In 1916, Arturo Toraño, my grandfather and his two brothers immigrated from Asturias, Spain to Cuba. Over the next 40 years Arturo’s company became one of the largest producers of leaf tobacco on the island. His company sold leaf tobacco (unprocessed tobacco) to American cigar producers Like Consolidated and General Cigar. Arturo also provided tobacco to his cousins, the Menendez family of Montecristo cigar fame.
When the Cuban Revolution began in 1953, lasting until 1959, life changed. Due to the “Revolution,” the realization of the up-coming chaos that would now be created, was not lost upon grandfather Arturo Toraño. Having seen the disruption that the Spanish Civil War had caused in the 1930s, grandfather was prescient enough to realize it was time to go back to Asturias, Spain.
By 1960, my family immigrated to the United States from Cuba, also as a result of the Cuban Revolution. At that time, the Cuban government started nationalizing everything. When they finally seized my grandmother’s private school, the rest of my family decided to make our way to the U.S.
My own father, also Arturo, was sought out by large U.S. cigar manufacturers, and did several projects for them in Connecticut and Florida. He eventually worked in developing the cigar industries in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Jamaica, before ultimately settling down in Bahia, Brazil, working with our cousins, the Menendez brothers.
As colorful as my family’s history in the cigar industry has been, I never felt the calling to follow in those footsteps. It’s actually quite serendipitous that my love of wine started while attending a Cigar Aficionado event. A friend poured a glass of a 1995 Brunello di Montalcino for me, which was a life changing glass of wine. It ignited a passion that’s not dimmed to this day
After that, I began to learn about wine. My wife Tracy and I traveled to the Loire Valley and to Bordeaux, in 2001. I began to participate in wine and food events in the Washington, DC area, and was introduced to some of the most sublime wines I had tasted to date. I eventually returned to Bordeaux, in 2007, with my family.
While in Bordeaux, I went back to “Le Interdit” wine shop, which I had visited back in 2001. To my surprise, the shop’s owner recognized me, as I walked in. My son Enzo and I spent an hour selecting some amazing wines for our stay. I expressed to him my interest in winemaking to the owner, and recall him saying, “My friend, some of the best wines I’ve tasted come from California. Perhaps you should go there on your next vacation.”
The next year, after months of research, we decided perhaps Sonoma County may be a good place to start out. We found that the diversity of its different AVAs, and the incredible beauty of the place, provided more of a choice than in Napa. As we drove into Sonoma, County, it seemed all the wine regions converged around the town of Healdsburg.
In 2011, our family bought a country home with a small Cabernet vineyard, in Alexander Valley. That vineyard became “Mi Cielo” Vineyard, and our first vintage was in 2012. Since then, we’ve been slowly building a portfolio of small production wines made from some of the finest vineyards in Sonoma County.