When longtime Placer County residents, the Mendez Family, broke-ground on their Auburn vineyard in 1999, they had no illusions of simplicity. “We had complete knowledge when we started Viña Castellano, that it was going to be a labor of love, with a strong emphasis on “labor” said Teena Wilkins, the Vineyard and Winery Manager, and the youngest of Gabe and Carolyn Mendez’ four children.
The family’s love of wine is directly linked to some of the strong Mediterranean traditions that they were raised with. “My Paternal grandparents, Mercedes and Frank Mendez were both born and raised in Spain, and although they immigrated to this country as young adults, they never let go of their strong Spanish customs, of which winemaking and enjoying that wine with food was a large part”, says Wilkins. “In Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece wine is on the lunch and dinner table to be enjoyed in moderation with food. Although my mother is not a Spaniard, (she is of Irish and American-Indian decent) she and my father married in their late teens and early on agreed to raise us with a strong since of tradition from both heritages.”
It is that link with wine and family heritage that has steered the direction of the 8-acre 2000 case boutique vineyard & winery, lovingly named Viña Castellano. “Viña” is the Spanish word for vineyard and Castile is the region in Spain where our grandparents are from and where we still have family today. “Castellano” is what you would call a man from that region, and so we choose that in honor of my father, whose vision inspired the project.” Wilkins is quick to mention, however, that they strongly considered “Castellana” to honor Abuelita, at 99 years old lives at the vineyard.
In keeping with the Mediterranean-niche, the Mendez Family has planted three of the most popular varietals used in Spanish winemaking, Tempranillo, their flagship grape, Mourvedre (known as Monastrell in Spain) and Grenache. In addition to those grapes, they also have planted the Rhone varietal, Syrah, and the Bordeaux varietal, Cabernet Franc.