Women in Wine: Cecilia of Enriquez Estate Wines

Enriquez Winery and tasting room

Cecilia has a rather interesting and uncommon (but dreamy!) story of how she got into the wine industry. She makes stunning wines from unique varietals and isn’t afraid to do things her way. Check out the details of our interview below!

How did you get started in wine? 
A chain of events leading me to be where I was supposed to be. A trip where nothing went as planned but everything fell into place. My family and I planned a ski trip to Tahoe to visit my brother who was there studying at Sierra Nevada and when we got there, there was no snow. Too cold to do anything outside, my parents decided to take a road trip and visit San Francisco instead. They saw they could go through Napa on the way to SF so it was decided we would do two nights in wine country for a full wine tasting day and then head to SF. Well, we ended up in Santa Rosa instead which was perfect since my dad loves Pinot Noirs. I, at this point, was recently out of college and was not a fan of wine. My friends and family were drinking box wine and whatever was cheap and I didn’t like any of it. The first winery we went to, I looked at my dad and said whatever he was buying at home was horrible and that he needed to buy better wine. I discovered I had a palette for good quality wine. That day was a blast and the last place happened to be a small winery; my dad and the owner hit it off. Somehow that lead to chatting about retiring into the wine industry and then dinner and at the end of the night, my dad was convinced to see a property on our way south to SF. We got there and instantly fell in love. I jokingly told my dad that he should go for it and I would help him. Not thinking it would actually happen. You know how you get excited on vacation but then reality sets in. I also thought he would tell me to go get a job in the wine industry first but he told me to write a business plan when we got home. So I did. A year in a half later, he came home and said I was moving because he had closed on the property. I tried to back out as I knew nobody in California or knew nothing about farming or wine. I suggested he hire someone that knew what they were doing, but he didn’t let me. He had told me I had agreed to do this and that someone in the family had to oversee the day to day operations. When I got out here, I attached myself to anyone that would let me to learn as fast as I could about the farming and winemaking. I worked with a couple of consultants but always was the executive decision maker palette wise and now I do everything from grape to bottle by myself.

Prior to Enriquez, you worked for Wells Fargo. What did you do there? What was the hardest part of transitioning into wine? Are there any similarities?
I was initially hired as a credit manager. Essentially selling their credit cards and auto loans, which I hated so then I moved over to a loan officer. I think the hardest part was not knowing anything about wine. I couldn’t tell you what the difference between red and wine was when I first moved out here. I saw everyone I met looking at me like they were thinking that I was a spoiled daddy’s girl who bought her a vineyard and that was not the case. My dad was self financing everything himself so I had to hustle to make sure I didn’t bankrupt him. I would say the similarity would be the sales aspect. I would connect with my customers at Wells Fargo by connecting with them and establishing a relationship to make them feel comfortable with purchasing our products. Wine is the same way. You can have a great product but if you don’t connect with the person, you’re most likely not going to purchase the product and vice versa. You can have an okay product but you love the person and want to support that person so you end up purchasing their products. 

You produce Tempranillo in Sonoma, which is fairly uncommon varietal for the area. Why did you decide you wanted to make this wine and is there anything in particular about your geography that makes it special?
To be honest with you, I fell into it. Our first property had it planted and I ran with it. I think it’s incredibly special since the Rioja region is so hot climate and my Tempranillo comes from the Petaluma Gap which is a cold climate. It’s a struggle every season as I’m battling the rain and waiting for it to finish ripening. I do make it in traditional Rioja style so it has a lot of similarities to Rioja but the cold climate really adds another dimension to it that makes it so special and a stand out wine.

What advice do you have for other women looking to get into the wine business? 
Do it. Don’t focus on what other people have to say. It’s proven women have better palettes. I got a lot of pushback but I stuck to focusing on starting the business, making the wine and the wines I’ve made and everyone told me wouldn’t sell or be popular are the favorites with my wine club and customers.

What is your go-to wine at the moment?
This is hard. It really depends on the weather and what we’re doing. I’m currently obsessing over my Tannat and my husband’s Abouriou.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I never imagined I’d be in the wine industry. I really would have laughed if you had told me in college I’d be making wine, but I really cannot picture doing anything else. If I was to fail with my brand – which I really hope doesn’t happen! – I would still find a way to be in the industry. It’s an industry where it brings people together and you’re always surrounded by happy and relaxed friends, great wines and delicious food.

Learn more about Enqriquez Estate Wines here.