Feb 23, 2019
by Christopher Kerosky, Kerosky, Purves & Bogue, LLP, Sonoma County Human Rights Commissioner
Mexican-Americans have always been central to the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Since the days the first vines were grown here, immigrant workers from Mexico have borne the primary role in the cultivation of the grapes and the production of the wine that have made this region famous.
For decades, these have been the unsung heroes of the wine country: braceros in the 1940s and 1950s; the legions of workers led by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and 1970s; and continued waves of undocumented immigrants that provide most of the necessary labor in the fields up until the present day.
In recent years, recognition is finally being given to the many of Mexican heritage who actually make the wine — the skilled enologists and winemakers with Mexican roots, without whom our wine would not be so renowned. In fact, there is a whole generation of these wine industry leaders born in Mexico but calling the North Bay their home; they are quietly re-making the region’s largest industry with a Mexican accent.
Jesus Medina is one of them.
Jesus grew up in Guadalajara and came from a family that worked on a large hacienda in the Jalisco region of Mexico. After the French lost its ill-conceived war with Mexico in 1867, many French troops settled in this region; some were Jesus’ ancestors. And like many Mexican immigrants, Jesus also has roots in the Spanish colonial class and of course the indigenous peoples who have lived in Mexico for millennia.
Jesus was raised on the land in a family that worked the land. It was his family’s tradition for centuries, going back to those colonial days in Jalisco. Though most of his childhood was spent in the streets of Guadalajara, he spent weekends and summers at the rancho and hacienda. Working the fields was part of his family chores.
Jesus came to the U.S. at age 20 and settled in the Riverside County in the Inland Empire. Eventually he would earn a soccer scholarship to study at UC Riverside; between his soccer playing and a lot of work after class, Jesus managed to work his way through UCR.
Along the way, Jesus read an LA Times article about Robert Mondavi, and he decided he wanted to work for the famous winemaker. So, Jesus came north to Napa in 1988 and found a way to meet Mr. Mondavi. The wine master soon after offered him a job.
Robert Mondavi would take Jesus under his wing, teach him the trade of winemaking. He instilled in Jesus the “best of the best” mentality. “Mr. Mondavi was my main influence and inspiration,” says Jesus. While working full-time, Jesus took wine classes at Napa College. Mondavi also sent him to Chile and New Zealand to work the harvests there and improve the depth of his knowledge of winemaking. Jesus began to make his own fine wines, learning from the master.
"Jesus Medina has spent more than two decades supporting the production of premium wines in Napa Valley and around the globe. Over the course of a twenty-year career with the Robert Mondavi Winery he rose to the position of Cellar Master and took an active role in constantly refining and improving standards and practices for cellar work and winemaking." read more: https://miranapa.com/jesus-medina-joins-mira-team-as-assistant-winemaker/
In the 1990s, he met his wife, Veronica, and they started a family. Veronica immigrated herself from El Llano, Michoacan in 1979. She is a tax specialist with her own thriving income tax preparation firm in Napa (“VM Taxes”). They have two kids, Michelle 25 and Jesus Josue 15. Michelle is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and she works as a paralegal assisting immigrant families. Jesus Josue is a sophomore at Vintage High School.
Even after moving north, Jesus has continued to pursue his other passion – soccer. Apart from coaching soccer for youth groups for 25 years, Jesus found time to obtain a Master’s Degree in Sports Conditioning from Universidad Isabel in Spain. He is an avid fan of the La Liga, Liga MX and the Champion’s League.
When Mondavi Winery was sold to the conglomerate Constellation Wines in 2015, Jesus decided to move on. He teamed up with Jim Dyke and Gustavo Gonzalez at the newly formed Mira Winery. Five years later, Mira is making award-winning wines and it has everything to do with this talented team of winemakers. Jesus is now making his own mark on Napa Valley.
“Mr. Mondavi always said, ‘if you like what you do, you never work a day in your life”, says Jesus.
Good way to work, good way to live.
Please support our sponsors:
LOCAL GUIDE to Cannabis Dispensaries and Delivery Services, Sonoma County & Beyond.All dispensaries have verified their information.
Sonoma County Bike Shops and Groups. Find LOCALLY-OWNED Bicycle Shops for NEW, Used and Rental Bicycles as well as REPAIR. Look for a bike-riding group that suits your needs and style.
Find Goldsmiths and Jewelers who create custom designs, offer jewelry repair, estate appraisals, and gems.