Born on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, Romel walked away from his degree in nautical studies from the Philippine Maritime Institute after learning he could only expect to earn $120.00 per month as an apprentice mate on his uncle’s cargo ship. Twenty-two years old and disillusioned, he came to California in 1980 and took his first job hoeing vineyards for his father, then the vineyard manager for Solari Vineyard Management in Calistoga. “Man, it was hard,” he says, “I had the most terrible blisters.” Six miserable months later, he was offered a job in the cellar at Hans Kornell Cellars and enjoyed the next eleven years working his way through every aspect of still and sparkling wine production.
It was at Kornell in 1991 that Romel met Bob Foley, Pride Mountain Vineyards’ winemaker at the time (Ruben Ayala, now Romel’s trusty sidekick, was also there). For seven years, Romel worked side-by-side with Bob on Pride’s wines, as well as assisting other winemakers with additional custom crush projects. In 1998, when Pride was ready to move into its own winery, Romel made the move up Spring Mountain, too. An amazingly hard working and conscientious man with a very refined palate, he has been our Associate Winemaker ever since.
Romel lives in Calistoga with his wife, Maria. They have two sons, Richie and Nikki. In the few spare hours that he is not working on Pride wines, he enjoys church activities, fishing, tending his collection of orchids, and spending time in the kitchen reproducing some of his favorite Filipino dishes.