To commence the day MORE representatives, and guests were hosted by Ceja Vineyards at their Las Amigas Vineyard in Carneros, Napa. Amelia Moran-Ceja, President of the well-known Napa Valley winery, hosted the group. Nestled within the Carneros Appellation, the property sits within the first 15 acres that the Ceja Family acquired to start their wine business in 1983.
Also known as grape growers, Ceja grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that sells to many well-known Napa Valley wineries, including Sparkling houses. Their first vintage was in 2001. They produce six varietal wines (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon), Vino de Casa (red blend), and Dulce Beso (late harvest Sauvignon Blanc).
As customary in Latino families, Ceja opened its doors to guests with wine and food. First, guests were invited to taste their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Chardonnay, 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir, 2009 Vino de Casa, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2008 Dulce Beso. Then, Amelia invited the group to join her for lunch, which included Mexican tostadas and mushroom quesadillas with homemade salsas and guacamole. For dessert, a sinful “Sauvignon Blanc-Poached Pears with Spicy Pepitas,” paired with Dulce Beso.
Amelia related that she and her husband Pedro had a dreamed of growing grapes in Napa Valley, since they were kids. In 1983, the family joined resources to buy 15 acres in Carneros, where the Las Amigas property sits today. In 1986, they planted 13 acres with Pinot Noir, and their first harvest was in 1989. In 1999, they started venturing in winemaking and launched their label in 2001.
Amelia continued... “From the beginning, we decided that we were going to make wine our way. Not wines for scores or credits. First article wrote about us was a year and a half after we started making wine. We paired wines with Mexican foods, and that changed the industry right away. Nobody had done that before.”
Amelia, with charming and charismatic presence, is the Women of the Vine, behind the Ceja wines. She has launched the Ceja brand to local, national and international markets. She related that as an entrepreneur in the wine business, you have to have resilience and perseverance. “Making the wine it is hard, but selling it is even harder,” she expressed. As many small wineries, most of their business comes from their club members. Amelia credits the growing number of club members to their way of making people feel as part of their extended family, becoming their brand ambassadors.
The Ceja family credits their success in producing great wines to their viticultural practices, and their experience of being "in-tuned" with the vineyard. It is no surprise, since both, Amelia and Pedro’s families came to Napa Valley in the 1960s as part of the Braceros program and have worked and managed Napa Valley vineyards since. Amelia expressed, “You cannot make great wines from mediocre grapes.”
As Deborah Brenner describes in her book, “Her story – (referring to Amelia) –is the stuff of award-winning scripts: immigrant parents with little to their name and no formal education, but enough conviction, love of family, and heart to power a large city…..” If you desire to find out more about Amelia’s story and many other women in the wine business, it is worth to read Deborah’s book Women of the Vine.
From the start to end, the group was able to enjoy Ceja’s hospitality, a great opener to celebrate of women behind the Napa Valley wines and the International Women’s Day.