Maturing Like a Fine Wine
This is my definition of the American Dream. I am the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico and I am third generation Mexican-American. I identify myself as being both Mexican and American and I speak English, Spanish and Spanglish. My family firsthand overcame challenges, broke barriers and beat the odds to go from being vineyard workers to farmworkers picking the grapes during harvest time to vineyard owners to, eventually, winery owners, all within less than 50 years.
I am proud to be part of one of the pioneering Mexican-American families to launch a winery in Napa and Sonoma Valley. As a Latina millennial, I want to use my voice as a platform to inspire other women from all over the world. I’ve been able to create a life that is meaningful by hard work, having an education and surrounding myself with inspiring and passionate people, businesses and communities.
During my first few years working in the wine industry the biggest obstacle in my career path was being a young Latina woman working in a predominantly Caucasian and male-dominated industry. The second revelation was acknowledging that receiving a higher education and learning the key elements of our business platform was crucial to the longevity and success of our business. I needed to have the tools and confidence to hold my own and be a strong face and ambassador for our brand. So in 2003 I came to San Francisco State University.
My time at SF State allowed me to grow and become the person I am today. SF State broadened my understanding of culture, language, diversity, communication, relationships and much more. I had many professors who made a difference in my attitude about learning and helped me figure out what my own passions in life were meant to be.
During my senior year at SF State, the most impactful classes I enrolled in were Interpersonal Communication and Performance Art. Professor Amy Kilgard encouraged me to use my voice through creative forms of art and to lead with confidence. I will never forget her empowering words of advice, especially through two distinct lessons. The first lesson was that you will always engage an audience if you bring your authentic voice to life. The second lesson was to not be afraid and to get outside of your comfort zone by challenging yourself to be the most passionate leader on the stage. These lessons have helped me substantially as I’ve grown in my professional career. She had a way to instill life lessons that still resonate with me today, and as I continue to help grow our family business I strive to always lead with confidence, passion and humility.
Ceja Vineyards, the winery my family founded in 1999, pays homage to how wine was introduced to California via the missions of Mexico while highlighting our Mexican heritage and culture. As the next generation for my family business, I wish to inspire others and shine light on the unsung heroes in the wine industry: los campesinos, or farmworkers, like my grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Without them, there would not be a wine industry or agricultural industry in the United States. The next time you drink a glass of California wine, I hope you’ll raise a toast to them.
Dalia Ceja graduated from SF State with a B.A. in Marketing & Communications in 2008. She went on to earn an eMBA with a focus in wine business from Sonoma State University. Today she is Ceja Vineyards’ director of sales and marketing. You can learn more about her family’s wines at cejavineyards.com.