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Rolando Herrera of Napa Valley's Mi Sueño Winery in Napa wins 'American Dream' industry award

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Rolando Herrera

Winemaker & Owner

Mi Sueño Winery

910 Enterprise Way, Napa 94558

707-258-6358

www.misuenowinery.com/

Hard work plus passion overcomes obstacles, says Rolando Herrera, winner of the American Dream category of North Bay Business Journal's Wine, Beer + Spirits Industry Awards for 2019.

The Business Journal asked him about his rise from a teen immigrant to vintner, rising through the cellars and vineyards of notable producers in Wine Country.

Detail your background in the industry:

My job is the dream come true, Mi Sueño. As a Mexican immigrant with agricultural roots, I started here in the Napa Valley as a dishwasher, yet my passion for farming never wavered and I transitioned to wine in the 1980s.

I’m in my 35th harvest this year and I can still say I’m the luckiest man in the world. I had great mentors along the way. After immigrating here at 15 in pursuit of a better life and a better education, I worked as a dishwasher at night to put myself through high school. Over the summer of 1985, I got a job building a garden wall on the Stag’s Leap Winery property where I met owner Warren Winiarski.

While there, he saw something in me, a love for hard work and a passion for a job well done. When the project was over he hired me as a “cellar rat” at age 17, and within three years I was promoted to cellar master. My career has been blessed with opportunities to work with many of the Napa greats, I was assistant winemaker at Chateau Potelle for Jean-Noel and Marketta Fourmeau and later became director of winemaking for Paul Hobbs Winery and Paul Hobbs Consulting.

In 1997, I started Mi Sueño Winery with my wife Lorena with just 200 cases of chardonnay. Since then the freedom to manage our own vineyards and wines has been the greatest privilege. Getting to share this love and pride in what we do with our employees, our friends and our family is priceless.

Describe the impact your company or you have had on the industry in the last five years:

Mi Sueño is an example to everyone that with a little hard work and a lot of passion you can accomplish anything. My wife Lorena and I have built this winery from a 200-case side project to a nationally distributed winery that produces between 8,000 and 10,000 cases a year.

We farm across five AVAs and in 2003, founded Herrera Vineyard Management so that we could completely control all aspects of our farming, from budbreak to harvest. We are still 100% family owned, and proud of the wines we create because they are our own, and not to benefit any corporation or investor’s bottom line. Quality comes first.

What are the accomplishments you can list to support that impact on the industry?

Our wines have been poured at the White House three times, the first time in 2001, our Los Carneros chardonnay by President George W. Bush. Then in 2008, our 2006 Russian River pinot noir was poured at a Cinco de Mayo celebration hosted by President Bush. The third time, in 2010, our 2006 Herrera Rebecca cabernet sauvignon with paired with a wagyu beef mole dish at President Barack Obama’s first-ever state dinner, where he honored Mexican then-President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.

Earlier this year, I was honored to receive recognition from Wine Industry Advisor as one of Wine’s Most Inspiring People.

Rolando Herrera

Winemaker & Owner

Mi Sueño Winery

910 Enterprise Way, Napa 94558

707-258-6358

www.misuenowinery.com/

What changes have you noticed in your industry in the last five years and how have you and/or your company moved to capitalize on those changes?

The wine industry is always changing, and it is interesting and exciting to get to tackle the new challenges we are presented with.

In the past few years there has been much higher competition for talent and labor in the Napa Valley. It continues to be difficult to find people to work in the vineyards and the winery and it is actually getting harder.

However, we have an outstanding permanent vineyard crew and permanent winery team. By owning both our own winery and our own vineyard management company we are able to move our personnel from one team to another when we need them. When we need more people in the vineyards, we can send help from the winery, during the busy season for winemaking, we can get help from our vineyard crews.

Business is still very competitive and as a small, family-owned winery you have to work harder to succeed, especially with distributors and the wholesale market. We are relying more and more on our DTC sales, we are putting our efforts into our tasting room and ensuring all visitors get to experience the excellent Mi Sueño hospitality.

One way Mi Sueño has been able to continue to grow throughout these challenges is our very strong business foundation. We control every part of our business, we own and manage all of our own vineyards, we have our own winery and bottling line, this puts us in a position to overcome these obstacles and be successful. If we needed to buy grapes, or go to a custom crush facility, it would be much harder. We are thankful every day for the opportunity to control every aspect of our winemaking, from budbreak to bottling.

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