When we think of Mexican wine, we think of Valle De Guadalupe, the up and coming area in Baja. The area is like the wild west, a new frontier for wine especially those winemakers who choose to be pioneers of the region.
Valle De Guadalupe History
In the 16th century, the first grapes were planted. In fact, 1000 vines were planted for every 100 natives. By the 17th century, the Spanish decided to put a halt to grape growing, but the missions continued to plant vines and make wine, thereby calling it sacramental wine. Winemaking got revitalized in 1791 by a Jesuit priest at the Mission de Santo Tomas. By the mid-1800s, the Dominicans took over winemaking and planted near Ensenada at the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the 1900s after fleeing Russia, the Molokans settle in the area. Today over 200 wineries lie along the Ruta de Vino.
Who are the pioneers that have put their mark on this winegrowing region? One winemaker taking the lead is Hugo D’ Acosta, a Bordeaux-trained winemaker. He produces wine in Bordeaux and also collaborates with Wente and Milagro. Dr. Camillo Magoni, of Casa Magoni, is another pioneer. He created the sanctuary vineyard, thus saving many varieties from extinction.
Valle De Guadalupe Climate and Terroir
Lying very close to the 30th parallel. The climate is very dry and arid with diurnal shifts that cool at night. The area’s proximity to the ocean brings fog in the morning and a cooling breeze in the afternoon because the California current goes through the gaps along the coast.
The terroir is very similar to Tuscany with its large boulders. Soil composition includes loamy clay, rocky granite, Kimmeridgian and rich alluvial. The soils and lack of water engrain in the wine a salinity.
Mexican Wine Grapes
The grapes that grow in Valle De Guadalupe include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Grenache, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, and Sangiovese in the reds. In the whites find Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Macabeo (aka Viura), Muscat Blanc, Palomino, Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.
The reds typically come across as full-bodied, fruit forward with minerality and a salty tinge at the back of the palate. This salinity gives the area its sense of place. Often you will find unique blends which help the region to stay unusual.
Valle De Guadalupe produces 90% of Mexican wine. Most wineries are family run with Cabernet Sauvignon being the largest produced variety.
Valle De Guadalupe Wines
Visiting this Mexican wine region one will find that the cuisine is extraordinary. Known as Baja Med, this style of cooking lends itself to the salinity found in the wine.
Here are some of my favorite wines from two Valle De Guadalupe wine tastings I experienced recently.
My second tasting included a luncheon at Napa Valley Grille. My favorite course paired exceptionally well with my favorite white wine.
Monte Xanic 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, a wine with flavors of citrus and florals also delivered very subtle nuances reminiscent of a French Sauvignon Blanc or Sancere. A marvelous Diver Scallop Crudo with cucumber brunoises and blood orange reduction paired marvelously to this Sauvignon Blanc.
The 2016 had a more Burgundian style with light buttery flavors. This Chardonnay only sees stainless steel. Napa Valley Grille paired this wine with a Seared Cumin Crusted Seabass with coconut cauliflower puree.
In the reds, I recommend the Vinos de la Reina Sangiovese 2015, the Vena Cava Tempranillo 2016 which is a lighter dry representation of this variety. Finally, the Lechuza Red Blend which combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Nebbiolo, and Tempranillo.
For those who love to discover new wine regions, Valle de Guadalupe fits the bill and gives one an excellent representation of the leaps and bounds that occur in the Mexican wine scene.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer was hosted to this wine presented at this tasting. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.
Featured photo courtesy of Stacie Hunt.