Nestled in the southern portion of Napa and Sonoma counties in what’s known as the Carneros region is where you will find the Ceja Vineyards and Winery. Having always lived in the mid-west, I was awestruck by the tranquility of the scenery and the beautiful vistas as I drove through the vineyards to visit the winery. That alone would have been worth the trip, but there was much more to enjoy once I arrived at my destination.
Ceja Vineyards and Winery is a family-business owned and operated by Amelia, Pedro, Armando, and Martha Ceja who migrated to America from Mexico with dreams of someday owning their own land and growing their own gapes. Today, their dream is a reality as their vineyards cover 113 acres of land. What makes the Ceja Winery story unique, however, is its president, Amelia Ceja. Amelia is the first Mexican American woman to hold that position in a wine production company in the history of new world wines.
Once I arrived at the winery, Amelia greeted me, anxious to take me on a tour and tell me about the Ceja wines. A petite woman with a warm smile, she wore Ceja logoed clothing which she said often confuses people. “I have been asked, well what do you do there? Very few people assume that I own this company,” she shared.
Although the wine business is extremely competitive, Amelia has led the company to great success since it was first introduced in 2001. Ceja was recognized as the best new winery by many of the world’s most prestigious wine writers. Most recently, Ceja Winery was voted as “Best Boutique Winery” in Napa and Sonoma by two area radio stations and was chosen as one of the “Hottest Small Brands” by Wine Business Monthly Magazine.
Amelia attributes much of the label’s success to a commitment to quality and the creation of wines that pair well with any food — another one of Amelia’s passions. In fact the day I was there, we ended out tour in her kitchen while she prepped shrimp for dinner. She invited me to stay and unfortunately I couldn’t because it looked like it was going to be a fabulous meal. By the way, you can find many of Amelia’s favorite recipes on Ceja’s web site including the one she was preparing for dinner the evening I was there — Prawns Poached in Ceja Sauvignon Blanc.
“What I have done as President at Ceja is to embrace everyone and invite them to our table to share a glass of wine regardless of what you like to eat,” she explained.
Amelia has broken the glass ceiling a very competitive industry and is a great role model for the next generation of Latinos. “It’s been wonderful to have people in this industry acknowledge how important it is to have diversity. It’s opened many doors for me personally; but also it has opened many doors for other future women in this industry.”
Since my visit, Amelia has continued to grow the business. Recently, she opened a new art gallery, lounge and wine tasting salon in the heart of downtown Napa. Click here to see how the Ceja family is harvesting a new tradition in wine production.