Sep 02, 2014

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Wine Tips From A Latino Winemaker

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Juan Muñoz Oca, Vinicultor

Juan Muñoz Oca, was visiting New York recently. We took advantage of his visit and interviewed him on wine, Latinos and winemakers.

1.  I understand there are not that many head winemakers  in this country that are Latinos.  Can you share some history of how you and your family became involved in the wine industry?

I was born in Mendoza, Argentina where I come from a long lineage of winemakers. My great-grandfather was in the industry and my grandfather was cellar master at  Bodegas Toso winery, they both passed their  love and passion for cultivating to me. In fact, I picked my first grapes at the age of eight, and spent my summers as a child and everyday after school helping my grandfather out in the vineyard.

It was because of my family’s passion for wine and Spanish roots that I decided to go to college in Argentina and pursue a degree in agricultural engineering and winemaking. I then studied viticulture in Riber del Duero, Spain. From there, my passion for winemaking and experience led me to different wine harvests around the world and I ultimately found myself in Washington State. I began an internship with Columbia Crest in 2001 and after I completed my studies I came back to Washington in 2003 to work on the winemaking team for Columbia Crest. Over the last eight years, my focus has been on red winemaking, and just this year I have taken on the role as head winemaker for all of Columbia Crest – an honor that only two men before have held in the winery’s almost 30 year history.

2.  How many Latinos in this country enjoy drinking wine on a regular basis?  And, what types of wine?

Whether it’s with a good meal or special occasions, Latinos love to drink wine. Last year, Experian Simmons research identified around 7.3 million Latinos are consuming wine a year. This is just a fraction of some of the recent numbers that Wine Spectator shared showing that the U.S. consumes more wine than any other country, by purchasing over $40 billion in wine a year.

3.  Can you give us some suggestions as to which types of wines go best with traditional Latino dishes?

Most Latinos love to cook and eat meat. For those meals centered around around meat, I recommend pairing them with either the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Amitage Red Blend or Cabernet Sauvignon. The bold flavors of both wines will make a great accompaniment and enhance the flavor of the hearty dish.

Many traditional Latino dishes also contain a a variety of flavors and can be spicy. Therefore, I recommend enjoying a nice chilled glass of Columbia Crest Grand Estates Moscato. The wine’s sweet profile  balances the spicy flavors on the palate; it’s great  for dishes with chorizo, jalapeño, garlic and many others ingredients that we Latinos love to cook with. The Moscato also pairs nicely with cheese and fruits.

4.  How can we learn more about wines, especially if we are new to the world of wine?

A great way to learn more about wines is to check out winery websites that can offer information on various types of wine such as www.columbia-crest.com, as well as visiting your local wine shop or searching out news and information through media.

5.  Is there a particular magazine, website or literature on wines that might support our interest in learning more about wines?

A great magazine that we recommend for learning more about wine is Wine Spectator.

The magazine informs readers of the latest news, trends, and product information for wines. They additionally put out a list of some of the best wines in the world in which Columbia Crest’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was named ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2009. Other places to learn about wine are through you local paper’s food section, as well as wine writers in magazines and online, or even blogs like SeriousEats.com or DailyGrape.com.

Disclosure:  This is not a paid or sponsored interview or post.  In alignment with New Latina’s mission, this is a way to celebrate the diversity of talent and power there is in our Latino community.  And, of course, to learn a thing or two about wine!

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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