"If things are going real smooth, you'd better watch out, because something new is coming up, and you'd better get ready," says Victor. "If you stay dormant, you'll never grow," says Victor.
THE WORKER'S WINE
Before the Ceja family poured its first bottle of wine made from homegrown grapes, they were poring over the pages of Hispanic Business magazine. "Prior to the debut of our first 750 cases, we knew that dramatic changes were taking place within the Hispanic population, and we found Hispanic Business magazine to be the leader in Hispanic market research," says Amelia Morán Ceja, president of Ceja Vineyards.
Portrait of Juanita and Pablo Ceja.
As the family of former migrant farmworkers prepared to enter the intensely competitive wine industry, they knew they needed a niche to call their own. "Our goal is to increase brand awareness to Hispanics – a demographic group that has been ignored by the wine industry," says Amelia.
The family faced monumental struggles early on, but they found constant inspiration by reading about other Hispanic entrepreneurs. "Hispanic Business magazine supports and encourages startup companies and provides valuable information for success," adds Amelia.
Pablo Ceja, 71, is no stranger to struggle. On its surface, life hasn't changed much since he came to the United States in 1957 as part of the bracero farmworker program. He rises before dawn and is in the fields by 7 a.m. every day. Now, however, his family owns the 113-acre vineyard, and the grapes they tend with care find their way into bottles that bear the name Ceja.
After years of following the crops, Pablo decided in 1967 to bring his family to the U.S. His oldest son, Pedro, remembers how excited he was at the prospect of going to El Norte. "I really thought we were going to a completely different world, a magical place," says Pedro.
Reality set in when Pablo, his wife Juanita, and their six children arrived in Napa, California, on a rainy night in March. They had no place to stay, but Pablo's new boss allowed them to sleep in the barn. Conditions for the family improved slowly, yet Pablo and Juanita quickly learned that the only way to build a better life for the next generation was through education. "They realized they were trapped in a maze without an exit. They were insistent – we had to go to college," says Pedro.
Left to right: Pedro, Amelia, Martha, and Armando Ceja.
Pedro received an associate's degree in engineering but decided to forego a four-year plan in favor of a job to help his other siblings pay for college. Armando, who made his first barrel of cabernet when he was 17, studied enology and viticulture at the University of California, Davis. He's now the head winemaker for Ceja Vineyards.
When Pedro married Amelia Morán in 1980, it would become a joint venture in more ways than one. In 1983, Pablo, Juanita, Pedro, Amelia, and Armando bought 15 acres in northern California.