2013 starts out on a sad note. We received word that Ruben Solorzano’s mother, Nicolasa Ruelas Solorzano, passed away over the weekend. Our thoughts are with Ruben and his entire family as they mourn together in Jalisco.
Nicolasa gave birth to 11 children, the youngest being Stolpman’s Vineyard Manager of 19 years, Ruben Solorzano. She raised her entire family in a modest house nestled on a hillside two hours outside of Guadalajara. Her oldest children became school teachers, and because of the spread in births spanning well over twenty years, Ruben’s eldest siblings wound up teaching him in class. Every child graduated High School, a sign of great sacrifice for subsistence farmers.
While some of her children stayed near home to continue to educate the next generation, Ruben and four siblings traveled to Santa Barbara County in pursuit of bigger opportunities. Her children have established strong roots here in the Santa Ynez Valley, to the point that, today, I believe the Solorzanos are the most important viticultural family in Santa Barbara County. From the Santa Rita Hills to Happy Canyon, Nicolasa’s sons, nephews, cousins, and grandchildren push the envelope of potential quality at dozens of vineyards, all under their careful supervision. While Nicolasa visited Santa Barbara County years ago, unfortunately, I’m sure her children were far too humble to express what an impact they’ve made on the wine industry here.
Just before Christmas of 2010, Jessica and I had the honor of accepting Ruben’s invitation to visit his home Ranchito. We climbed the local mountains, enjoyed parties and a quinceanera, visited Lake Chapala and even ventured over to Tequila; but most importantly, we had the opportunity to meet both of Ruben’s parents. I remember being awed by the enormous sense of family while staying on the Ranchito. It wasn’t the family’s enormous physical size, but the amount of love, respect, and togetherness Jessica and I felt. We flew home convinced we wanted to start a family of our own.
We’re comforted to know that all 11 children were visiting home for the holidays when Nicolasa passed away. I’m sure nothing pleased her more than to be surrounded by the love of her entire family.
Nicolasa leaves behind her husband, Ancelmo Solorzano, 11 children, 37 grandchildren, and 18 great grandchildren. While the Solorzano family remembers her love of cooking , her tender heart, and her unending kindness; we all note the passing of a strong matriarch. Que Descanse en Paz.
Special thanks to Diana Solorzano for her assistance and photos.