Robledo Family Winery
Sonoma County region
Living the American Dream
The story behind the Robledo Family Winery in not uncommon in Northern California, where a number of first class wineries have emerged from the influx of Mexican farm workers who have been the backbone of the California wine industry for the past four decades. It is rare that the Robledo saga has reached such proportions.
During the 1940’s the first member of the Robledo Family, Everardo, came to the United States as part of the Los Braceros (literally, strong shoulders) program that allowed Mexican workers to come to the United States and help supplement the existing farm work force decimated by the second world war. When Everardo returned to Mexico with glowing reports of the land and people, his son, youthful Reynaldo Robledo, Sr., envisioned himself one day coming to the United States to seek his fortune.
In 1968, Reynaldo’s chance came to fruition and he landed in Northern California’s Sonoma County, a place where grapes were the exalted crops. He started working in the fields and carefully learned the trade of managing vineyards. He became quite successful and before long many of the local growers were asking his opinion about specific conditions and how to make their plants more productive. In 1994, Reynaldo Robledo, Sr., opened his own vineyard management company and quickly became one of the most respected and trusted figures in the burgeoning wine industry.
During that same year, the first non commercial bottles (around 30 cases) of Robledo Family Winery were produced, and were given away to friends and family for their opinions and critiques. When most of the comments proved very positive, Reynaldo Robledo Sr. saw the opportunity to produce high quality commercial wines under his family’s label.
When his son Everardo graduated from high school in 1994, the two formed a partnership that covered both vineyard management and the development of the Robledo Family Winery concept that is the basis for today’s ongoing winery business. Everardo serves as CEO, CFO and winemaker for the winery while his father now concentrates more on the vineyard management side of the business.
“I started in the fields about the time I learned to walk,” recalled Everardo Robledo, now 34. “My father taught me and all of my brothers and sisters what it was like to work in the fields, and how to make the plants happy and productive.”
Everardo took enology classes at Napa Valley Junior College, but admits to being mostly a self taught winemaker.
“I am a person who believes that great wines must start in the fields, and how the vines are handled makes up a significant part of how good the wines will become. I learned a lot from my father and I have always had the help and opinions of consulting winemakers. Our fruit comes from many different sources and each microclimate is different and affects the grapes in a special way. I know all the variants that the vines experience so I should be able to produce good wine from the fruit."
Robledo Family Winery’s first commercial release came in 2001 and was produced in a converted barn that Everardo constructed with his own expertise. A simple label that featured an oak tree served as the initial labeling for the wines that were sold out of the family tasting room.
Today, the Robledo Family Winery produces around 15,000 cases and little had changed since the winery’s inception. A few states have been added (Texas and Florida) but the main sales for the business are still conducted out of the tasting room facility on Bonness Road in Sonoma, about six to eight minutes from the Sonoma Square and across from the Los Arroyos Golf Course.
A business plan developed by Everardo Robledo calls for the winery to slowly increase its case volume in about four years to the 20,000 case level, a figure that Everardo Robledo termed “a place where we will eventually stop under the Robledo Family Winery label.”
Robledo Family Winery is somewhat unique in that it has never been widely distributed across the United States, but has grown remarkably during the last decade from its internal winery tasting room sales.
“We have many, many loyal customers that ride out and fill up their cars with our wines,” confessed Everardo Robledo proudly. “We take our business here quite seriously and are extremely happy to see people coming back. It is very rewarding to all members of my family.”
About the Vineyard
The Robledo Family’s extensive vineyard holdings are found in three of Northern California’s premier growing regions, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and Lake County. More than 350 acres are under vine in many of the top appellations that are found within the regions. Such diversity allows Robledo Family Winery to produce a high number of wines (26) many of them bottled under single vineyard status.
Also, the great range of climactic variations allows for the correct planting of particular varietals in specific soils, thereby lessening the chances of growing problems or irregularities. According to the winery, more than eighty percent of their grapes are sold to other wineries, including Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, Castle Rock Winery and Gloria Ferrer Winery to name a few. It seems reasonable that the winery would withhold a good deal of its finest grapes for its own use.
The Art of Fine Wine
Painted by Anne Duke, whose love for the outdoors is expressed in her vivid watercolor paintings of flowers, trees, desert mountains, and vineyards.
Everardo Robledo - Winemaker
While Everardo Robledo serves in multiple roles for his family’s winery, none is more important than his role as winemaker. Admittedly self-taught, Everardo candidly points to his many years of on-the-job-training under the watchful eyes of his father and several consulting winemakers.
‘I learned to make wine the way many great winemakers learned,” he stated. ‘I knew the grapes and the soils first, and what they could do for the wines. And, I took classes to give myself a better background. I feel as if I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
More on Reynaldo Robledo Sr.
When Reynaldo Robledo Sr., left his native city of Zamora in the State of Michoacan, few would have considered him a visionary. He left to seek a better life and followed the directions of his father who had worked as a laborer in Northern California during World War II.
But Robledo was a fast learner and used his instincts well and was soon a respected figure among grape growers in Sonoma County. He was also an astute businessman and as early as 1984, he was able to purchase a thirteen-acre vineyard site on Cutting Wharf Road for his family in the prestigious Carneros area of Southern Sonoma County.
While he admits he learned his trade of vineyard management in the fields, Robledo smartly enrolled in UC Davis and learned additional aspects of the grape business from the classical viewpoint. In time, his expertise even brought him to France where he taught French wine growers his own particular method of grafting, a practice that is used throughout France to this day.
Reynaldo Robledo Sr., also saw early on the importance of making wines, and experimented with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the early 1980’s. When his wine brought rave reviews from his friends and associates, he decided it was time to get into the vintner’s side of the wine business.
He also thought it a good idea to include all of his family in the process and thereby make the wine true Robledo Family wines. Reynaldo, now 59, and his wife Maria, produced nine children, two girls and seven boys. All worked in the fields with their parents from infancy and today, five of their siblings are still associated with the winery on a daily basis.
Everardo is CEO, CFO and winemaker, while twins Francisco and Luis, 27, work in the cellars and vineyards. Lazaro, 22, is the tasting room manager and Adrian 17, works in the tasting room while still attending high school. Daughter Vanessa recently left the winery to pursue her own career and eldest sister Lorena is married to Rolando Herrera of Mi Sueño Winery fame. The final son, Reynaldo Jr., 31, owns his own olive tree farm company and is also in vineyard management.
In recent years, Reynaldo Sr. has cut back on his vineyard management from around 800 acres to a more manageable 250, and that’s in addition to his family’s own 350 acres that he personally supervises. Many in the wine industry would be content with a great reputation and sizeable family holdings but Reynaldo Robledo is that rare individual that is always seeking greater opportunities.
As his son Everardo put it, ‘My Mom and Dad took Robledo Family Winery to a certain level, and now their children are taking it to a higher level. We want to do it the right way, the way they did it.”
We know that the winery is already off to a truly great start.