At the age of 22, Leonel began his career in the agriculture industry for the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. When President Miguel de la Madrid devalued the Peso, Leonel’s cousin invited him to come to Napa, where the promise of a more prosperous life awaited.
After much determination in the face of extreme circumstances, by 1980, Leonel finally arrived at his destination: Napa. Here, his cousin was working for Mondavi. The vineyard hired Leonel to do suckering, a job that was avoided by the other laborers due to having more responsibility at the same wage. But Leonel was not like the other workers; his parents taught him to respect those around him, revere the land and explore any new opportunities available to him. One day, the Mondavi vineyard was in a pinch and needed someone to spray in an emergency. Leonel stepped up to the occasion and offered to help. Leonel continued to stay on board as a tractor driver for Mondavi.
Eventually, this hard work and desire to learn new skills whenever he could, paid off. In 1981, Leonel began working for Opus One. Happy to pitch in wherever he was needed, one day Leonel volunteered to help remove stubborn pomace from a tank, which impressed his manager. That’s when Leonel was asked to serve as master vineyard manager for a new Opus One project. Leonel graciously accepted and started by helping Opus One install an irrigation system on its property as a contractor, marking the first time Leonel was given the responsibility of managing an entire staff. Mindful of the lessons his parents taught him, Leonel farmed and tended to the land with all of his heart.
Opus One recognized Leonel’s dedication to the land and all of the people farming it, so the vineyard promoted him to marking the vineyards and developing the trellises, a position he held until 2004.
After Opus One, offers to work for well-known vineyards kept rolling in. Durell Vineyards hired Leonel, but he had already applied for a management position at Premiere Pacific Vineyards (PPV). Since the offer from PPV was a higher-level management job that required Leonel to work on a challenging new project, Leonel accepted the offer from PPV.
Leonel thanks his parents for teaching him to respect and revere all humankind and the delicate earth we are walking on together. At the same time, Atlas thanks Leonel for bringing respect and purposeful value, cornerstones upon which the company was built, to his leadership position as a vineyard manager.