Mi Sueno Winery (means “my dream” in Spanish) and was founded and is owned by long time Napa winemaker Rolando Herrera. As Rolando says, it took him 20 years to realize this dream but just 20 seconds to come up with the name! The story that leads to the founding of this winery is actually quite amazing. Rolando’s family immigrated to the USA seeking a better life in 1975. His Napa Valley beginnings were very humble, starting as a dishwasher at Auberge du Soleil then a line cook at Mustard’s Grill…talk about starting at the bottom and working your way up. Rolando had often wondered what it would be like to work at a winery as he drove by the wineries every day on his way to work. When a friend told him he had an extra job at the already famous Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Rolando jumped at the opportunity.
During his first day of work he headed straight for the cellar but quickly found out this “winery job” had absolutely nothing to with wine; rather it was constructing a stone wall around the home of famed vintner, Warren Winiarski. Talk about a let down! However Winiarski soon could see the Rolando had interest in wine and he was able to work a harvest soon thereafter. He then moved into working additional harvests and gained invaluable experience in the cellar; at the young age of 21 be became cellar master for this very well known winery. Other winemaking positions included working for Chateau Potelle, Vine Cliff and Paul Hobbs. With a resume like Rolando’s it was only a matter of time before he jumped into making wine for his own commercial winery.
Mi Sueno sources all their fruit from select vineyards both in Napa and neighboring Sonoma County. Rolando’s brother Richardo has been a much sought after vineyard manager and winemaker (with stints at Screaming Eagle, and Dominus) and today exclusively works with Mi Sueno. What is unique about this winery regarding their vineyards is that despite sourcing all fruit for their wine (they own no vineyards), in actuality they essentially “own” the vineyards, just not the land. The reason for this is all vineyards they source from are locked up in very long term contracts allowing them to build consistency into their wines as well as gain control of the actual vineyards.
In addition, they micro manage these vineyards themselves and in some cases actually planted the vines. If they take over a “new” vineyard and its not up to their exacting specifications (pruning, quality of fruit etc), they will retrain the vines to their specifications before they even use the fruit in their own wines. This is a very unique level of involvement not often found with a winery that “sources” fruit and does not actually own the land. Ease of work and shortcuts are always a temptation in any industry; Mi Sueno does not take these shortcuts – quality is of the utmost concern with everything this winery does.
The winery itself does not usually see visitors due to its industrial park location, however you are in luck – their wines are poured at the multi winery tasting room Vintner’s Collective in downtown Napa. Their first vintage was in 1997, merely several hundred cases of Chardonnay. Today they make about 5000 cases and growing. The 2005 Los Carneros Chardonnay is straw like in color – nice golden hues with robust aromas of toasted almond and crème Brule. This wine undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation and like many of Rolando’s wines, the fermentation is with natural yeasts. There is a lot of depth represented in this wine which you feel in the viscous and layered palate. The mouth feel is soft and silky with nice citrus driven fruit notes as well as hints of honey and subtle oak towards the finish. An older vintage of this wine was also served at a White House State dinner for at that time the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox.
The 2006 Russian River Pinot Noir from the Ulises Vineyard in neighboring Sonoma County is not a light weight Pinot Noir! This is pretty obvious starting with the deep ruby color and a nose full of flower characteristics, rose petals and lavender with a undertone of spices. This is a full bodied Pinot with a layered palate that packs a rich array of lively fruit including pomegranate and raspberry. The mouth feel is round and very well balanced. This was served at a Cinco de Mayo White House dinner in 2008.
The El Llano Red Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah) is their most produced “workhorse” wine. It is very versatile and in much demand. Invariably your first impression of this wine will be its dramatic dark color. Like Rolando’s other wines it has an excellent mouth feel – plush, velvety and smooth. Nice dark fruit flavors are present including blackberry and black cherry – with almost a briary characteristic. Spices and an interesting earthy nuance round out the finish.
The Herrera label features wines that are available in only very limited quantities – typically fewer than 100 cases. These are only released when they have a barrel with superb quality wine or a specific vineyard block that does especially well one year. As a result, unfortunately these are typically sold out and unavailable for tasting at Vintner’s Collective however, you can contact the winery for specific release dates and to get on their mailing list. Should you be a well-known sports player, ask about their signed jersey for wine program! Visit: www.misuenowinery.com