Today, I am thinking about wine (of course!) and Mexico. I grew up not far from Mexico and as a child, Mexico would never have been the destination for drinking or buying wine. Although for that matter, Napa Valley barely existed either. Things have changed. Mexico now has wine regions, and lovely wines to buy there or have imported to your location of choice. In fact, as the middle class in Mexico is converting to drinking more and more wine, they are demanding and expecting to have good and affordable wines. In the last few years, the numbers of wineries have exploded and Mexico now has its wine regions, wine tastings, and tours from the United States to Mexico including transportation, hotels and meals.
Which brings me to my quote for today’s blog: “Good wine ruins the purse; bad wine ruins the stomach.” -Spanish saying. That saying just might need to change now that Mexico is coming into its own with their wine-making and wine industry. Take for instance, Valle de Guadalupe in Baja, Mexico. In less than 20 years that region has tripled in the number of wineries, now well over 50 wineries to visit, and a dozen or more hotels, bed and breakfasts, and many restaurants including the equivalent of the French Laundry, Laja.
About the wine: Keeping in mind that this region is still “new” and “up and coming”, there are some regional gems (and yes, even like Napa, some not so gem-like finds), particularly if you are a red wine drinker who enjoys some minerality to the tastes of the wine. In this region, much of the water has a salty taste to it, except those who have water sources higher up in the mountains. Casa de Piedra for instance is one of the first wineries to open in the region, 1997. They have interesting options in Bordeaux’s blended with regional red varietals that give the somewhat salty or mineral taste to the wines, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo varietals. Another gem of a winery (and cornerstone of this region) is El Mogor, whose mountain-sourced water lacks the salt. They also have an amazing restaurant (ok, picnic tables outside overlooking the vineyards) that serves an excellent five-course meal by a top-ranked chef (in fact, served by him as there are no wait-staff). Their red varietals based on cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc are full-bodied, Bordeaux style with a supple and smooth finish. Mmmm.
A foray into Baja will provide the experience of the “old-style” wineries of Napa (pre-1980) and the Chilean regions (pre-2000) of wine-making, “tours” and tastings. Check your travel dates, as this region will be open during “the season” of pruning, growing and harvest, typically May-Nov. Tastings are low cost or free, with the vintners frequently doing the tasting and talking about their wines. Restaurants are casual and relaxed, but with local fresh and well-prepared fares. This provides a lovely combined travel and wine-tasting experience that is true and basic to the real fruits of the vine. Travel information and tours are available at numerous websites from San Diego to Baja (San Diego Wine Tours). Or, drive yourself and arrange a weekend/week’s stay at the many possible locales (information here).
After a few tastings, a bottle or two of lovely local cabernet blends, and a dinner watching the sun go down over the vineyard, that Spanish saying might just become something of the past.