The theme that is woven through Rolando Herrera’s inspiring story is one of hard work and persistence. Rolando, who with his wife, Lorena, founded Mi Sueño Winery in Napa Valley, was born in Mexico but migrated, at age eight, with his parents to the St. Helena area, where his father worked in the vineyards.
The family moved back to Mexico, but Rolando, with fond memories of Napa, returned, at age 15 to finish high school while working at as a busboy at Auberge du Soleil. One day, he was hired to help build a garden wall for Stags Leap Cellars founder Warren Winiarski, who recognized his work ethic and the rest is history.
Rolando spent several years working in various wine cellars before becoming the Assistant Winemaker at Chateau Potelle in St. Helena in 1995. After purchasing four tons of grapes from Lorena’s father, he made 200 cases his of chardonnay and Mi Sueño Winery, in 1997, was born.
In 2006, Mi Sueño moved into its current facility that houses the winemaking, barrel rooms and tasting lounge and in 2007, they purchased the industrial park building as their permanent home, including cozy indoor and outdoor tasting areas.
After starting Mi Sueño Winery, Rolando still pursued other opportunities and served as Winemaker at Vine Cliff and Director of Winemaking at Paul Hobbs in Sonoma County while launching Herrera Vineyard Management in 2003.
Mi Sueno Winery has had the privilege of having its wines served at the White House on three separate occasions: the 1999 Mi Sueño Los Carneros Chardonnay in 2001, the 2006 Mi Sueño Russian River Pinot Noir in 2008 and, in 2010, the 2006 Herrera Rebecca Cabernet Sauvignon, a label of small production, premium wines named after their children.
Although Mi Sueño Winery produces 10,000 cases annually, Rolando still sees himself more as a farmer than a winemaker and enjoys it the most. He says that 70 percent of a winemaker’s job is done before the grapes are harvested at precisely the right time, something he does by taste. His winemaking and marketing philosophies remain simple: respect Mother Nature and let the wines speak for themselves.
The wines do speak for themselves, beginning with the 2016 Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay ($55), complex with a floral nose, crisp acidity and vivid flavors. Aged in 65 percent new French oak, this wine is nicely balanced with expressions of tropical fruit on the palate.
Another release, the Burgundian-Style 2016 Los Carneros Chardonnay ($42), from a cooler appellation, consists of Dijon and Wente clones, chosen because they both ripen early. The grapes are co-fermented, whole- cluster pressed with full malolactic fermentation and aged eighteen months with regular batonnage stirrings.
Tropical and stone fruit flavors are revealed through a bright acidity with discernible mineral elements on the finish.
Similar to a symphony, with wine, we expect certain elements to be constant, but are open-minded to someone’s interpretation. Deep, layered aromas of dark fruit, spice with herbal and floral notes precede a similar flavor profile of the 2016 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($55), sourced from a single vineyard in the Sonoma County appellation.
I have a preference for good pinot noir and I found the traditional aromas and flavors of this release to be
bold and expressive, but balanced with soft tannins. This is a wine I could nurture.
The La Chole archeological site sits in the village of La Soledad de Maciel near Zihuatanejo. Myth has it that the ancient site was once known as the town of fear, a place where people went when they were running from something.
The 1st vintage 2016 Mi Sueño “La Chole” Red Wine Napa Valley, a blend mostly of malbec with syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petite verdot, serves as a tribute to the Mexican roots of the Herrera family. Currently under a test distribution in southern California only, it is doing well and we may see more in the future.
With a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec and a pinch of petit verdot that is available to club members only, the 2015 El Llano Red Wine Blend ($49) pays homage to Rolando’s grandparents and his birthplace of El Llano, Michoacán, Mexico.
A poised and polished 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($75), sourced from four vineyards and aged in 65 percent new French oak, completed out tasting stylishly.
Rolando’s wines are as compelling as his story, born from hard work, a passion for the land, his family and for the Napa Valley.
Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at email@example.com. He is a guest columnist.