Amelia Morán Ceja: 2015 HIPGiver

Amelia Ceja Photo 200Amelia Morán Ceja, President, Ceja Vineyards
The president of Northern California’s Ceja Vineyards thrives on challenges. A corporate executive who started out picking grapes with her family, she wants to give back — with time creatively spent and with wine. When she thinks of legacy, she speaks of building an environmentally safe society, where the goals of educating the young and making healthy eating choices are shared by all. “I come from a family that not only wanted to help the family but others,” says Amelia Morán Ceja, the first Mexican-American woman to be president of a wine production company. “That is the legacy that I have transferred to my children.” Since its 1999 founding in Napa County, Ceja Vineyards has shipped countless cases of wine for free pourings at nonprofit events, and Morán Ceja has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, particularly for those who advocate for women, children and farm workers. She recalled the time she and friends put together a Carneros wine region tour for the Napa Valley Vintners Auction, which raised $18.7 million last June for local causes. “I got a balloon company to donate a balloon ride, a friend with a yacht to donate a ride and … we got a bike touring company that donated a bike tour, and a dinner for two couples with a case of wine,” she said. “It sold for $50,000. You have to be creative.”
A native of Mexico’s Jalisco state, the young Amelia, her mother and her older sister moved to the U.S. in 1967 to join her father. On their first weekend, while grape picking, she met another 12-year-old, Pedro Morán, who had just arrived from Michoacan state. He went on to obtain an engineering degree; she studied history and literature at the University of California, San Diego, and his brother, Armando, studied enology (the science of wine and wine making) at the University of California, Davis. When she graduated, Amelia and Pedro got married and later had three children. The couple, Armando and his wife, Martha, co-founded Ceja Vineyards and more recently opened the Carneros Brewing Co. in 2014. Morán Ceja, a University of California-trained master gardener, is preparing cookbooks with family recipes. She talks up healthy choices at farmers’ markets and schools and shares with young immigrants how she overcame a lack of English skills and others’ biases about farm workers. “A lot more respect should be given (and a lot more acknowledgment of their contributions to the wine industry) to the people that labor at midnight through the harvest and through the freezing temperatures,” she said in a interview. “That’s how I began, and it is my mission to bring recognition to all of the voiceless and invisible workers.” “In wine countries,” Morán Ceja added, “there are two cultures that co-exist next to each other. But … it’s sad because we have so much to learn from each other. Often, we have a lot more in common than differences. We are all human and love our families and communities – and that should be the unifying factor.”
The 31 HIPGivers recognized in 2015 are collectively altering the landscape for our country. They are pushing the envelope by asking for more – more consideration, more awareness, more compassion, more action, more giving. Be there when the next 32 leaders are honored at our 2016 HIPGiver Gala.