There’s more to a passion project than just a desire to do what you love. It usually requires a lot of work, aptitude, and a little luck along the way. Monroy Wines may be starting to see the fruits of its labor but it’s Winemaker Adolfo Hernandez’ humble beginnings that provide the story of its success.
As a young boy, Adolfo was raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a seaside city filled with culture and money. It was also a community that housed expats employed by Saudi Arabian Airlines, oil companies and defense contractors. Although expats benefited from additional freedom within their closed compounds, alcohol was strictly forbidden to everyone. Adolfo’s father had a firm belief that wine was a necessity for the dinner table, hence, recruiting Adolfo into their bootlegging efforts to ensure that tradition would live on.
Taking Greek grape juice that was sold in glass flip-top bottles, Adolfo and his father would empty the bottles into plastic carboys in one of their bathtubs, add in some sugar and yeast and let the juice ferment away. From there, the wine was put back into the glass flip-top bottles ready for consumption, becoming a staple at their compound’s frequent ex-pat parties.
Fast forward to 1997, Adolfo and his family moved to California where he went on to graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in molecular biology. He began his career as a chemist in organic pesticide production, working there for a few years, before taking the leap into winemaking with Clos du Bois as a laboratory supervisor.
I’d like to say the rest is history but truly it was just the beginning. Adolfo continued to build his resume and gain experience with small, family-owned wineries; including Araujo (now known as Eisele Vineyard), Checkerboard Vineyards on Diamond Mountain with Martha McClellan, Pahlmeyer in St. Helena and is currently settled in as the Associate Winemaker at the boutique estate of Benovia Winery, renowned for its expressive Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.
It was a trip to Paris with his wife, where Adolfo had an epiphany on winemaking styles after visiting Chateau Pontet-Canet in Bordeaux. He spent the afternoon with the winemaker, Jean-Michel Comme, exploring the vineyards and studying every aspect of their farming and winemaking techniques. Here they take an extremely holistic approach to winemaking and viticulture. Through this authentic methodology, the result is a complex, balanced wine expressive of the terroir. That experience continues to influence Adolfo’s winemaking philosophy to this day.
Monroy Wines released its inaugural vintage, a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon at the end of 2020 and have since produced a 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both wines are sourced from a sloping hillside, sitting at an elevation of 600 feet, perched atop the Chalk Hill AVA in Sonoma County. Through a combination of the cooler-climate influences and Adolfo’s winemaking techniques, which include fermenting only in wood and not adjusting the must with acid, water or other additives, allows the wine to show off its true expressions of the land. Elegant, graceful, balanced, aromatic…these are words that come to mind when reveling in these wines.
Adolfo brings it full circle integrating his upbringing and history into the wine label and website landing page. The bird on the label is the Guatemalan quetzal. Though he grew up in Saudi Arabia, his parents are both from Guatemala. The first thing you will notice on the Monroy website is sand dunes turning into grapevines, an interpretation of Spanish and Arabic.
Recognized by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as “one of the Latinx experts changing the face of American wine”, Adolfo has ignited Monroy Wines at a true passion project, allowing him to showcase his craftsmanship wholeheartedly. Seeking out a classically styled Cabernet Sauvignon with elegance and finesse? Monroy Wines it is.