Checking Out Robledo Family Winery


This is one of those stumble upon finds that we discovered last spring.  We were wandering around the southern edge of Sonoma and Napa counties.  Can’t remember which winery we were actually looking for, if any.  But as we often do, we asked some of the folks working in the tasting rooms who else is good in the area, and more than one suggested Robledo.

Wine Trip April 09 059What a treat!  The tasting room is dark and homey, with tables and lots of memorabilia celebrating the family’s Mexican heritage.  The parents came as farmworkers and eventually found the money to buy vineyards and make their own wine.  And their tasting menu is extensive.  We tried at least 10 wines – maybe a couple more.  We split our flights to stay standing.  Not everything was great, but most were and we brought home several to enjoy later.

You can access their site at, or visit them at Robledo Family Winery 21901 Bonness Road, Sonoma, CA 94576.  Or call 707.939.6903, toll-free 888.939.6903robledo2

An American Winery, Ceja Vineyards

This is the American story.  In the early to mid 1960s, Pablo Ceja joined thousands of his country-men to leave their native Mexico and work in the brasero program in California, picking crops and otherwise working in the fields.  Ceja landed in St. Helena, picking grapes across the Napa valley and dreaming of owning his own vineyard.

The family, including mama Juanita, immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, and Pablo’s two sons, Pedro and Armando, caught the dream from their father.  In 1983, Pedro and his wife Amelia, pooled resources with their parents and Armando, and the family bought their first vineyard.

Since then, they’ve gone well beyond just growing grapes in Napa’s famous Carneros region to producing up to 10,000 cases of premium wines.  And the third generation of Cejas are helping out with the family business, including two tasting rooms, one at 1248 First St., in Napa, itself, and another open by appointment only – a small house that’s been made over into a gorgeous facility perfect for groups.

The family may be dead serious about producing their wines, but even with the beautiful appointments of the tasting room and almost slick atmosphere there is a sly sense of humor.  Check out the business cards.  We talked with Ariel Ceja, who is listed at General Manager of the winery and “Da Little Guy.”  Wine Educator Javier Hernandez is also the Papi Chulo.  Problem is, there really isn’t a good translation for it, but it’s something along the lines of Pretty Boy or Hot Daddy (both of which Javier is).  He is such a sweetie and very passionate about sharing wine.

“You have to learn the philosophy of the winemaker,” he told us.  “Ours is to produce wines that go with any kind of food.”

Javier was also quick to point out that not all Mexican food is spicy – heat not usually being a flavor component that goes well with wine.  And, in fact, he offered up several examples of traditional dishes, such as mole, that go very well with certain reds.  You can check their website for several other examples.

While Javier conceded that most people associate beer with Mexican culture, he rightfully reminded us that most of the laborers in California wineries came (or come) from Mexico.

“We also know how to do it,” he said.

And they do.

Ceja Vineyards’ website can be found here.

Anne Louise Bannon

Mike Holland

Odd Ball Grape