Laura Zamora, the First Woman to become a Winemaker in Mexico

Laura Zamora has over 40 years of experience in the World of Wine. A chance led her to an extraordinary job. 17 years in the Santo Tomás winery. She is an advisor to other wineries owners of Casa Zamora. In addition, she teaches winemaking courses. Her story is full of roadblocks and not a straight line to get into winemaking. Nevertheless, her story is inspiring from the early beginnings to her nowadays newly founded Casa Zamora winery.

Laura Zamora, the First Woman to become a Winemaker in Mexico
Laura Zamora, the First Woman to become a Winemaker in Mexico

The beginning of a career in winemaking

Laura Zamora Elizondo is a Baja California native. She was born surrounded by the desert and sea that Ensenada has to offer daily. She grew up eating the freshest seafood available in Mexico. It was common practice to open a bottle of wine for family afternoons. However, she never imagined that her life would revolve around grapes, barrels, and an appreciation for the land with a scientific and curious eye.

According to Pioneering woman, Laura was born into a family devoted to the sea. She is the second daughter of Captain Francisco Zamora Molina, a fisherman who specialized in the canned sardine and tuna industry.

As a byproduct, her brothers and mother, Graciela Elizondo, went without hearing from him for two weeks. His fishing expeditions could last up to five months. She arrived with a loaded boat and thus a good income, but every two to three months, the ship returned without a significant load of supplies to sell,” Laura explains.

Laura took the initiative to help her family with the school since she was a teenager, despite the family’s financial insecurity and her father’s high-risk job. She enrolled in a technical high school to pay for her college education.

Her technical school instructor, Octavio Jimenez Gutiérrez, also the production manager at Bodegas de Santo Tomás, invited her to work as a lab assistant. So, after a college strike, she fully immersed herself in the cellar. By doing so, she opened herself up to becoming a laboratory manager, thanks to her commitment and hard work.

She decided not to return to college; as a result, choosing to stay at the winery where she could work full-time and get funding from the company to do an internship in Napa, California. She gained knowledge about technology there, which she regularly used to work in the lab after returning.

The First Woman to become a Winemaker in Mexico

She became curious about the Winemaker’s function in the winery and how his work in the lab could improve the finished product in the bottle after coming into contact with the terroir, the grape, and its path from the plant. Throughout the 1980s, this tickle encouraged her to study, take classes, and prepare more. Unfortunately, enology was not a degree at that time in Mexico. Yet, she had her mentors: Dimitri Tchelistcheff, a Santo Tomás-based winemaker and the son of Andrés Tchelistcheff, one of the men responsible for establishing Napa Valley. She also studied under Miguel Angel Daruich of Argentina, who completed her training in enology.

Laura saw Hugo D’Acosta’s work up close, who came to direct the Enology Department in 1988, and later Christoph Gardner: two pioneers who put Baja California on the wine map worldwide. When the latter leaves, the position remained vacant arose the possibility that Laura was the Winemaker, the first woman in the history of Mexican wine with the chance to lead one of the essential wineries in the region.

Hugo D’Acosta, who joined the Enology Department as its director in 1988, and Christoph Gardner, who followed, were two pioneers who helped place Baja California on the wine world’s map. Laura witnessed their work firsthand. As a result of the latter’s departure, the opportunity for Laura to take over as a Winemaker occurred, making her the first woman in the history of Mexican wine to have the chance to run one of the key wineries in the area.

Since 2007Laura has taught at the Ensenada School of Enology and Gastronomy. And she currently runs Casa Zamora, where she also runs workshops for her students.