I grew up in Saint Helena, raised by two very hardworking Mexican immigrants, and with a strong love for Napa Valley. Despite never having the opportunity themselves, my parents embraced the idea of college and supported my desire to pursue a higher education.
As a first-generation college student, I was presented with many unique challenges, but this fact also gave me great ambition to achieve something that to others seemed intangible—a degree in viticulture and enology.
Upon graduating from high school, I enrolled at Napa Valley College in the fall of 2010 and immediately began holding down various part-time jobs. It was a lot to juggle, and at times, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through, but I always focused on my short-term goal of obtaining my degree. Despite the workload, I knew that attending Napa Valley College was not only providing me with a great education, but also opening doors to opportunities that otherwise would not have been available.
While at Napa Valley College, I started considering plans for attending UC Davis, but did not know how I was going to obtain my bachelor’s degree while worrying about the massive expenses that usually come along with this type of experience. It was at this time that I was introduced to the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Scholarship and became immediately interested in applying.
After a few months, I was informed that I had been selected as the recipient of the scholarship. I felt a huge rush of happiness knowing the sense of relief that it would bring to my whole family.
After Napa Valley College, I successfully transferred to UC Davis and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture & Enology with a minor in Chemistry. My passion for wine and the grapegrowing industry has continued to expand, as I gain more and more knowledge from the people around me.
Being able to create a glass of wine — a work of art — that represents a particular region in such a unique way continues to fascinate me. The Napa Valley is a beautiful place, and it is my dream to be able to one day work my own vineyard and produce wine.
Agricultural work is hard work. The planning and time that is put into vines year-round is critical to making a quality product. Mother Nature throws all sorts of challenges our way every year. It’s also true that sometimes people forget the number of hands required to create a single bottle of wine. While the labor, sweat, heat, harvesting, and sense of urgency during the season could easily drive anyone away, passion, belief, dreams and goals anchor our industry.
Receiving this amazing scholarship made me realize how blessed I am to have grown up in this uniquely supportive community. I cannot thank the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation enough for this opportunity, and would like to give special thanks to the Moulds family, the Trefethen family, the Baldacci family and the deLeuze family, as well as to everyone who has helped build such an incredible community in the Napa Valley.
I feel lucky to be a part of a place that encourages younger generations to reach for their goals. I couldn’t imagine what my educational experience would had been without their support.
Being blessed to have met such great people and to be part of such an amazing community, I plan to one day pay it forward and to help provide that experience of endless opportunity for the next generation. I look forward to continuing to learn and work within my community and believe that our work is not only important to the heritage of Napa Valley, but to the whole wine industry across the world.
Thanks again to my whole community and family. I wish you all a great harvest!
For more information on the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, visit: www.farmworkerfoundation.org.
Armando Hurtado is a recipient of the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation Moulds Family Scholarship Award.