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Latina Winemakers Are the Toast of Napa Valley

Amelia Morán Ceja is one of the most powerful women in Napa Valley. And she doesn’t mince words about her climb to the top.

“I’m an immigrant,” says the president of Ceja Vineyards in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. “I came in the late ‘60s as a young girl. I didn’t speak a word of English, and now I’m at the helm of one of the most respected brands in the country: Ceja Vineyards.”

But it’s not just her immigrant status that Ceja is proud of; it’s the fact that she’s a woman who has risen to the top of a male-dominated industry.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Ceja moved to Napa to work with her family as a grape-picker in the vineyards. She created Ceja Vineyards in 1980 with her husband, Pedro, and his family. Fast forward nearly 35 years and Ceja has been named “Best Boutique Winery in Napa & Sonoma” by local magazines several times and runs a successful tasting room in downtown Napa. She was even elected “Woman of the Year” by the California legislature in 2005.

“It took someone with a lot of guts…to start shaking it up and breaking that glass ceiling in a very competitive industry,” she told Fusion. “I became the first Mexican-American woman president of a wine company in the world.”

Now a growing number of Latinas are joining her company. Lidia Maldonado of Maldonado Vineyards in Calistoga handles “everything except the winemaking.”

Many of the Latina women who are managing vineyards come from families that a generation ago were migrant workers who picked grapes. Today, the participation of Latinas working in the wine industry has become much more sophisticated. Maldonado’s daughter, Mayra, recently graduated with a degree in enology, or winemaking.

“Women are coming up and making wine just as good as, if not better in some cases, (as the wine made by men),” she said.

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