Monica Lopez is mom to 4-year-old twins, partner in her family’s Aldina Vineyards wine brand and president of the Fountaingrove District AVA (American Viticultural Area) association. And she is about to move from Windsor into a house she is refurbishing in Healdsburg. She’s kinda busy.
Oh, and there was this little project on her plate, too: the soft opening, on May 28, of Bacchus Landing, an ambitious and impressive wine hospitality center just west of the Healdsburg city limits and which took the Lopez family — Monica, her brother, Francisco and their parents, Alberto and Dina — three years to build.
With its two-story, Mediterranean-style architecture; large piazza with mature olive trees; rooftop deck; four tasting rooms leased to small, family-owned wineries (including Aldina Vineyards); commercial kitchen and deli/market, kid- and dog-friendly Bacchus Landing resembles a small European village. It boasts myriad nooks and crannies to taste wine (indoors and out), grab a bite to eat, have a cup of coffee and while away a morning or afternoon. The formal opening is Fourth of July weekend.
“When people walk through the doors, we want them to be transported,” said Monica Lopez, 38, who is the Bacchus Landing general manager. “Our slogan is ‘Taste the day. Live the life.’ It’s how we live as a family.”
The tasting rooms — 1,800 square feet each and opening to private patios and the piazza — will host Aldina, 13th & Third Wines (owned by Windsor residents Julie and Gregg Rothberg), Kevin Bersofsky’s Montagne Russe and another producer whose lease was pending at press time.
Lopez, this whirling dervish of the family, grew up in Walnut, in eastern Los Angeles County. She was an accomplished water polo player when her parents moved to Santa Rosa in her sophomore year. She attended Ursuline High School, then accepted an athletic scholarship at NCAA Division I water polo powerhouse Wagner College, on Staten Island, New York, from which she graduated with a degree in international business.
She rejoined her parents in Santa Rosa to manage Aldina Vineyards, turning her dad’s hobby vineyard into a wine business. Francisco Lopez , 42, a teacher with a master’s degree in educational leadership and now a board member of Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County, also returned. The siblings acknowledge they were patterned to succeed after the example of their parents.
“I was fortunate to have great role models in my parents,” Monica Lopez said. “They worked hard to give my brother and me a better future and had the entrepreneurial spirit to guide us in establishing Bacchus Landing and Aldina Vineyards. I hope to pass this spirit and drive to my own children (Liliana and Emiliano).”
A family project
Al Lopez manages Aldina Vineyards, in the Fountaingrove AVA and with a sweeping view of Windsor and Santa Rosa from its 1,100-foot perch. His and Dina’s home there (and their children’s until Monica and Francisco left for college) was destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs fire, though most of their cabernet sauvignon vines survived.
Rather than rebuild, the couple moved to Alexander Valley and began construction of a different kind: Bacchus Landing.
They left most of the planning and execution to Monica and operations manager Francisco, who first erected a 52,000-square-foot wine storage facility, Bacchus Landing Cellars, now leased to Alexander Valley Cellars.
Then came the hospitality center and, despite pandemic impediments, they finished construction, indoors and out, a month ago, just as health restrictions began to lift and wine lovers itched to go out and about. Some furniture deliveries have been delayed by stalled cargo ships; but even with the hurdles COVID-19 presented, the Lopez siblings created a stylish yet casual, spacious and welcoming public wine tasting center, with event spaces for private and community use.
Al and Dina brokered the deal to buy the land, which came complete with county building and use permits, from Healdsburg businessman James Drumright. Drumright subdivided his property on Bacchus Landing Way and Westside Road (Bacchus is the Roman god of wine and viticulture), previously best known as the location of the Humane Society of Sonoma County’s Healdsburg branch. He planned to use his 9 acres for wine storage and a wine tasting center but turned the project over to the Lopezes.
Dina Loya Lopez grew up in Tucson, Arizona, the daughter of parents from Sonora, Mexico. Al Lopez was born in San Angelo, Texas. After marrying, they lived in Fremont and worked in design and publishing, at one point owning the iconic Lowrider Magazine, which catered to fans of customized cars with lowered bodies. Al also was involved in the music industry and property management and development; he won a North Bay Business Journal Latino Business Leadership Award in 2017.
They moved to Walnut, and then to Santa Rosa in 1998, buying 40 acres off Mark West Springs and Riebli roads. They built a home in a Mediterranean style and planted grapevines, the latter which Monica calls her father’s “passion project.”
The parents’ love for food and wine was passed on to Monica and Francisco, and after careers as a media buyer and teacher, respectively, they embraced the business opportunities presented in Wine Country.
Having a voice
Monica is proud of her Latino heritage and thankful for her parents inspiring her and Francisco to accomplish anything they wanted. It’s important to her that women and people of color be similarly encouraged to seek success in the wine and hospitality industries.
“Latinos are an integral part of the wine industry at every level, from the workforce to winemakers and winery owners. We made a point of hiring a Latino winemaker for Aldina Vineyards (Latina Belén Ceja),” she said.
“Unfortunately, Latinos are not always recognized for these contributions. We need to be more active in the community to reflect this representation and have our voices heard in and out of the industry.”
Bacchus Landing is one way for her family to do that. At the entrance are two wrought-iron lanterns mounted on the wall, salvaged from the ashes of the burned Lopez home. Between the lanterns is a bas relief version of the god Bacchus, wearing a toothy grin. They’re poignant touches, reflecting the appreciation Monica and Francisco have for their parents and their familial love of wine and food to be shared with visitors to Bacchus Landing.