dream” of attaining a better life. While it is often dangerous and riddled with obstacles, it was a trip I was prepared to make. For me, it just wasn’t the allure of a good job that pulled me back to Napa, it was the opportunity for a better education. With a good education I knew that instead of settling for a job in the fields I could aspire and dream of one day owning my own business. While it may have seemed unrealistic at the time, it proved to be a major turning point in my life.