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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Maldonado Vineyards - Jamieson Canyon, Napa

94 Points, Highly Recommended - Wine Spectator

The story behind this emerging, high quality winery is not completely unfamiliar to anyone interested in newer California wineries. It involves a motivated Mexican immigrant (Lupe Maldonado) who left his small village (Atacheo, in the State of Michoacan) some 44 years ago, and came to Napa Valley in search of a better life for himself and his family. Lupe worked tirelessly for Sterling Vineyards and eventually was asked to help Peter Newton in the establishment of his iconic Newton Vineyards.

Lupe saved his money and in the mid 1990’s was eventually able to purchase an unwanted 10-acre parcel of pasture land in Jamieson Canyon, below the City of Napa and in close proximity to San Pablo Bay. By now, Lupe Maldonado was considered an expert grower. With the help of his family, he set out to grow Chardonnay on his new land. The vineyard was named “Los Olivos” in honor of some nearby olive trees and the production of high quality Chardonnay was begun.

Meanwhile, Lupe’s son Hugo, was himself quite busy acquiring a degree in viticulture and enology from prestigious UC Davis, former home to many great growers and vintners. Upon graduation, Hugo had a plan for his family’s wine future that he immediately put into action. The Maldonado Family scoured the area in Napa Valley and finally settled on a 12-acre hillside parcel located at the upper end of the valley above the City of Calistoga. Again, it was property that no one really cared about and the price was right for the Maldonados. The family set about clearing the land and digging a pair of caves that connected at their backs.

“It was really back breaking work,” described Hugo Maldonado. “The job took us quite some time to complete. We wanted to do everything right and make the place special to everyone who would come to see it.” When the excavation was complete, the crush pad was added immediately in front of the entrance to the caves and the business was set to begin processing grapes. Hugo Maldonado had also set up a small vineyard management company in the valley that helped with fruit to begin the family’s own winery label. The initial Maldonado Vineyards release came in 2002, a whopping total of only 227 cases.

“We have been very fortunate to grow our production to around 4,000 cases for this year,” Maldonado informed. “And, our three-year plan is to increase our production to between 5,000 and 7,000 cases. At that point we would still be a boutique winery, but we would still control our quality. Any larger and you begin to have problems with your quality.” It is the Maldonados’ ultimate goal of creating a family legacy for future generations of their family that makes Maldonado Vineyards so special. A number of family members participate in the daily operation of the winery and vineyards.

As you would expect, Lupe Maldonado, now 72, is active in the daily maintenance of the vineyards. Hugo’s wife, Lydia, serves as the office manager as well as handling a good deal of the sales and marketing efforts. Hugo’s sisters, Judy and Gina, also assist in sales and marketing as well as office duties. Hugo Maldonado’s daughter, Mayra, is a student at Fresno State in viticultural studies and assures a new generation of winemakers for the Maldonado Vineyards organization. Along with a number of other small production Mexican-American wineries, Maldonado Vineyards is another example of hard work, good timing and a keen insight as to what it takes to make a winery successful in today’s highly competitive California wine industry. Maldonado Vineyards’ wines have received high scores and numerous medals since inception and seem destined to continue this trend into the future.

Its winery is compact and charming, as are the personalities of the persons involved. The winery itself is a tribute to the American spirit of innovation and enterprise. Its wines are esteemed across the country and seem destined for a new category in wine stores and on wine lists that features Mexican/American wineries and wines. A great tribute to Maldonado Vineyards occurred when its 2009 Los Olivos Chardonnay was featured at a White House dinner during the closing days of the last Bush presidency.

“It was as if we had reached a pinnacle,” added Hugo Maldonado. “There could be no greater honor for any winery than to be served by the president of the United States at an official dinner. It was a most humbling experience for us all.”

  1. Maldonado
    2009 Chardonnay
    Los Olivos Vineyard
    Napa Valley


    94 - Wine Spectator
    id: 1119