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Robert Reyes finds his passion in wine, art and giving back

Posted: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Robert Reyes, founder of Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce with a few of the 13 different wines he crafts. His wines have won18 medals and awards. Robert Reyes, founder of Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce with a few of the 13 different wines he crafts. His wines have won18 medals and awards.
Robert Reyes, founder of Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce with a few of the 13 different wines he crafts. His wines have won18 medals and awards.

Robert Reyes is finding that the busiest time of his life might be “retirement.”

Reyes, founder and general manager of Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce, is a man of many interests including wine, art, family and scuba diving.

Add to that list giving back to the community.

Reyes Winery will host the inaugeral Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival on Saturday, Jan. 26 to benefit Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

“I took a tour of the hospital and was very impressed. I was impressed with the organization and the state-of-the-art equipment they have,” said Reyes. “The hospital gives back to this community. I feel in love with their cause.”

Reyes said nearly 70 vendors have signed on to offer wine tastings, gourmet food and specialty items from Los Angeles area chefs and artisanal food makers.

There will also be an organic market with harvests from local farmers; an open air bazaar featuring local artists’ original works; a gift boutique; and a silent auction.

Reyes said a furniture maker who makes items from the wood used in wine barrels will also particpate, with one of his handcrafted creations up for auction.

For Reyes the road to founding his own winery took him from his native Dominican Republic, through New York to California and eventually to Agua Dulce.

Reyes moved to California in 1970.

His career has included a few years in the garment business before spending 40 years working in real estate.

He also was in the steel consturction business building service stations.

Reyes learned to make wine 35 years ago from a home wine making kit.

“It taught me how to make fruit wines,” he said. “So my first wines were orange and pineapple, different fruit. It was a long time before I made wine from grapes.”

However, Reyes did graduate to making wine from the fruit of the vine about 16 years ago.

“I developed a passion for making wine and really learned about making wine after participating in a grape harvest,” he said. “I decided that was really what I wanted to do so I learned everything I could.”

He took college coures in wine making from the University of California, Davis.

“I took classes in chemistry, pruning, vineyard planting, all of it,” he said.

He purchased the 16 acres that would become Reyes Winery on the advice of close friend Juan Alonso, owner of Le Chene French Cusine Restaurant and a fellow winemaker.

“Juan called and told me that I should buy this land,” Reyes said. “So I did. When I saw it I realized it was a beautiful piece of land.”

Reyes renovated the 1915 farmhouse on the property and turned it into the Reyes Winery headquarters.

An adjoining small guesthouse has been transformed to a wine tasting room and the winery facility.

“My understanding that this used to be a frog farm,” Reyes said.

In 2004 Reyes planted 15 acres with syrah, cabernet, merlot, chardonny and muscat vines — nearly 15,000 grape vines in all.

His first harvest was in 2005.

“It was a small crop,” he said. “I made 150 bottles of wine, compared to 30,000 bottles now.”

From his harvests he has crafted award-winning wines.

Reyes has won 18 medals for his wines including gold and silver medals and Best in Class.

“We’ve been able to have some great crops, grow some great grapes,” he said.

Reyes Winery now offers 13 wines.

The winery went commercial about 18 months ago, Reyes said. His wine tasting room has been open for little more than a year.

However, word about the quality of Reyes’ wines is spreading.

“We’re selling out of some wines now,” he said.

His most popular wine currently is his 2010 cabernet sauvignon.

In addition to his wine Reyes is also passionate about his art, an advocation he has practiced for only the past seven years.

His headquarters and tasting room are adorned with examples of his paintings, including copies of works by Cezanne and Winslow Homer.

“I learned so much about painting from copying the works of The Masters,” he said. “You learn from every one of them.”

Reyes said learning to paint was always among his goals in life, along with starting a winery.

His bucolic wine landscapes reflect the reality of what greets him every day out the front door of his office headquarters.

Reyes said he is excited to be hosting the Sierra Pelona Valley wine festival.

“I think this puts us on the map,” he said. “I want to do the best that I can to make this region what it should be. This is a great wine growing region.”

The Sierra Pelona Valley Appellation is only about 10 square miles, said Reyes.

An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine are grown.

The recent cold weather hasn’t caused Reyes any problems with his vines, but in 2011 he lost 80 percent of his crop to a late freeze.

Reyes laughed when asked about his “retirement.”

“There is nothing about this with retirement written on it,” he said. “I work every day. It’s been long hours, but that’s what it takes.”

Reyes said he loves to share his wine with people.

“It’s a great feeling to see people enjoying my wine,” he said.

Reyes is married to Rosa. they have six children and 10 grandchildren.

The Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival will be held noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at Reyes Winery approximately 45 miles north of downtown Los Angeles in Agua Dulce. Prepaid general admission tickets are $65 and $75 at the door. A limited amount of VIP tickets will be available online at $90 until Jan. 20 and $100 after that date. VIP Passes will include early entrance at 11 a.m., private winery tour and barrel tastings, VIP lounge reserve wine tasting paired with gourmet bites; plus all general admission ticket benefits. To reserve tickets and for more information, visit

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