The American Dream lives on in Sonoma
In 35 years of vineyard management, I've developed vineyards on majestic ridges with sweeping vistas, helped produce award-winning wines and built a successful business from the ground up. But the most gratifying experiences have been watching my employees and colleagues grow up, start families and become vital members of the Sonoma Valley community.
I'd like to share the inspiring story of one of my most trusted vineyard confidantes, who reminds me what the wine industry is really about. The vice president of vineyard operations for Enterprise Vineyards began his life in Sonoma Valley the same way many Valley residents did, as an undocumented worker.
He came to California when he was just 18, following in his father's footsteps, seeking work in the vineyards. A hard worker and dedicated employee, he showed leadership skills and he made an immediate positive impact in my company.
Though he was rapidly moving up within the ranks of the company, opportunities to realize his American dream were constantly hindered by his undocumented status. His dream began to seem possibile when he became a legal resident in 1986, as part of the Regan Administration amnesty program.
In fact, this became a pattern for him. While he rose to head foreman at Enterprise Vineyards, he also sought out the programs and opportunities that would help him advance in his personal life and social standing. He learned fluent English, took viticulture classes from UC Davis and the Santa Rosa Junior College, and began the process of becoming a United States citizen. He finally became a U.S. citizen, and I proudly remember the day he left work early to vote for the first time in his life.
During this time he also got married and started a family, raising three beautiful daughters. He also became a homeowner, purchasing a house through a sweat-equity program, in which he and his family devoted their free time to working on the home to supplement his down payment.
Today, he is a living embodiment of the American Dream. He helped guide his 70-year-old father to citizenship, one daughter just graduated college with a degree in hospitality, another is currently attending Dominican College in Marin and the third daughter is attending Sonoma Valley High School.
When he's not growing award-winning grapes, he's growing what could be award-winning roses - on his property. He has achieved a remarkable level of social and financial security. More importantly, he has become true a leader in the workplace and an activist in his community.
I share this story to remind my neighbors and colleagues around the Valley that the wine industry is not just about fueling the economy and bringing in tourists. We are helping to build families and foster a sense of community, none of which would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the hundreds of farm workers that call Sonoma home.
Phil Coturri is owner and president of Enterprise Vineyards, and a member of the board of La Luz Center. La Luz is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting our Sonoma Valley neighbors, who contribute to the economic, cultural and social well being of our community. La Luz provides English language training, teaches computer skills, distributes food, hosts medical services, offers crisis counseling, and supports events that celebrate the richness of our multicultural community.