Smithsonian Explores Latino Winemaking Industry of California
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will celebrate the rich and diverse history of American winemaking during a pair of events titled “Rooted in Family: Wine and Stories from Mexican American Winemakers” May 15 and 16.
This year’s program is inspired by the museum’s upcoming opening of “The Nation We Build Together,” a newly transformed exhibition wing on the second floor. The two special events will focus on the contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans and their families to the success and legacy of the California winemaking industry.
On May 15, the museum will host an informal ticketed event, part of the popular “American History (After Hours)” series, featuring food, wine tastings and a discussion with a panel of Mexican American winemakers. The fifth annual Winemakers’ Dinner May 16 is an evening fundraising event benefiting the museum’s American Food and Wine History Project.
The Winemakers’ Dinner and the After Hours event will feature special guests from California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys: Gustavo Brambila, winemaker and owner of Gustavo Wine; Amelia Morán Ceja, president and owner of Ceja Vineyards; Rolando Herrera, proprietor and winemaker, Mi Sueño Winery; Hugo Maldonado, founder of Maldonado Vineyards; and Lazaro Robledo, tasting room manager at Robledo Family Winery; they have also selected the wines for the occasion.
The history of winemaking in California cannot be told without recognizing the significant contributions of Mexican and Mexican American workers, who planted, nurtured and harvested the wine grapes. In recent decades, some have become successful wine makers and owners, applying technical expertise as well as knowledge gained through years of experience and mentorship under established winemakers. The Sonoma, Napa and Lake Country districts now include numerous Latino-owned wine estates.
“Uncorking American history through the lens of wine reveals the joyous complexity of the American experience,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “The stories of these winemakers touch on so many facets of American history: business and entrepreneurship, economic and labor history, immigration and migration, and the California food revolution.”
The fifth fundraising dinner is an intimate event that will present wines from the five featured winemakers along with a menu designed by Pati Jinich, resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute and host of the Emmy- and James Beard-nominated Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS. The five-course menu will highlight traditional Mexican cuisine, including tostadas de jaiba y ceviche, corundas Michoacán, quail with salsa verde and Jalisco style lamb stew, all paired to selected wines from the Brambila, Ceja, Herrera, Maldonado and Robledo family wineries. The evening has been made possible through a generous donation by the Winiarski Family Foundation. In-kind support was provided by Ki' Xocolatl.
American History (After Hours)
The first of the two events, “American History (After Hours)” will feature a panel discussion with Brambila, Ceja, Herrera, Maldonado and Robledo moderated by one of the museum’s Latino history curators, Steve Velásquez, to share stories of working, creating communities and building businesses in wine country. Following the conversation, the audience will be able to taste select wines and appetizers, speak informally with the winemakers and see historic objects from the museum’s wine history collections. The “American History (After Hours)” series is designed to bring engaged audiences into the museum for unique evening experiences mixing historical topics with food and drink. The evening has been made possible through generous in-kind support from Wegmans, Laura Chenel’s and Marin French Cheese. For more information or how to purchase tickets, visit http://bit.ly/AmWineHistory2017.
In 1996, the museum launched the American Food and Wine History Project when Warren and Barbara Winiarski of Napa Valley, Calif., provided generous support for an oral history and documentation project on winemaking in the 20th century. Since then the project has grown into a multi-year effort to include the documentation of American food history as well. The museum’s interdisciplinary team continues to conduct research around the country and to continue to build the museum’s archival and artifact collections. Through objects, documents, photographs and digital audio and video files, the project uses food and wine history as a lens for understanding American history and to trace the long and diverse history of wine in the U.S.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is continuing to renovate its west exhibition wing and will open its second floor under the theme, “The Nation We Build Together” on June 28. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information about the events, http://bit.ly/AmWineHistory2017, for museum information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu.