Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Dońa Vega's Sonya Vega
Hispanic Heritage Month may be coming to an end, but we’re expanding the celebration beyond the month by continuing to share the diverse stories of female founders of Hispanic descent in the food and beverage industry. Next up in the series is Sonya Vega, founder of Doña Vega – an authentic, organic mezcal with a modern twist.
Sonya’s journey into mezcal began in 2011 when she was introduced to the smoky cousin of tequila at a friend’s wedding in Mexico She was immediately obsessed with the taste and wanted to find out more. As she noticed the spirit began to appear on drink menus more frequently, she had a vision of growth which further fueled her curiosity.
As Sonya continued her investigation into the world of mezcal, she began to explore her own Mexican heritage on a deeper level. During a trip to Oaxaca with her grandfather, she found out that his mother and aunt started a small business where they would resell items such as soap, sewing kits, and mezcal to make a profit and support the family. Discovering her family’s connection to mezcal was a sign that she was on the right path.
Three trips to Oaxaca, 22 farm visits, and over 70 recipes later, what started off as a passion project evolved into a full-time career for the entrepreneur. Sonya left behind her high-profile PR career of 17 years and officially launched Doña Vega in November 2019.
The process began in Santiago Matatlán, a small town outside of Oaxaca, where Doña Hortensia Hernández Martínez and her two daughters run La Curva – a farm that has been in the family for five generations. Handcrafted by a female mezcalera – an uncommon practice in the mezcal world – authenticity and representation lay the foundation for Doña Vega.
Despite facing distribution challenges in the male-dominated alcohol industry, Sonya has kept persevering. Last year, her hard work was rewarded when Doña Vega Mezcal won a double gold medal at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Now, you can find Doña Vega stocked at a number of distinguished hotels and restaurants throughout the country. Sonya
believes that women can move mountains and hopes that she can inspire other women to join the industry and persist as she has.
As a fearless female entrepreneur in the alcohol industry, Sonya is breaking barriers and rewriting the rules. We had to find out more about what inspires the founder and the unique journey that wine and spirits have taken her on. Read on for more.
Meet Sonya Vega
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to start.
In a past life, I ran a PR agency, launching and scaling new brands for a diverse set of clients. Eventually, I knew I wanted to do something of my own, and it was around that same time that I noticed mezcal was becoming a growing category. Being a mezcal lover and a businesswoman that embraces new challenges, I saw an opportunity to bring the two worlds together - my Mexican heritage and creative ability to launch a brand in a different space. I started Doña Vega as a passion project and as a way to share my love of mezcal with the world!
Where are your family's roots and how has that influenced your work now?
My grandparents are from Los Mochis, Mexico. They came from a small village, where everyone in their family had contributions to the household to make ends meet. This work ethic was passed down, and even more so instilled a drive in me.
What keeps you the most inspired in wine and spirits?
It’s the wins both big and small that keep me inspired, whether it be seeing our bottle on the back bar at a new place, or getting a nice message about our product on social media. Nothing, however, compares to the feeling of seeing someone’s face light up and perceptions change when they finally experience the unexpected taste of Doña Vega.
Where has wine taken you? Tell us about the most interesting wine and food experience. Who, What, Where, When?
Wine has taken me to discover new places, such as Napa and Bordeaux. A food & wine experience I recently recall was a picnic last fall in Aspen where we had the picture-perfect backdrop of the yellow fall leaves, a group of 10 good friends, and food prepared by a local chef. We enjoyed delicious food, fun conversation, and of course, good wine.
Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table?
We seem to drink wine more so in the summer, and usually with Sancerre, Riesling, and Rose.
Do you have a favorite McBride Sisters Collection wine at the moment?
I'm currently loving the McBride Sisters Collection Sauvignon Blanc! It pairs beautifully with seafood.
If you’re a mezcal virgin, Doña Vega Espadin is the ideal introduction to the mezcal world. Made from Espadín Capon – a higher grade Espadín which has been left to mature for 8-9 years, yielding a natural sweetness with undertones of dried fruits and hints of vanilla and cocoa – the final result is a mezcal with subtle smoke and a remarkably smooth white pepper finish. It’s exquisitely traditional, yet approachable, making it the perfect combination.