I had the privilege of visiting with Pam Hugo of Hugo Family Cellars earlier this Fall.
She was uncorking wines and setting up her tasting booth for the Wine Fest at Kemah Boardwalk, but that didn’t stop her from taking some time to chat it up about a workplace romance that blossomed into marriage and a new dream being chased in Napa…
She and her husband, Glenn, met when both were working in the corporate offices of Landry’s Restaurants in Houston. They fell in love… with each other and with wine… married in April 2003, then packed up a few months later and moved to Napa in October.
Since then they formed Hugo Family Cellars all while still working their ‘day jobs,’ he as the winemaker for Girard and she working as the assistant to a hotel general manager.
They divide their Hugo Family Cellars responsibilities as his: before the bottle (or winemaking) and hers: after the bottle (or sales, promotion and distribution).
The two do not have any children, yet still build their brand on a family-friendly approach.
“We intend to have our own family and are building the winery as our legacy to them. We always say ‘Welcome to the family!’ in all of our materials,” Pam said. “Until then, these bottles are our children. I get to birth out a new vintage every year!”
She said she and Glenn love the memories wine can build.
“Wine creates memories. The next time you open a bottle of a wine you’ve enjoyed, you will remember the memories from before, and create new ones,” Pam said. “Wine is alive in the bottle. It changes anything you do and anything you do changes it.”
Glenn worked under Marco DiGiulio and Zach Long at Girard before he assumed the role there this April as winemaker, in addition to serving as the winemaker in his venture with Pam.
“Glenn has a great mentor and friend in Zach Long, his predecessor at Girard. It was under Zach’s watch that Glenn was able to advance.”
Hugo Family Cellars buys their grapes from growers and is able to tend to the grapes at the Girard facility.
Their experiences have brought them in contact with wine experts in all realms. Pam especially has a great respect for Karen MacNeil who is working on her second edition of The Wine Bible.
Pam explains: “She tastes the wine. She spits it out and she doesn’t say anything. And then she share the most beautiful words to describe the wine. She is just brilliant in the way she speaks!”
And about that 100 point dream…
“I do believe one day we will have a 100 point wine,” she says.
“I also think that people need to just try wines and not worry so much about one person’s opinion,” she continues.
How to do that?
“We have parties where friends will bring a bottle of wine in a gym sock. We have a lot of fun tasting them and comparing them before revealing what we are tasting,” she explains.
“My biggest challenge is getting the exposure we need and having the time to get out and sell. One day we’ll be able to have this as our day jobs! ” Pam says. “Right now I just want as many people as possible to taste our wines and give us their feedback.”
Enjoy Hugo Family Cellar wines in restaurants and retail stores in California, Nevada, and Texas or buy direct from the winery online.
Next up: Pam shares the Hugo Cellars Wines wines with you via video. Stay tuned! Or better yet, subscribe to VineSleuth Uncorked via email so you never miss a post!