This afternoon, the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will hold their annual awards banquet at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. The coveted keynote address will be delivered by Amelia Ceja, owner and president of the Napa, California winery Ceja Vineyards (watch my video interview with Juan Tornoe, last year’s keynote speaker). Amelia Ceja has been recognized as “Woman of the Year” in 2005 by the California legislature for “breaking the glass ceiling in a very competitive business” and is the first Mexican-American woman ever to be elected president of a winery.
Ms. Ceja has a very intriguing story and I look forward to hearing her keynote today. Please check out her bio below:
Long before the California legislature recognized Amelia as “Woman of the Year” in 2005 for “breaking the glass ceiling in a very competitive business,” the first Mexican-American woman ever to be elected president of a winery was on the frontier of wine. The dynamo behind more than 100 video blogs since 2008 on preparing Mexican cuisine and pairing it with wine, Amelia has introduced thousands to exciting flavor combinations they never dreamed of.
Amelia’s love affair with wine began when Amelia joined her father, Felipe Morán, in Rutherford in 1967, along with her older sister and mother, Francesca Fuentes Morán. Amelia threw herself into her new world, on her first weekend in the Napa Valley, Amelia was in the vineyard, harvesting with a knife that seemed half the size of the petite 12-year old.
That vineyard wasn’t just any vineyard. It was Robert Mondavi’s Tokalon Vineyard, where her classmate and future husband, Pedro, was also picking Merlot with his family. In the coming months at Robert Louis Stephenson School in St. Helena, Amelia advanced from the “academically challenged” level of 7th grade to the “most challenging” level in a matter of months, but it wasn’t until she was studying history and literature at UC San Diego, that her future became clear: Pedro and wine were the great loves of her life. In 1980, Amelia and Pedro pooled their dreams and marriage vows, and the energetic Amelia joined Pedro, his brother Armando, and their parents Juanita and Pablo Ceja in methodically creating Ceja Vineyards.
When the family chose its first president in 1999, Amelia, with nearly a decade in the wine industry and always a firebrand ready for new challenges, was the obvious choice. In the early years, being president also meant being PR and marketing director, compliance person, executive chef, grape picker, and general pick-up person.
Amongst the awards received by Ceja Vineyards and Ms. Ceja are:
- Best Boutique Winery in Napa & Sonoma by Best of Napa and Sonoma Valleys Magazine
- Business Woman of the Year by the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2008
- Most outstanding female leader, innovator and visionary in the wine field in the North Bay by North Bay Business Journal in 2008
“We’re embracing the best in both cultures and tossing away what doesn’t work,” says Amelia. “I don’t want to be homogeneous; my experience is enhancing my adopted country. We’re making both of our cultures better. Why not share what is wonderful—and keep it?” Salud!
Look for a blog post in the near future with a review of the keynote and banquet.