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Meet Sandra Gomes of Diniz Cellars in Burbank

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandra Gomes.

Sandra, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I still have this memory of my grandfather Antonio when I was a young immigrant girl in early 1990’s Newark, NJ. With the sun shining brightly behind him casting a long shadow, I could see him walking towards me with his unmistakable swagger, wearing his traditional Portuguese flat cap, carrying a big jug of Carlos Rossi Burgundy wine.

The wine was unassuming, inexpensive, and a jug lasted about a week. But every day, at every meal, my grandfather would have his little glass of red wine, without fail. Wine was part of the tapestry of our Portuguese household. In fact, it was like any other member of our large family: always present, never questioned, and always with a seat at the table.

Every childhood memory I have includes some version of long Sunday meals with the family, with a carousel of food coming out of the kitchen, and wine being poured by the pitcher full. Wine wasn’t a luxury that you bought on special occasions, for if it were ever missing from the table, it’s as if no meal were being served at all.

As I grew older, I started to recognize more and more the role wine had not only in my life but in the history of my family. Throughout the generations in the Portuguese hillside, we either grew it, made it, or sold it. While my life took me down the path of Hollywood and starting a career in the entertainment industry, my oenophile spirit kept tugging at my heartstrings.

In the early 2000s shortly after I made my move to Los Angeles, I found myself being insatiably curious about all things wine, so I started taking local classes in my spare time to learn more about this elixir and why it was so captivating. Eventually, my curiosity led me to a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification.

Naturally, even though California is wine country, I wanted to know more about Portuguese wines and how they compared to what was available at my local shop. I quickly realized that not only were Portuguese wine options severely limited, the perception of the LA market was that Portugal only made two things: Port, and cheap, frizzy, high acid Vinho Verde wines.

While disappointing, I recognized the opportunity in front of me. I knew the quality coming out of Portugal; I knew that their wines were getting incredible recognition among the critics the world over; I knew that every day there was a new article being written about Portugal being “the next frontier” in wine, and if anyone was going to tell the Portuguese wine story, it was going to be me. With that, Diniz Cellars, a Portuguese wine importing company, was born.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
If the road had been a smooth one, I doubt I would have gone down this path. The allure of starting something new lies within its inherent challenges. After all, if you’re not being challenged, you’re not growing.

I knew going in that I was going to be facing a lot of obstacles, and I was ready to take them on. While there were constant struggles along the way, the ones that I feel on a daily basis are those associated with co-founding a new venture while having a regular 9-7 job.

There were a lot of conversations I had with myself, my partner, and some incredible friends, where I had to be reminded that putting myself and my passions first was of the outmost importance. Finding the time in a hectic day to start and grow your own interests is a challenge in time management, organization and in the balancing of energy and resources.

Other challenges come from trying to navigate a heavily regulated industry in which you have very little experience. I make sure to educate myself as much as I can on my own, but I recognize when I need to reach out to industry experts for guidance. Part of building a successful organization is knowing where your strengths lie, but to also surround yourself with smart and capable people to help fill in any gaps.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Diniz Cellars represents a “New Generation” of Portuguese winemakers and producers. In order to help educate the American consumer and change whatever misconceptions they may have about Portuguese wines, we wanted to find producers who were just like us: young, educated, passionate, and leading with authenticity.

These are producers who have traveled the world working harvests in the most important wine regions and are coming back home to invest their knowledge and resources into their families’ lands, reinvigorating their regions, and gaining world recognition at the same time. These producers are putting Portugal on the map, and are innovating in their techniques and production while still honoring their history and culture.

All of our wines are sustainably produced using practices such as biodynamic farming and minimal intervention in the vineyards and wineries. Our producers’ main focus is to create the best wines made from grapes native to the specific regions and soils in which they’re grown. This focus is what led our 2017 Vale dos Ares Alvarinho to achieve a 90 point rating on Robert Parker and its producer, MQ Vinhos, to be honored as Portugal’s Emerging Producer for 2018.

With over 250 native varietals, Portugal offers an impressively rich and diverse array of wine styles. This attention to the craft is what’s elevating the quality of the wines coming out of Portugal, but at a value that won’t break the bank. All of our wines hit between $15-30 retail but drink at a much higher price point. Very few wine regions offer the kind of value proposition Portugal does.

There is such an incredible sense of honor for us when we introduce someone new to our wines. For me especially, this is my way of honoring my heritage, my land, and my people. We pride ourselves in inviting our LA friends and neighbors to savor the unique and to go on an adventure that goes beyond Port as we discover the incredible wines this tiny country is making.

What were you like growing up?
I was a pretty determined kid. Growing up I was always someone that pretty much decided I was going to figure out ways to do whatever I wanted to do on my own. I very rarely asked for anything, or for any help. I just figured if I wanted something, I would go out and work for, or work at, something until I got it; I would figure things out on my own. That drive and perseverance got me to where I am today.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Nicole Lennox

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