It’s been a long road for Vincent Negret, owner of the newly opened Negret Wine Co. in downtown Hudson. His family’s history of winemaking extends back three generations to Vincent Negret’s grandfather, Miguel, who founded a winery in 1937 in Bogotà, Colombia, specializing in vermouth and port wines. When Miguel retired in 1952, his sons, including Vincent’s father, Vicente, continued the family tradition with great success, launching the first sparkling wine made in Colombia.
“I grew up in that winery,” Vincent Negret says. “I helped as a salesman, but I started gaining passion for the smells and tastes of the production side of the business.”
Negret traveled to the United States in the early 1980s to study the science of winemaking, and after finishing the enology program at California State University-Fresno, he returned to Colombia to start a new winery, Vinerias del Castillo, with his father.
Unfortunately, they opened during the heyday of the powerful Colombian drug cartels, which were buying up small businesses and using them as fronts for money-laundering. “I didn’t want to work for the cartel, but they purchased our competitors and dropped their prices below cost,” Vincent Negret says. “After 10 years, we went out of business.”
A friend suggested to Negret that he return to the United States, and in 2000, he took a job at Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, Minn. A year later, his wife and two teenage children joined him. Despite a successful career that included stints at Ohio’s largest estate winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyards, and the award-winning Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls, Minn., Negret retained a “burning passion to be my own boss and do my own thing,” he says. “My dream was to rebuild my own business, and every day I’d think about it.”
“I started exploring options in my free time, and one day I drove to Hudson,” he says. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is perfect. What a beautiful town.’ I went to the Chamber of Commerce, and I said, ‘What do I have to do to open a winery here?’”
As it turned out, the answer was “a lot.” Hudson’s laws didn’t allow for wineries, and it took three years for Negret to persuade the city to change the laws and allow him to operate.
In the meantime, he met with possible investors, drew up a business plan and scouted locations.
Finally, in November 2015, Vincent Negret realized his dream by opening the doors to Negret Wine Co. The refurbished building houses a production facility, tasting room, retail space, a large events space and a patio overlooking the river.
Negret’s wines, made with a combination of local and California-grown grapes, are crafted using sustainable practices and bottled with labels that reflect important moments in family history and community values. For example, the Marina series, launched over the summer, includes red, white and rosé wines that were “made in Hudson, for Hudson,” Negret says. This fall, he plans to add two new offerings: a port and a sparkling wine.
Vincent Negret’s son, Mateo, and daughter, Camila, are investors in the winery, and they help with business development, marketing and social media.
“My title is loyal daughter and volunteer,” says Camila, who works full-time as a human resources manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Cleveland, Ohio. “Wine has been part of our family story forever, so since this journey started seven years ago—thinking about the winery and what it could look like—it has definitely been a family endeavor.”
In addition to creating a space where visitors can hold memorable celebrations or simply spend an evening sipping wine on the patio, Vincent Negret hopes to help the community fall in love with the entire process of producing world-class wines.
“You can design or predict the style you want to achieve, but then you get to the experimental part,” he says. “You keep adding and changing until you create something special, concocting and reformulating until you get to the point where people are responding, ‘This is right.’ So far, people have been very happy and receptive.”