The story of Las Amigas Cuvée, also known as Las del Vino, is both unique and typical. It is a collaboration of two Latina friends who decided to join forces and create the first Latina-owned sparkling wine in the Napa Valley. It is typical because, as usual, they are two empowered Latinas, entrepreneurial and ready to change the rules of the game.
During the COVID pandemic, Miriam Puentes of Honrama Cellars and Lola Llamas of Llamas Family wines, who have been friends for many years, began spending more time together. The uncertainty of the public health crisis led them to question the future of their family businesses and look for a way to start a new chapter with the resilience inherent to Latina entrepreneurs.
That’s how they started the Instagram account Las del Vino as a way to support each other and market their wines together. From there came the idea of starting a new label in honor of their families and the history of their ancestors.
Three months later, they launched Las Amigas Cuvée, a sparkling wine from Napa Valley.
A lesson well learned is never forgotten
Miriam Puentes is a first-generation immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico. Her parents moved to the United States in the 1980s in search of new opportunities, working as farmers and constantly moving from farm to farm throughout California.
Eventually, her father would have his first opportunity to work full-time at a vineyard in the Napa Valley, and the family knew stability for the first time.
Lola Llamas, meanwhile, was born and raised in the Napa Valley. The daughter of an American mother and Mexican father, she was the first in her family to have a college degree. She started her own family, marrying at age 20, and, although her parents did not work in the wine industry, she learned the business as she went along, inspired by the history of her grandfather who worked at Beaulieu Vineyard and the Trefethen Family Vineyard.
In 2015, Lola was accepted into the Executive MBA-Wine Business program at Sonoma State University and began a life-changing adventure.
Two families, two brands, one dream
For Lola, the fuel for her new venture with Las Amigas Cuvée was to help her husband fulfill a dream.
“He grew up as a migrant farmworker from age 6 to 17 and has many family members who still work in all aspects of the wine industry,” Lola told BELatina. “He wanted to do something to honor his family and leave a legacy. We started Llamas Family Wines in 2009 with Syrah from Stagecoach Vineyard (where many of the Llamas family work).”
Then, the Llamas family started making Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, partnered with their nephew in production, and in late 2013 decided to design a label to sell their own wines.
“We currently focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. We only produce 300-500 cases per year and have been only sourcing grapes from vineyards farmed by our family,” she said.
And then came the pandemic.
Lola and Miriam, who have been friends for years, found themselves in the delicate situation of deciding what to do to cope with COVID’s health and economic crisis.
“We needed to think outside the box and find ways to continue to promote our family wine brands,” Miriam told BELatina. “Having shared some of the same concerns, we decided to cross-promote each other’s wine businesses and give each other business. We started with an Instagram page called (lasdelvino). With the help of my husband Juan Puentes, we were able to create our Sparkling wine.”
Girl Power at its finest
While the pandemic led Lola and Miriam to put their heads together and find solutions for both families, it was their resilience and empowerment that would marry them in a lifelong affair.
“We are two Latina’s that work hard for our wine businesses,” Miriam explained, “This was the perfect opportunity to show our girl power. Stronger together and teach our girls to be strong and follow their souls to what makes them happy. We want to leave a legacy for our family and our ancestors and all the hard work that those family members before us had to endure, also to pave a path for our future generations.”
Luckily, and thanks to their hard work, Lola and Miriam were able to get their new label out much sooner than planned and are now the first Latinas with separate labels to launch a sparkling wine together.
“We are good friends, and although we have very different personalities and our companies have different business models, we work well together, and both bring different things to the table,” Lola said.
“Starting a business with a partner has a lot of challenges. We both have different expectations and visions for our Las Amigas brand. However, we have learned to meet in the middle and think long term,” Miriam added. “We know that there will be many challenges, but in the long run, we have a great idea that will be very successful.”