Mi Sueño Winery: A Taste of the American Dream
The Spanish phrase, si se puede—yes, you can—signifies one’s ability to accomplish anything with passion, persistence and determination. Rolando and Lorena Herrera, owners of Napa Valley’s Mi Sueño Winery (Spanish for ‘My Dream’) live this motto.
The inspirational tale of Mi Sueño is both a love story and the story of the American dream realized, one that came to fruition for Mexican immigrant Rolando Herrera as a result of hard work, raw talent, and the support of a strong community of mentors who led him along a path to success. Along with his wife, Lorena, whose family has deep roots in Napa and Sonoma counties as grape growers, the two founded Mi Sueño Winery in 1997, the year of their marriage.
Rolando started his career in the Napa Valley in 1982 as a modest dishwasher at the exclusive Auberge du Soleil restaurant. Over the span of 15 years, his resume of employers began to read like the who’s who of the Napa Valley—from the legendary Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, to winemaking great Paul Hobbs. Each experience was an opportunity to learn more, and with every move Rolando harnessed his work ethic with his love of farming and wine.
Together, Rolando and Lorena have built their dream winery with love, passion, and a deep understanding of the art of growing exceptional grapes and crafting award-winning wines rich in character and elegance. As Rolando says, ‘‘farming and making wine is not science, it’s experience.” And experience he has. This year, as Mi Sueño Winery celebrates its 20th anniversary, the winery stands not only as a “dream come true” for the Herreras, but also as one of the great independently owned and operated wine producers in California.
Rolando Herrera’s story is the epitome of the American dream realized. Rolando left his home in El Llano, Mexico at age 15 to build a life in the Napa Valley. While enrolled in high school full-time, Rolando spent his nights working as a dishwasher at Auberge du Soleil. He got his start in the wine industry as a harvest laborer at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars following graduation, and over the next 10 years he worked his way up to cellar master. Rolando’s passion for wine led him to roles of growing importance at other wineries, including assistant winemaker at Chateau Potelle, winemaker at Vine Cliff Winery and then director of winemaking at Paul Hobbs Consulting. In 1997, Rolando made 200 cases of Chardonnay as a “side project” and Mi Sueño (Spanish for ‘My Dream’) was born.
Lorena Herrera is the oldest child of Reynaldo and Maria Robledo, who came to the Napa Valley from Mexico as migrant workers in the late 1960s. Raising their nine children in Napa, Lorena’s family instilled in her a proud tradition of tending vines and growing grapes.Today, her family owns over 350 acres of vineyard land in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties.
Lorena and Rolando met at church as teenagers. They developed a friendship that lasted 10 years before marrying in 1997—the same year she helped Rolando found Mi Sueño.
How it All Began
Rolando Born in Mexico
Parents Jose Luis & Maria de Jesus Herrera welcomed Rolando into their family in El Llano, Michoacán, Mexico.
Lorena Born In Mexico
Born to parents Reynaldo and Maria Robledo in Zamora Michoacán, Mexico.
Lorena Moved to Sonoma
The Robledo family transplanted to Sonoma and developed vineyards in Sonoma, Napa, and Lake counties.
Rolando Moved to Napa
Seeking a better life for his family, Rolando’s father moved the family up the coast of California, settled in St. Helena to take a job in a vine nursery.
Rolando Moved Back to Mexico
Ready to retire, Rolando’s parents moved the family back to their hometown of El Llano, Mexico.
Rolando Returned to Napa
Rolando missed the American way of life and beauty of the Napa Valley. He and his brother Jose Luis Herrera Jr., moved back to St. Helena and enrolled in high school while supporting themselves by working on nights and weekends. Rolando’s first job was a dishwasher at Auberge du Soleil.
Rolando Joined Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Rolando turned a quick stint building a garden wall for famed winemaker Warren Winiarski into the job of a lifetime. He started as a “Cellar Rat” at age 17 and within 3 years was promoted to Cellar Master. Rolando learned to make wine elbow to elbow with one of Napa’s legendary winemakers.
Rolando Became Assistant Winemaker at Chateau Potelle
Rolando seized the opportunity to grow as a winemaker and answered a job advertisement to become the assistant winemaker at Chateau Potelle for Jean-Noel and Marketta Fourmeaux. He was impressed by their “old world” style of winemaking and deep connection to the land and terroir of Napa.
Rolando & Lorena Get Married
After 10 years of friendship, Rolando proposed to Lorena in 1996 and they were married in April of 1997. Lorena gave birth to their first daughter Rebecca in 1998 and gave Rolando five additional children throughout the years.
Rolando & Lorena Launched Mi Sueño Winery
Rolando was eager to launch his own brand and produced his style of wine. He purchased grapes from Lorena’s father and produced 200 cases of Chardonnay as a “resume in a bottle” to entice investors. After great feedback, they decided to sell the wine instead and Mi Sueño Winery was born – with its first vintage selling out quickly.
Rolando Hired as Winemaker at Vine Cliff Winery
Rolando could not turn down the chance to farm legendary vineyards in the heart of Napa Valley and took the role as Winemaker for Vine Cliff Winery.
Rolando Appointed Director of Winemaking at Paul Hobbs Winery
Ever since their first meeting years prior, Rolando greatly admired Paul Hobbs. As Director of Winemaking he had the opportunity to farm numerous vineyards throughout Napa and Sonoma and get to better understand the diverse microclimates.
Los Carneros Chardonnay was Served at the White House
Rolando returned home one day to find a voicemail from the White House on his phone. At first he was skeptical, and thought it was a prank – until he was told his third-ever vintage, the 1999 Los Carneros Chardonnay, was being served by President George W. Bush at a state dinner in honor of President Vicente Fox of Mexico.
Herrera Vineyard Management was Founded
Rolando and Lorena never understood why most winemakers typically outsource the most important part of the winemaking process – the farming. Together they launched their own vineyard management company so they could completely control the entire process from grape to bottle.
Herrera Portfolio was Launched
Rolando and Lorena wanted to create wines that explore a single varietal and express the essence and soul of a specific vineyard. They launched the Herrera portfolio with the Rebecca Cabernet Sauvignon and added 5 other wines over the years. They produce just over 100 cases of each wine annually and name each wine after one of their children.
Rolando Committed to Mi Sueño Winery Full Time
The time was right and Rolando’s gut told him it was time to go all-in on his seven-year-old business. At the time, he was managing Mi Sueño Winery on the side while keeping a full-time job at other wineries. However, now it was time to focus on his own brand and spread his wings as an entrepreneur.
Russian River Pinot Noir Poured at White House
Rolando and Lorena had the honor of their 2006 Russian River Pinot Noir being poured at a Cinco de Mayo celebration hosted by President George W. Bush at the White House.
Rebecca Cabernet Sauvignon Poured at White House
At President Barack Obama’s first-ever state dinner, he honored Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, and paired the 2006 Herrera Rebecca Cabernet Sauvignon with a wagyu beef mole dish.
Purchased Mt. Veeder Property
Rolando and Lorena’s dream is always evolving and they purchased property on Mt. Veeder to bring their dream to life. They hope to plant vineyards for their Herrera wines and build a winery and formal tasting room.
Winery Celebrates 20th Anniversary
A wishful dream turned into reality. Rolando, Lorena, and the entire Mi Sueño family celebrates the first 20 years of the winery with a celebration in August 2017.