by DANIEL MANGIN | PHOTO COURTESy OF Bazán Cellars
“What can I say—I like adventure,” laughed Gloria Bazán, explaining her decision to abandon a 15-year professional career in Michoacán, Mexico, to marry a Napa Valley vineyard manager she’d met on the Internet.
Considering that Bazán, at the time a pediatric dentist, didn’t speak much English—and that shortly after she arrived here in 2005, her groom, Mario Bazán, informed her he was starting the namesake wine label she’d end up running—this qualifies as an understatement. Along with the tale of Mario’s odyssey from Oaxaca three decades earlier, her saga marketing Bazán Cellars makes for compelling conversations at the downtown Napa tasting room where the couple showcases its flagship Cabernet Sauvignons.
ALWAYS THE ENTREPRENEUR
“I’ve always thought of myself as an entrepreneur,” said Bazán during a recent tasting that began with Sauvignon Blanc, followed by Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir, and three Napa Valley Cabs. Most of the top-of-the-line Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes come from Gloria and Mario’s 2-acre Monticello Road estate bordering the Coombsville appellation.
Bazán started her first “business” in high school, selling her jewelry creations for pin money. She gave up jewelry making to devote herself to dentistry but renewed her passion once in Napa, taking lampworking classes at first locally and later internationally to learn glass making using a blowtorch. This remains her preferred method for crafting the light-as-a-feather colored glass of necklaces she sells in the tasting room.
INCORPORATING TWO JOURNEYS
Having promoted her dentistry practice back home, Bazán, who studied viticulture and enology at Napa Valley College, was acquainted with branding-related issues but conceded that it took a while to build the Mario Bazán brand. One objective was to honor the fortitude that enabled Mario to emigrate from Oaxaca in 1973 and rise through the vineyard ranks at Robert Mondavi, Opus One, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars before starting his own management company in 1996.
Bazán also wanted to incorporate the journeys that brought her and Mario together as a couple and vintners. Their winery’s labels tell part of the story: terra-cotta-colored wings and a similarly hued flower represent both a traditional Oaxacan female-apparel pattern and the color of roofs in Mario’s native village, with the wings also symbolic of the couple’s separate “flights” north to California. (Oaxaca is also on a flyway for migratory birds.)
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN
During the tasting, Gloria described being captivated early on by Mario’s self-confidence. Later at the vineyard, Mario praised his wife for her creativity and determination to achieve her life goals. With a wry smile, he recalled a pregnant Gloria musing that maybe she’d like another child and him suggesting one would be sufficient. A few weeks later, an ultrasound image revealed she was carrying twins. “She has this way of making things she really wants happen,” chuckled Mario. “I just looked over at her and said, ‘You win!’” With their business and now teenaged sons, Antonio and Alexander, when Gloria wins, Mario usually does, too.