While most art and culture advocates make use of theater, visual arts and literary pieces to promote culture, Castañeda uses wine as his own way of helping Filipinos – culturally and economically.
With P250,000, he formally started Don Roberto’s Winery as sole proprietorship in 2001 after a year of planning, research, and experimentation.
From sole proprietorship, the winery became Don Roberto’s Winery Corp. after experiencing a year of growth and success in the field of wine production.
More and more people got interested in the business since it offered unique products.
Don Roberto’s Wine is known worldwide for its products: Ripe mango wine, green mango wine and the soon-to-be-launched brewed coffee wine.
“The main aim of the business is for us to be known as the first producer of mango and coffee wine in the world,” Castañeda told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“We also want to enrich the global wine culture with unique, exotic and exquisite mango and coffee wine.”
Starting the winery
Castañeda is a Business Administration graduate who later pursued a career in culture and arts. At some point, he was part of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where he served as one of its performing artists.
He was also affiliated with the Centro Cultural de España.
Although he was deep into the promotion of culture and arts, particularly music, his interest in business never wavered. From time to time, he would engage in family business ventures.
In 2000, before he thought of running a winery business, he was planning to put up his own restaurant in Baguio.
For six months, he stayed in the Cordillera where he engaged in the arts, as well as charity work.
He was invited to teach in a seminary, where he also served as hospice volunteer. Later, he mounted a religious musical production there.
The idea of starting a winery came while he was staying in the seminary.
“I really have this passion for cooking, and my interest was caught when I saw a nun in the seminary making wine out of strawberry and pomelo,” Castañeda recalled.
He asked the nun how he could make his own wine.
At first, the nun was hesitant because the concoction was said to be a 100-year-old secret Belgian recipe.
“But out of gratitude, the nun eventually told me how to make fruit wine on condition that I wouldn’t tell anyone how the fruit wines are made,” said Castañeda.
When he returned to his hometown of Imus, he tried to learn all there was to know about fruit wines, hoping to develop his own version which would be different from what the nun had taught him.
“One night, I was watching a news program on TV where the 2001 Cebu Mango Congress was featured,” Castañeda recalled.
He bought some mangoes the day after, having decided to promote local mangoes on his own.
Starting the business was never easy as Castañeda literally had to go places to learn more about fruit wines, specifically, mango wine.
Before he decided to start his winery, he went to Orange County and Europe to study wine-making.
“The preparation process took me a year as I didn’t want to introduce a product below [par],” said Castañeda, who considered research and development to be a crucial phase in the winery business.
After some experimentation, he turned his house in Imus into a winery, where he initially produced 200 vats of wine.
Soon after, Castañeda had to move to a larger winery because of the surprising growth in demand for ripe and green mango wine abroad.
Castañeda had set out not only to promote Filipino culture globally but to help other entrepreneurs as well.
He ensured that other people would also benefit from the success of the business, thus, he imposed a systematic way of outsourcing that would benefit not just one mango supplier.
From January to June, Don Roberto’s Winery Corp. would get its mangoes from producers in Luzon. From July to December, mangoes from Visayas and Mindanao producers would be delivered.
In addition, the coffee used in the development of the brewed coffee wine came from Cavite.
The coffee wine will be launched in June.
“Even ordinary coffee peddlers in Cavite benefit from this business,” said Castañeda. “From ordinary peddlers to high-end wine distributors, our winery is doing its part in providing opportunities for many people.”
Castañeda admitted that one of the challenges of his business was product familiarity among potential buyers.
But Don Roberto’s Ripe Mango and Green Mango wine has been recognized internationally, already reaping a number of awards.
The products have also been featured in a number of business publications in the United States, Japan, Korea and Europe.
But the international publicity that his business has generated made it prone to product imitation.
“Now, there are at least six companies trying to imitate our products, but I am confident they will never succeed,” said Castañeda, adding that his products are all protected by patent.
Castañeda takes pride in using local mangoes in his wine, making Filipino products more popular in the global market.
“The mangoes that we have here remain the best among those I have tasted. And I am happy that I have this opportunity to let other people around the world have a taste of it.”
The brewed coffee wine, meanwhile, is expected to promote the coffee industry in Cavite.