Winemaker, Baldacci Family Vineyards
Baldacci Family Vineyards
Ricardo Herrera was born into agriculture. He was raised on his family's ranch, in El Llano, Mexico until he was 5 years old. His parents then moved their five children, to the Napa Valley, in 1975. Baby brother, Tony, was born soon after. Ricardo remembers the pace of wine grape farming and the joy of the changing seasons. Their family lived next to a prominent St. Helena nursery and some of Ricardo's fondest moments came from climbing the giant mounds of grape pomace.
At age 16, Ricardo first became truly interested in wine while working as a summer intern at Stags Leap Wine Cellars under the ownership of Warren Winiarski. His older brother, Rolando was already employed there and although Ricardo was working on property maintenance, when an opening in the cellar came up, he was the first choice to join the production team. Once the summer ended, he was encouraged to finish high school by day and then to work nights, at Stags Leap, from 3p to midnight. Production at the time was 180,000 cases which necessitated two cellar shifts. "I remember being so tired, each day at school, but by the time 3p came around, I was ready to jump back into the cellar," Ricardo recalls. It was at this position that his organizational skills and understanding of sanitation were honed. After graduation from Napa High School, in 1989, Ricardo remained at Stags Leap Wine Cellars as the Cellar Supervisor, managing up to 14 people, until 1994. During this period Paul Hobbs was appointed the consulting winemaker and took brother Rolando under his wing as his protegee. This left Ricardo in charge of executing all of the cellar work orders as well as overseeing the cellar crew.
In 1994, Ricardo went to work for Dominus, under the direction of famed French Winemaker Christian Moueix of Chateau Petrus. "What I enjoyed the most, at Dominus, was the chance to finally return to time in the vineyard. This is the French way to have knowledge both of the vines and of the wine" states Ricardo. Dominus was also a tiny endeavor, at only 4,500 cases, which meant that attention to detail drove every decision to produce a wine of outstanding excellence. There were many challenges, however, as the winery was not yet built and everything was custom crushed, off property. Ricardo now assumed two titles: Assistant Winemaker and Maitre de chai. In 1995, Ricardo spent two weeks working the harvest at Chateau Petrus where he discovered that the work environment was very traditional. His goal was to bring back a strong understanding of the Petrus techniques and apply them rigorously to Dominus. "It wasn't always easy trying to emulate the French methods with our California fruit, but I found the experience rewarding as it took me to the core fundamentals of winemaking that are not so reliant on technology," Ricardo explains.
Ricardo's next move was to join the team at Screaming Eagle, in 2002, as Assistant Winemaker. This iconic brand is based on the premise that everything had to be perfect. Sanitation and organization were paramount to produce such a unique and highly prized expression of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of the need for total control, Ricardo found himself back in the vineyard, taking command of the Screaming Eagle vines. He alone pruned his selected rows leaving the balance of the fruit to be farmed by Paradigm for their outstanding wines.
Finally, in 2005, older brother Rolando came calling to once again have his younger brother manage his cellar at his newly launched winery, Mi Sueno. First, Ricardo set up their own vineyard management company to guarantee the fruit quality. Next, he organized the cellar creating a system of efficiency for both their own production needs as well as those from their custom crush clients. It was a fast paced, high energy environment that required total commitment. In 2007, Ricardo had his first taste of Baldacci Family wines as Rolando had been the winemaker for the Baldacci family since 2003. Over the next few years Ricardo became more and more involved with managing the day to day activities of the Baldacci wines.
In 2012, Michael Baldacci came to work full time, for the family business, and Ricardo enjoyed his new role as mentor. A deep bond was forged and in 2015, Ricardo Herrera joined Baldacci Family Vineyards as their full time winemaker. Big brother Rolando still has his signature style on all of the wines, but has once again, placed his trust in Ricardo to execute the Baldacci family's vision for estate grown, premium wines. "Baldacci is my day family. My production team is the perfect combination of Michael's passion and our cellar master Hugo Garcia's diligence. The three of us tackle each day with a smile," says Ricardo with a grin, "The most important thing is to be happy to greet each day. Enjoy your work. Enjoy your team. I couldn't ask for more!"
Country born: Mexico
Education: My mentor was Warren Winiarski.
Years in the wine industry: 20-30 years
Start in the vineyard and end at the dinner table.