Meet Sonya Vega, Founder and CEO of Doña Vega

Award Winning Doña Vega Mezcal

Before you created Dona Vega Mezcal you were in fashion. What a big transition. Can you tell me what inspired you to leave fashion and step into the world of spirits? 

I had my own PR company and decided to take a hiatus to spend time with my kids. I’ve always been fascinated with going to restaurants and checking out the cocktail menu. I love seeing the different herbs and recipes bartenders create. I began noticing that while tequila was very popular, mezcal was rarely on the menu. This piqued my interest. I didn’t mean to start a brand, I just wanted to learn about mezcal and get my mind doing something fresh and new. It was exciting to start a new project. 

I realized it was time for me to do something different. I needed a change of pace. So you had zero experience in the spirits industry. What did you do next? 

I wanted to see how mezcal was made, and how the agaves were harvested. I traveled to Oaxaca and had a guide take me around the various palenques (farms). I wanted to make sure the product and process was sustainable and ethical before committing to a partner. My kids were still small at the time so I would be there for 2 days and come back to the states, then head back to Oaxaca. I traveled back and forth for some time until I settled on our partners. 

The whole idea and concept behind Dona Vega is to produce a mezcal product that challenges the current perception of mezcal. For example, the worm in the bottle and the burn it causes in the throat on the first sip; that’s been the overall impression. 

I wanted to create a product that was approachable, lighter in smoke, with a smooth first sip, especially because it's unexpected. So it was approachability infused with my creative playfulness from my fashion background that I bridged together to bring Dona Vega to life. 

Does the entrepreneurial spirit run in your family? 

I was recently told a story about my great grandfather. He was a miner and had the mentality that women should stay at home, care for the kids and the house. He unfortunately became injured and was no longer able to work. It was the women in the family that stepped up and began importing products from the big city to sell to the local villagers. It was anything from sewing kits, tequila, hair brushes, and other necessities. So in the end, it was the women in my family that were the breadwinners. They were the entrepreneurs. 

I love that story and you’re certainly following in the entrepreneurial footsteps of your ancestors. How has the response to Dona Vega been so far? 

Great! We received the double gold award in 2021 and 2022 from the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. This is the most prestigious spirit competition in the US. As well we’ve won the gold award for 2021, and 2022 of the Sip Awards International Consumer Tasting, and the

gold in the Denver International Spirits Competition for 2021. As well as the Fifty Best for 2020 of Espadín and Tobalá. It’s been such an exciting time. 

Wow, congratulations Sonya! What makes Dona Vega Mezcal stand out? 

I think it’s that smooth first sip that is unexpected and approachable. When someone is buying Dona Vega they’re getting a higher grade espadin (agave). These are Espedin Capone which means they're agaves that have fully matured at approximately 8-9 years old. We wanted to bring a perfectly ripe agave that will be sweeter, and without additives. It’s the cleanest there is. 

Dona Vega is an all female run business from owner to production. Can you tell me more about this? 

We have an all female distillery team which is not common for palenques. Hortensia Hernandez Martinez and her two daughters are the team of palenques. Hortensia is a fifth generation mezcalera. If you were to unexpectedly walk into their palenque you would see them bottling or working on some part of the process. 

One of my favorite photographs of our team is the hero shot. The photo shoot was outside from 7am until 7pm. It was a very hot, very long day. At one point we all happened to close our eyes at the same time to get a brief reprieve from the burning hot sun. This was the shot. It’s beautiful. 

You mention Dona Vega is about sustainability. Can you tell me more? 

The sustainability cycle is about everything being able to be repurposed. For example, chickpeas and corn are placed in the soil to produce flavor. They’re then sold for home consumption. They can then be used for adobe, feed for horses, etc. 

What’s next for Dona Vega? 

We’re currently sold in ten states and looking to expand. Within that expansion we want to stay true to ourselves. Dona Vega is about authenticity and approachability. It’s an artisanal, hand-crafted mezcal. 

I’m new to the spirits industry. I’m female, and I’m mexican. I have this fire and drive and I want to succeed at what I do. I wanted a challenge when I began Dona Vega and it’s been very well received. I wouldn’t do anything differently.

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