Chateau Camou—The Realization of a Family Dream
By Pat Tyson
As co-founder and CEO of Winery Chateau Camou, Fernando Favela-Vara continues to fulfill the wishes and dreams of his father. Nestled in the heart of the Valle de Guadalupe, against a breathtaking backdrop of scenic mountains, the winery was established with the vision of creating a great Mexican wine.
“Team Work” is his philosophy. All members of the team are equally important; he hires the best people and lets them work. Tourism, oenotourism (tourism in wine regions) in particular, is becoming increasingly important, especially in newly-emerging wine regions such as Valle de Guadalupe, which he maintains is a very safe region.
“Promoting visitors to the wine region – and having testimonials from satisfied customers that can become ambassadors to our area – creates a positive impact on the perception of potential visitors,” he says. “It is our duty to make sure the experience that our visitors have is the best.” Originally conceived as a dream of having a place to retire, with time it became a quest to make the best wines in the area. “Founded in 1993, we had our fist crop in 1995. We take care of small details in order to differentiate our work from others in the area.” Since 2001, his family have been the sole owners. Today, one of Favela’s sisters and his eldest son work with him.
“We are always looking for ways to improve in the vineyard – and in the winery itself,” he explains. “Striving to evolve with time, we are working on the new oenology and image of the winery. This year, we will celebrate twenty years of wine-making in Baja California. We can say we are one of the pioneers, and keep working to stay true to our values and goals. As our motto says: ‘The art of creating fine wines.’” At the same time he looks to the future.
“Valle de Guadalupe is growing fast, new projects are a reality and that has fostered evolution in everyone involved,” he states. “We are working together to preserve the landscape to ensure the future of the valley.” But he does find time to enjoy some of his favorite activities in Baja.
Born in the city of Durango, he moved to Mexico City when he was four, due to his father’s work. There he attended school and graduated from the National University (UNAM) as an electrical engineer. In 1980, he moved to Ensenada to pursue a masters degree in applied physics, later graduating summa cum laude from CICESE in Ensenada. After spending eleven years doing seismic instrumentation, he was invited to start a technological business incubator for the center he was with and the science and technology federal office (CONACY), supported by NAFINSA, an official financial office. After a year of being responsible for the northwest region, he decided to go into his own businesses. He started a metal fabrication company in 1993 and Chateau Camou in 1994. At this point, the winery became his most important occupation. And who influenced him most in life?
“Definitely, my parents!” he claims. “From my father I learned hard work; from my mother – to help those in need who have not been as fortunate as we have. That is why I was also in the Boy Scouts and later became a Rotarian.” Asked, what does he love most about Baja California?
“Its people!” he quickly replies. He is also happy with the opportunities this area offers to those who want to work. He likes the variable climate; the beautiful beaches and incredible forests; its trendy food development that has been heavily influenced by the wine industry.
“I enjoy seafood – Baja California has the best. I also like Oaxaca’s and Puebla’s food,” he adds. “I love mole from both states – and the sweets.” He likes to visit small towns in the states of Puebla, Queretaro, Aguascalientes and Jalisco for their historic places. As for music, his taste is quite eclectic, he listens to all kinds, but classical in particular, plus seventies and eighties rock; and he tries to follow new trends with the help of his sons.
His other interests range from reading about history, travel, science fiction, biographies and learning other languages. He also gets great pleasure in trekking and photography, commenting that Baja offers many opportunities for such pastimes. Favela obviously enjoys life to the hilt when he adds mountain biking and off-road racing to his list; he has had the opportunity to ride and win the famous Baja 1000 in a couple of categories, which he considers most exciting. Yes, he finds life in Baja California highly satisfying.
“I enjoy family, work and friends,” he declares. “Particularly, when working with my own family, which has created a strong bond between us. There is a bright future in wine-making in Mexico and, particularly, in Baja. The challenges are big, but our will is bigger and stronger. With other areas of Mexico developing winemaking regions, it is more important Baja California keeps the leadership – and we want to be there.”