March 5, 2008
Growing Up with the Vines

While tooling about the Shenandoah Valley in Amador County this past weekend, a local vintner suggested I give Iscander "Isy" Borjon a call. He's starting a winery, but with an unusual aspect, said the source.

When I called Borjon he gave me this rundown: His father Jesse arrived in Shenandoah Valley in 1991 from his native Guanajuato, Mexico, and began to recruit and send to the valley's vineyards and wineries the workers who do much of the industry's grunt work: pruning vines in and fog and chill of winter, running bottling lines, planting vineyards and the like.

Two years ago, Jesse Borjon retired, and turned over his prospering labor-contract business to his son Iscander, who not only plans to keep it going but to fulfill his father's dream of someday also having his own Shenandoah Valley vineyard and winery.

They're starting to take shape along Shenandoah Road near Bell Road. The younger Borjon hopes to have the winery finished in time for this fall's harvest. In the meantime, wines under the label of Borjon Winery are being made at nearby Charles Spinetta Winery. None is ready for release, but when Borjon Winery opens for business this fall a thousand or so cases of such varietal wines as zinfandel, sangiovese and barbera are to be in the tasting room. The younger Borjon is helping make the wine, but at least for the time being he's leaving much of that responsibility to consulting winemakers, several of them clients he and and his father have had in the valley over the past 17 years. Besides, he has his hands full right now managing eight crews working in the valley.

"This has always been my father's dream, to have the winery, but now he doesn't want that headache," says his son, already aware that winemaking isn't all just pretty rolling hills of vines and the promising pop of a cork pulled from a bottle. I guess it could be said he's showing a wisdom beyond his years. He graduated from Amador High School in Sutter Creek with the class of 2004, and at 21 just might be the youngest vintner in the state, if not the country.

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