Carlos has been the Coursey Graves Vineyard Manager since 2017. He’s originally  from Apatzingán, which is in the west-central region of the Mexican state of Michoacán. As our Vineyard Manager, Carlos plays a critical role in the successful cultivation and production of the high-quality grapes we use to make our wine.

We had the chance to catch up with Carlos ahead of our upcoming harvest to learn more about how he got into Vineyard Management and what it’s like working the land on Bennett Mountain.

What was it like growing up in Apatzingán, Mexico?

Carlos: Life in Mexico was hard. I’m the 3rd oldest of 11 children and I am the oldest boy. That meant I had to grow up fast in order to help my family. When I was 11, I started my first job, working during lemon harvest.

Wow! Your house must have always been bustling. When did you move to the United States?

Carlos: As soon as I turned 17, I decided to come to the United States for a better future. The first place I lived was Palo Alto. I lived there for three years working in landscaping. 

What ultimately brought you to Napa Valley?

Carlos: I came to visit a friend in Napa and saw how working in a vineyard was very similar to the farming and agriculture work I did in Mexico. My first job was in grafting and I did that for about 5 years. I learned a ton, always asking questions and observing the workers around me.

What made you enjoy working in vineyards specifically?

Carlos: Pretty quickly I got to learn about all of the aspects of vineyard management. I love to learn and because every single vineyard has a different philosophy of working the vines and the land, I’m constantly having to learn and adjust. 

What’s been different about managing the vineyards at Coursey Graves ?

Carlos: In my previous positions, everyone spoke Spanish. Working here has definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone! But I’ve been so thankful. The entire team here is so helpful and I’ve been able to learn so much beyond what just goes on in the vineyard. From planting to harvest to bottling and wine tasting, I have a much better concept of the journey from grape to glass. 

That sounds pretty special. Is there a particular area on Bennett Mountain Estate that’s unlike any other vineyard you’ve managed?

Carlos: Our Graves Vineyard Syrah block is very difficult to harvest. It’s mostly rock and full of minerals; it stresses the vines, making grapes that are much more concentrated. The vines are literally on the mountainside which is great for the fruit but extremely hard to handpick! The vineyard has to be completely picked by hand because it’s too steep to use any equipment. The clusters are beautiful and to ensure we waste as little juice as possible, we use scissors to cut entire clusters. It’s a lot of work but it’s satisfying.

That sounds like a true labor of love! You must really love what you’re doing…

Carlos: Not a day goes by where I am not learning something new. I get to share that knowledge and teach the team around me and that’s what I’m truly passionate about.