09/10/2013 08:18 am ET

Latino Winemakers Rise In California


SONOMA, Calif. — It is harvest season in wine country, the time of year when the scent of crushed grapes infuses the air and flatbed trucks heavy with fruit cargo come lurching down narrow back roads.

For the winemaker Everardo Robledo — who grew up working in the fields alongside his father, Reynaldo, on weekends and after school — the harvest has a particular emotional resonance: a measure of how far the family has come since his Mexican immigrant grandfather drifted from one migrant labor camp to another and his father toiled in the vineyards for $1.10 an hour.

Mr. Robledo, 30, and his family are part of a tiny but growing fraternity of Mexican-American winemakers, many of them farmworkers’ children who now pursue wine business degrees or study viticulture and oenology at the University of California, Davis. “It’s what we have been doing all our lives,” the younger Mr. Robledo said of picking, pruning, trellising, planting and “suckering,” or removing unwanted shoots from vines. “The land is in our DNA.”

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