Local Mexican-American winemakers attend Smithsonian dinner

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History hosted a winemaker dinner Tuesday featuring local Mexican-American vintners.

The dinner was part of a fundraising event benefiting the Washington, D.C. Museum’s American Food and Wine History Project.

Those participating included Amelia Morán Ceja, president and owner of Ceja Vineyards in Sonoma; Rolando Herrera, proprietor and winemaker of Mi Sueño Winery in Napa; and Lazaro Robledo, tasting room manager at Robledo Family Winery in Sonoma. All three brought their wine to the dinner.

During their Washington visit, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, also honored Ceja and Herrera with certificates of congressional recognition for their contributions to the American wine industry.

“Many Mexican American vintners built their businesses literally from the ground up,” Thompson said in a statement. “They came to our country with dreams of a better life, worked the soil, tended the grapes and did the back-breaking labor required to start their own vineyards. And now they have built incredible, enduring legacies for their families and our district. They are living proof that the American dream is alive and well.”

Rhys Vineyards of Los Gatos buys property in Ukiah for new winery

Rhys Vineyards of Los Gatos has purchased property at the former Masonite site in Ukiah for a new winery.

Rhys bought the property from the Friends of Liberty, which operates Factory Pipe, a manufacturer of high-performance exhaust systems. Liberty bought the 63-acre site last year to turn it into an industrial park.

Rhys already owns 31 acres of vineyards on the western end of Anderson Valley, a region known for its premium pinot noir.

The winery also owns six vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains as part of its organic farming operation.

“As Rhys expands, we need more space and having a winemaking facility in Ukiah makes a lot of sense, since most of our current development is focused on northern Mendocino County, Anderson Valley and Sonoma. We’re looking forward to playing a significant role in the economic revival of Ukiah and the surrounding areas,” said Javier Tapia, chief financial officer for Rhys, in a statement.

Hansen retires as Lula Cellars’ winemaker after 30 years in industry

Jeff Hansen has retired as winemaker at Lula Cellars in Philo, the direct-to-consumer winery that he founded seven years ago.

Hansen, who has worked 30 years in the industry, will still be a partner in the winery and will become winemaker emeritus, available to work on special projects.

Matt Parish will take over the winemaker position at the label, which produces fewer than 3,000 cases annually.

Compiled by Bill Swindell. Submit items to bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com.