Monday, May 28, 2012

Mexico, A Wine Country?

A small guide to enjoy the best wines in Baja

Delicious wine and beautiful scenarios at Gaudalupe Valley.
A not very well known region a few miles to the east from Ensenada is called the Guadalupe Valley which is the major wine producing area of Mexico. It is about two thirds the size of Napa Valley. There is a regionally famous wine school called La Escuelita run by Hugo D'Acosta. Forty four wineries are considered to be large enough to put on a map about the wine valley. World class wine is made at wineries like LA Cetto, Santo Tomas and Baron Balche. The primary grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Nebbiolo and Chardonnay. Other excellent vintage grape varietals also made into wine here are: Chenin Blanc, Palomino, Mision, Tempranillo, and Viognier in smaller quantities.

A good friend of mine made wine her first time and took first place in the judging at an event with blind tasting for local artisinal winemakers. Jo Ann Knox's Zinfandel blend and Nebbiolo are amazing, so it did not surprise me that she took first place amongst some experienced vintners. I went to see her top off some barrels yesterday and sample some of the current varietals. She has some Zinfandel which tasted ready to bottle to me. She says it will be bottled in June. Three wineries allow her to store her wine, Xecue, Casa Vieja and Tres Mujeres. The Nebbiolo is coming along nicely as well, but will be some time yet before it is ready. We all went to both Casa Vieja where we tasted the Nebbiolo and Xecue. At Xecue Jose Luis treated us to a wine tasting of six of his wines. I asked her when she knows a wine is ready. It is a complex issue with no simple answer. Just like a piece of art, only the creator knows when it is done.

Steve Dryden is known as one of the top experts on the area and offers tours for the low price of $25 plus wine tasting and food costs. He drives and tells you a great amount of detail about the valley. I have been on his tour twice and learned a lot in an interesting manner each time. He tells of how the Russian Molokans helped settle the valley in the 1800's along with Dominican missionaries. This particular sect of Russians was persecuted in Russia by the Russian Orthodox Church. A lovely winery called Bibayoff exists in the valley and makes about 200 cases a year. Their Cabernet/Zinfandel blend is very tasty. A small museum dedicated to the Molokans exists on the winery property as well and is free.

Two of my favorite wineries are located right around the corner from each other in the eastern portion of the valley. They are called LA Cetto and Dona Lupe. LA Cetto is a major player in Mexican wines and sells to top restaurants in Mexico, as do some of the other wineries. Most of what is made in Mexico stays right here, one of the reasons that it is not a well known fact that wine is even produced here. LA Cetto has a free tasting of five wines. It is common though to tip the server, who can tell you whatever you wish to know about the wine you are sipping and the history of the winery. Good wine can be had at the starting price of about four dollars a bottle for their Cabernet Malbec, a very good value. Their Nebbiolo has taken five gold medals. Don't miss out on sitting on their terrace overlooking roses and peacocks. A bread, cheese and meat plate can be had for a reasonable price. Or bring your own picnic and purchase wine for your enjoyment.

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