Gallegos Vineyards

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5, 2014 - NAPA, CA - Ignacio Gallegos, center, and his sons, Eric, left, and Ignacio III, stand in one of their chardonnay vineyards in Yountville on Wednesday. The Gallegos have worked their way up from vineyard work to management to now making their own wines. Lisa James/Register

Lisa James/Register

It’s a story to inspire.

A Mexican immigrant comes to the United States from Michoacán in the late 1940s, following his older brother to work in the Bracero program created during World War II.

His family follows in 1966, and he ends up in Napa Valley, where his son graduates from St. Helena High School and works in the vineyards, rising into vineyard management.

His son’s sons do the same, but one studies viticulture and winemaking and encourages the family to start a vineyard management company. It does and now manages 100 acres in Napa Valley.

The family launches its own wines, Gallegos Wine.

An American dream realized

Ignacio Gallegos, the senior member of the family and grandfather to the present generation, settled in St. Helena in 1956.

He became immersed in the art of growing quality wine grapes. “My father taught me respect for all stages of winegrowing,” says his son Ignacio Jr., who, since 1976, has been managing and caring for Napa Valley vineyards. “One can say wine makes itself, if you control the quality from start to finish,” he said.

Ignacio Jr. imparted that same philosophy to sons Eric and Ignacio III.

Ignacio Sr. managed the J.J. Cohn Estate, the one that just garnered a record $4,333 per bottle at Premiere Napa Valley. The family lived on the property.

“That’s where my passion for wine started,” Eric said. “I grew up on the property.” He remembers helping his grandfather farm in Rutherford at 12 years old. “Working with my father has shaped our perspective that to make wine, we must always return to the vine.”

Eric graduated from St. Helena High School in 2005, then went to Fresno State. In 2007, his father got a chance to start a vineyard management company.

Eric and his older brother, who studied at Butte College in Chico, researched the requirements, though he was still in school.

Eric graduated from Fresno State in 2009 and returned to Napa Valley where he interned at Sutter Home, visiting vineyards in Mendocino, Solano and Yolo counties as well as here.

Moving into winemaking

After that internship, Eric joined the family company full time, and started the wine company in 2011. Gallegos released its first wine last year.

Managing the vineyard allows the family complete control of the integrated winegrowing process, from preparing soil to pruning to hand selection of grapes at harvest, and on to crush and bottling.

And since the Gallegos wines come from select blocks of vineyards that the family tends, Ignacio III (who is called Nacho) says, “It is my father’s hard work and experience that will have the greatest impact on our wines.”

Winemaking isn’t actually new for the family. “Dad has always made wine for our family,” says Eric, “and now we want to share our knowledge, pride and love for wine through Gallegos Wines.” The family will share in winemaking duties.

“Creating wine is the next evolution for our family, for my sons,” says Ignacio Jr. “But it’s the final expression of the process we begin to craft in the vineyard.”

Indeed, grapes for Gallegos Wines are sourced directly from Gallegos Vineyard Management clients and the Rancho de Gallegos family estate in the Rutherford Bench region, owned by Ignacio Jr.’s brother Maurilio and his sons Ozzie and Milton Gallegos.

The vineyard is on a 10-acre parcel just south of Alpha Omega on Highway 29, a prime spot to place a winery and tasting room to take advantage of the heavy traffic there. That may happen in the future.

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For now, Ignacio’s family makes about 1,000 cases of wine. All but the Pinot Noir are from Napa Valley. The outlier is from a large vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County owned by the family of Garrett Boekenoogen, a college roommate and friend.

In addition to working with the family vineyard management company, Ignacio Jr. also manages the large Somerston Vineyard near Lake Berryessa.

The wine lineup

Gallegos wines include:

• Napa Valley 2012 Chardonnay from Ed Beard Jr.’s Charmer Vineyard, originally planted by Ignacio 30 years ago — $28.

• Napa Valley 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from the Somerston Estate — $22.

• Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, 2011 Pinot Noir sourced from the cool climate Boekenoogen Vineyards and crushed in Napa Valley — $38.

Upcoming are 2012 Napa Valley Estate Merlot from Rancho de Gallegos in Rutherford, home to Cain Five and other well-known labels, and petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon from Somerston Estate and Priest Ranch.

They are now made at Somerston Winery in Soda Valley.

You can find them at Redd Wood, Brix, Ciccio and Ranch Market in Yountville and at St. Helena Wine Center or on the web at