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Renteria Wines - Napa Valley

TIME Magazine has labeled his efforts as a ‘Legacy of Dreams,”

No more imposing a source than TIME Magazine has labeled its efforts as a “Legacy of Dreams,” a more than compelling catch phrase that offers an immediate insight to the story of Renteria Wines.

The actual story goes back more than four decades when Salvador Renteria, now 66, first crossed the Mexico/United States border and sought work as a laborer in Northern California’s wine country. Salvador took to the Napa Valley and eventually became a salaried foreman and later a supervisor. In 1987, he took the quantum leap of opening the Renteria Vineyard Management Company that today accounts for more than 1300 acres of prime vines in Napa Valley. Many of RVM’s customers are the prestigious icons of the modern Napa Valley wine business.

Salvador’s son Oscar, 37, learned the vineyard management business from the ground up, literally. Even after earning a degree from nearby St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Oscar was put to work in 1989 pruning vines by his no-nonsense father.

One particular vineyard in southeast Napa named Q Hill, caught Oscar’s attention.

“This vineyard was located on a particularly steep hillside,” Renteria explained. “Because of its steep angle, it was exceptionally hard to prune. My father made me prune it two years in a row during December. It took me five weeks to finish and I will never forget it.”

Oscar Renteria credits this particular plot of land with peeking his interest in vines. He soon found himself following its development to see exactly what kind of fruit it would produce.

When he and some friends decided to make a barrel of homemade wine following the crush of 1990, he naturally used the grapes from his beloved Q Hill. The barrel produced around 25 cases that Oscar gave away to family and friends. The same scenario followed for the next six years to everyone’s enjoyment until a most monumental occurrence took place.

“I got a call one day in 1996 from James Laube of the Wine Spectator,” Renteria went on. “He had come across a bottle of the 1993 Q Hill we had produced. After I told him our story he advised me to quit my day job and get out of vineyard management. He thought we should start a full time winery and gave our wine a 96 rating. I was literally floored.”

To his credit, Oscar Renteria took Laube’s salient advice and started Renteria Wines. He wisely added the services of winemaker Karen Culler and the first release of wines (around 450 cases) took place in 1997. Since that date, Renteria Wines’ expansion has proceeded evenly. The company will produce some 1800 cases during 2005.

Renteria can be found in seven selected states, in areas where Oscar Renteria said “we have either family or friends.” He stated that there were a few more areas of possible development, but that Renteria Wines would carefully select its future markets as its production increased.

Renteria Wines is still a relatively small part of the Renteria family’s business, accounting for only around 35% of its total time/hours expanded and a smallish 5% of its profitability.

But the best is most certainly ahead for the heralded young winery operation.

“We intend to finalize our permit work to develop a 55-acre parcel on Mt. Veeder that we own,” Oscar Renteria added. “It’s a really steep area and the winery will be built inside the caves we develop. It is our plan to actually have the 2007 crush at our new winery so that will mean completing everything by that date.”

Since Renteria is one of about thirteen California wineries with Mexican-American parentage, Oscar Renteria hopes that he can take advantage of the burgeoning number of Hispanics that have been added to consumer rolls. He isn’t particularly sure of the demographics involved, but knows that someday his particular heritage might have some advantage in the competitive wine industry.

For now he is delighted that he and his wife Denise (she runs the wine business) have two little girls, Isabella, 4, and Mia, 2, that Oscar is already grooming for the winery. “Isabella will be the winemaker one day,” Oscar sighed, “and Mia will be the vineyard manager. What more could anyone ask for?”

We can’t really think of a good answer to that one. Can you?