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Guerrero Fernandez Winery CEO runs business and marathons

Guerrero Fernandez Winery

Location: 7724 Bell Road, Windsor

Phone number: 707-953-7956

Hours: Closed Monday-Thursday. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Wine tastings: Tastings are limited to outdoor sitting and by appointment only.

More information: gfwines.com

Nestled into the small and slightly smoky Wine Country town of Windsor is Guerrero Fernandez Winery. Although a picturesque and verdant vineyard is not far away, the winery is tucked into an unprepossessing area of town known as Artisan Alley Beverage District, with its warehouse-type establishments of breweries and wineries replete with barrels, boxes, and the hustle-and-bustle that multiple, thriving beverage businesses entail.

Don't let the exterior fool you though, because upon arrival you are welcomed by the fruity aroma of wine aging in French oak barrels. The tiny tasting room is enhanced by family photographs and posters of Olga Fernandez running in marathons.

The winery is easy to locate, just off Highway 101 at the edge of Windsor at 7724 Bell Road and was established in 2004 by husband and wife team Martin Guerrero and Olga Fernandez.

Fernandez, CEO of the winery, runs the tasting room which is has a wine tasting bar created with wine barrel staves constructed by Guerrero who is the winery’s winemaker.

The winery's name is a proud refection of the hard work they have both put into this venture, equal parts her and equal parts him, where both creative minds and vast knowledge of wine come together to produce something special.

"At the end of the day we feel like we enjoyed every step of the way, while doing our best," Guerrero said.

Even their wine labels go deeper than just stating their company name. They reflect warmly on their family, with some of the labels including the word, “gratitude” or “inspiración” while others are a nod to grandchildren or other family members, along with the American Sign Language symbol for “love” to honor their son's hearing impairment.

Sourcing local products

When it comes to production, Guerrero Fernandez Winery produces 1,200 cases of wine annually and it’s mainly red wines, along with sauvignon blanc. Their wines range from $26 to $85.

When it comes to crafting wines for Guerrero Fernandez Winery, eyes are on investing in local product.

Opting for pinot noir grapes from the Russian River Valley, cabernet sauvignon grapes from Knight's Valley and zinfandel grapes from Dry Creek Valley, the wines reflect the bounty of the nearby harvest. Sourcing those local grapes also have the combined advantages of great climate and geographic conditions that allow for the best, high quality fruit.

This is particularly important to the duo and, “that is the beginning of a long and beautiful process,” Fernandez said.

After the grapes are handpicked, they are delivered to the Guerrero Fernandez Winery on Bell Road. Next they are hand-sorted before being crushed in their small crusher.

“The Sonoma County terroir, where most of our grapes come from, gives us inspiration and creativity in making our wines. We are eternally grateful to live on this land," Fernandez said.

Appreciating the land

Fernandez and Guerrero’s journey to Wine Country began 36 years ago when they moved from Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico to Sonoma County as newlyweds and started a family.

Some of challenges Fernandez said she faced when moving to Sonoma County included learning English and the lack of life experience. She said those obstacles proved necessary in order to grow and meet her potential.

What Fernandez didn’t realize was she was prepared in other ways.

One aspect of growing up in Mexico that Fernandez has never forgotten are those life-lessons instilled in her by her grandparents.

" I would not be the person I am today if it were not for the influence of my grandfather,“ Fernandez said. ”I spent my childhood with my grandparents learning of the importance of our land and the way it provides us with everything that is needed in life.“

Working in Wine Country

Guerrero learned the business of winemaking during his 20-years at Korbel Champagne Cellars, when he began working in 1986, at the outset in production bottling. Next, he worked in the machine-sanitation department, then a myriad cellar jobs, followed by work in Korbel's cuvée room. After years of observation, visiting numerous wineries and through on-the-job training, he became winemaker at the winery with his built with his wife.

"My husband had worked in the wine industry for 20 years when we both made the decision to pursue our dream of owning a winery,“ Fernandez said. ”The work we had to put in was hard, and still is, but a business requires more than just hard work; it requires dedication, patience and perseverance."

Fernandez took the initiative to learn the wine business along side her husband, immersing herself in wine research, interacting with other wineries, attending wine tastings and even collaborating with her husband to make wine for themselves in the 1990s before managing their tasting room.

Guerrero Fernandez Winery

Location: 7724 Bell Road, Windsor

Phone number: 707-953-7956

Hours: Closed Monday-Thursday. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Wine tastings: Tastings are limited to outdoor sitting and by appointment only.

More information: gfwines.com

She also noted any sacrifices required of them were more than outweighed by the satisfaction of working in the community here in Sonoma County.

"Running a boutique and family-owned winery has both challenges and rewards. Challenges are always welcome because I see them as an opportunity to be creative and strategic.“ Fernandez said.

Taking challenges in stride

One challenge thrown at the family has been the coronavirus pandemic. Fernandez credits loyal wine club members for their ongoing support during this unprecedented time when they had to close their tasting room because of county and statewide mandates.

The downtime gave Fernandez and Guerrero time to strategize in other areas, develop new ideas and allowed them to spend time with their grandchildren.

Another challenge is the ongoing statewide drought. The team is adjusting by practicing low water use protocols, which allow them to minimize water use at the winery.

"For our grapes, we are expecting a lower yield this harvest, but little to no change in quality," said Fernandez.

Along with running a winery and raising a family, Fernandez's other accomplishments include running marathons. She has run over 45 in the past dozen years, including the six major world-wide marathons in 2016, and she just ran in the Santa Rosa marathon last weekend.

She also serves on the board of the Sonoma County Parks Foundation and Sonoma County Family YWCA.

"I feel most accomplished when running. The gratification is immediate,“ Fernandez said. ”There is a great joy and feeling of achievement after each run or race. However, serving on these boards is also gratifying, knowing that my small contribution is serving and helping others.

When asked if there are parallels between all of her jobs, she said, "doing my best is always the common denominator.“

“I have the twin passions and loves for both my business, as well as that of helping my community,” Fernandez said. “There is always something you can do, and always someone you can help."

It’s clear Fernandez and Guerrero have turned their dreams into reality by infusing their hearts with their wine business.

Fernandez’s passion and perseverance in particular compliment the industry and the love for the land. Guerrero compared his loves of Fernandez and their family to winemaking, saying, “it takes love and passion, and living in harmony with mother Earth to create a good life.”

The key to unlocking the puzzle of a full and rewarding life seems to be the importance of giving, and of balancing the aspects of life, much like creating a fine, nuanced cabernet. Just ask Fernandez and Guerrero.

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