Traditionally, when dining on Mexican food, most people don’t automatically reach for the wine list. Margaritas, yes. Beer, yes. But wine? Rarely. Amelia Ceja decided years ago that had to change.
It started when she was in college, where she earned extra money by preparing her traditional Mexican recipes and pairing them with wines for her friends. But her passion for wine took shape even earlier, when she joined her migrant farm worker parents picking grapes in Robert Mondavi’s Tokalon Vineyard when she was twelve. It was there she met her future husband, Pedro Ceja, also the child of migrant workers. When she left college, she knew her future would revolve around three things: Pedro, cooking and wine.
In 1983, Amelia joined Pedro, his brother and his parents in creating Ceja Vineyards. When they decided in 1999 to choose their first president, Amelia’s energy and passion for the business made her the obvious choice. This made her the first Mexican-American woman to be elected president of a winery. Ever. While building the business, she also raised three children who happily continue her commitment to hard work and education.
Although there were rough times for the Cejas, today their success is notable. From producing 750 cases of wine in their first harvest, they now produce 10,000.
In 2005 the California Legislature named Amelia Ceja Woman of the Year, commending her for “breaking the glass ceiling in a very competitive business.” And while her children have taken on some of the jobs she used to perform, Amelia isn’t slowing down. Since 2009, she’s produced more than 140 video blogs on preparing Mexican food and pairing it with wine.
Her daughter, Dalia, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Vineyard, describes her mother as, “A woman of movement. A woman of passion. A woman with big dreams that’s made them all happen.”
We would add, Amelia Ceja is indeed a woman who is bold, audacious and unafraid.