Mexican Americans have long played a critical role in the California wine industry. With the wave of immigrants in the mid-20th Century, Mexican farmers and their families slowly worked their way up the Pacific Coast, pursuing various jobs in the agricultural industry. Many eventually settled in the Napa Valley, tending to the vineyards that would garner world attention in the 1970s.
Over the past decade or so, we’re seeing a new phenomenon of Mexican American winemakers and vintners taking center stage at Napa wineries such as Ceja and Mi Sueño. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we’re shining a spotlight on the Montes Family and Marita’s Vineyard, their American Dream come true.
Bulmaro Montes came to the United States in 1966 from Oaxaca, Mexico. With his father Manuel Montes Sr. and his older brother Manuel Montes, Bulmaro slowly traveled north, working in various different orchards throughout California. Eventually, Bulmaro brought his agricultural talents to Napa’s vineyards, and in 1973, he joined the founding team of Joseph Phelps as Vineyard Manager.
Later promoted to Vice President of Operations, Bulmaro farmed 30 vintages of grapes that went into such prestigious Joseph Phelps’ cabernet sauvignons as “Insignia” and “Backus Vineyard.” After three decades, Bulmaro retired from Joseph Phelps to achieve his father’s dream of owning his own vineyard property. He purchased a 2.6 acre vineyard in Coombsville, and planted it exclusively with cabernet. He named it Marita’s Vineyard, after his daughter Mara, who now serves as the winery’s chief administrator.
When visiting Marita’s Vineyard, each guest is welcomed into the Montes family. The tasting occurs on Mara’s back porch, overlooking the Coombsville property. Bulamro’s wife Sara prepares delicious Spanish-style tapas to complement the wines.
While the tasting room may appear quite humble in comparison to the established estates that line Highway 29, the wines are easy to fall in love with. Bulmaro remains a firm believer in the sheer power and complexity of cabernet sauvignon, finding no necessity for blending to create a magnificent wine.
The winery offers two selections—SOMA Cabernet Sauvignon (Coombsville, CA) $86 and MARITA’S VINEYARD “Select Private Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon (Coombsville, CA) $150. SOMA is the more food-friendly of the two, while the “Select Private Reserve” is more concentrated and brooding. Bulmaro purposefully holds his wines back many years in the cellar until he believes they are ready to drink, only now releasing the 2007 vintage.