Crescere Wines Is a Familia Affair
A Mexican American-owned vineyard has planted a flag in Sonoma.
If you’re hard-pressed to imagine getting through the holidays with your family, try making a high-stakes, high-end wine with them. But that’s exactly what the Reynoso family is doing in Sonoma County with their Crescere Wines—one of a handful of Mexican American-owned wineries in the country. Their secret? Everyone has their own passion.
“I’m more of a dirt guy who really loves a ranch,” says father Joe Reynoso. “And my wife, Elena, is more of a wine geek—she sets the direction for the wine. We apologize to each other before we start harvesting for everything we’re going to say, and then we take a long weekend afterward to make up.”
Joe’s joking—almost—but Crescere is nothing if not a family affair. 26 years ago, the successful options trader and son of Mexican immigrants bought the property in northern Sonoma.
Elena, a wine professional for 30 years, had a love of Bordeaux, and Joe found an idyllic 500-acre parcel that had been planted with 10 acres of phylloxera-riddled vines, which were promptly torn out.
Then, in a refreshing change from the gold rush fever of the past few decades, the couple rushed absolutely nothing. They raised their family. They enjoyed the land.
Joe’s son, JW, is now in charge of the field team, and like his father focuses on farming. He grew up on the property—around the vines, in nature, away from the family’s then-home in Chicago. And perhaps because of that, he too has gravitated towards the natural aspects of the business, not vinification.
“We spent all our summers out here from when I was seven,” JW recalls. “Out here with my brothers and cousins—it was like summer camp. We’d be camping down by the river, riding dirt bikes, playing wilderness survival, and we’d be gone for days at a time—not a lot of showering. It was the best of both worlds.”
Back then, you’d only need four digits to swap numbers and the nearest town, Cloverdale, had but one major intersection, says JW. But now, he’s all grown up at the age of 33, the same age Joe was when he bought the vineyard, and with a two-year old and a one-month-old, JW is focused on preserving Crescere for the next generation.
The brand isn’t much older than JW’s children. “We wanted to make sure we knew how to farm grapes properly before we tried to make a wine,” Joe says, evidencing a restraint you don’t often find in the land of $100 bottles and skyrocketing land costs. It’s clear they’re in this for family, not for money.
Four years ago, heralded winemaker Philippe Melka joined the project to oversee the winemaking. The project encompasses about 150 acres of land, with about half devoted to Cabernet grapes that comprise their flagship bottling.
Elena still remembers the moment they tasted the first barrel samples with Philippe. “He was completely silent the entire time. It was a grueling 15 minutes,” she recalls. “And I remember looking at him going ‘Oh no….this is not good.’”
And then: “These wines are really expressive,” Philippe offered. “He suddenly got animated—as much as he does. For him that’s extremely high praise.” The 25-year experiment had paid off.
While Philippe and his team guide the winemaking, the stylistic decisions are all Elena’s. “I like wines that express themselves in a varietally correct way,” she says. “I don’t like ginormous fruit bombs.”
For the Reynosos, the concept of family extends to the vineyard workers, many of whom they’ve worked with for decades.
“This place wouldn’t exist without our foreman, Margo,” Joe says. “He and his five boys have been living on the property for at least 20 years. He’s been doing this for 50-plus years. He’s got a fourth grade education from Mexico and we have 110,000 vines on the property and I swear to god he knows each one individually. There were times in the past we’d hire fancy PhDs and he’d listen patiently and suggest we just try it on only a few rows. Invariably Margo was right and the PhDs were wrong.”
For the Reynoso family, planting the Mexican flag out front isn’t just a symbol. “It kind of says we belong here,” Joe says. “The Mexican American community already runs most of wine country, in a way. Our family goes back generations in agriculture. It’s kind of the natural progression in America. There’s a saying: I work the fields so my son can be a businessman, so his son can be an artist. My youngest son’s a guitar player. And JW’s growing grapes. And philosophically, that’s the pinnacle of self-actualization.”
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