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‘Mexican Tom Cruise’ shooting telenovela in Sonoma Valley

One of Mexico’s most well-known celebrities, Gabriel Soto, has spent the last few weeks in Sonoma Valley filming a highly anticipated new telenovela for Univision.

The show, which will air beginning in August, is called “Vino el Amor,” or “Wine Love.” It will be broadcast in nearly 100 countries and is expected to draw tens of millions of viewers. The series is set in Sonoma, while its interior shots are being filmed in Tijuana, Mexico.

The cast and crew of 75 has been staying in Sonoma, spread between two hotels, one on the Plaza and one just outside the city limits. Filming has taken place at Viansa Sonoma. Crews will return later in the summer and film the soap opera off and on in Sonoma throughout the fall.

Over the past few weeks of filming, the actor-model Soto, 41, has been mobbed more than once on the Plaza, according to production officials. He stars in the production along with Russian actress Irina Baeva, 25.

The telenovela is being produced by Mexican filmmaker Jose Alberto Castro for Televisa, the largest producer of Spanish speaking television programming in Mexico.

Castro is well known in his own right, both for the global success of his most recent telenovela, “Passion and Power,” which swept Mexico’s television awards in 2015, and for making headlines in various Mexican tabloid papers.

Production manager Laura Somerville has worked with Televisa for almost 20 years and she was responsible for selecting Viansa Sonoma as the setting for the show. The location had been under wraps until recently, out of concern that fans of Soto might arrive on set disrupting production.

Somerville had never been to wine country before this summer but she is already a huge fan. “We all love it here,” she said.

“I came to Sonoma on vacation three years ago,” added Castro, and “ever since then I have wanted to set a show here. It is such a beautiful place and we have found the people to be exceptionally friendly.”

Gabriel Soto has a background as a model (he’s a former Mr. Mexico) and as a former boy band star. He is currently known as a telenovela star in Mexico.

“Our Mexican employees said that having Gabriel here is like if we were hosting Tom Cruise at the height of his fame,” said Viansa’s general manager Phillip Hansell.

Interviewed on his last day before a break in filming, Soto said, “This is such a beautiful place, we never want to leave. I love our hotel, I love this winery.”

Castro added that while the cast and crew have been working around the clock, they have enjoyed some “terrific” meals in Sonoma, including “a fantastic breakfast at Fremont Diner” and great meals at both Della Santina’s and OSO.

The plot of “Wine Love” centers on a winery owner (Soto), who is depressed after losing his wife in a tragic accident. A young woman (Beava), who grew up in the vineyard, returns and helps the winery owner learn to once again love life, and his vineyard. The series is a remake of a Chilean series “La Chúcara.”

“Vino el Amor” will have upward of 100 episodes, and will air every weekday for an hour starting in August. According to Univision, the soap opera “gives life to Mexican Americans trying to not only achieve the American Dream but also the success with family and love.”

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