Sunday, March 19, 2017

Wake Up Call from Via Guadalupe Wines

by Frank Mangio
Is there bias in the wine business?  You bet there is!  Taste  and companionship are two big reasons why we have favorites in life.  With wines as in our other close-to-the-heart precious subjects, you fall in love and you tend not to change your choices. I believe that  the wine experience should also include discovery.

I have written more than a few times about budgeting some of your wine dollars for new selections, and that brings us to  the vineyards and surprisingly great wines coming from our friends to the south of San Diego , in the Guadalupe Valley , near Ensenada . Back in the 90’s, word was spreading about a pristine but primitive valley about 2 hours drive from San Diego that made some nice Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay, maybe a dozen or so vineyards, and if you were vacationing in Ensenada or Cabo San Lucas, or maybe on a cruise ship around Baja, you might see a few of the Baja wines.  Fast forward to 2007 and the dozen or so wineries were now up to a few dozen and producing about 85% of the wines in all of Mexico .

Fernando Gaxiola is the major spokesman for the wines of the Guadalupe Valley in Baja,
seen at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.

The valley caught the attention of TASTE OF WINE and a visit  to see for myself.  The beauty of the valley was unmistakable with the perfect weather patterns and coastal breezes for plump, dynamic grapes. What I found was a setting perfectly aligned for Italian grapes such as Sangiovese from Tuscany and Nebbiolo from Piemonte.  A master from the old country, Camillo Magoni, was chief winemaker for LA Cetto, at that time the largest winery in Mexico. His Nebbiolo was 3 years in a barrel and sold for just $15.

Today, there are over 80 vineyards in Via Guadalupe with 20 thousand plus acres under vine, and 12 luxury boutique hotels. It’s estimated that over 600 thousand visitors come to the valley to taste and purchase the wines.

Fernando Gaxiola knows as much about the wines of the Gudalalupe as anyone.  He is a tireless promoter of the wines and has connections with tour companies, restaurants and events in San Diego that allow him to present his Guadalupe Valley wine clients.  On a recent day, we met and spoke over a lovely wine dinner at the popular rustic-style Bracero in San Diego’s Little Italy district.

This restaurant, and Coasterra, a “Modern Mexican” food format on Harbor Island , have many great Baja wines on their wine menu.  I asked him what  he does to promote the Guadalupe wines. “I am working hard to produce tours of the valley to show first hand where and how these wines are made and the quality of the producers.

Bracero in San Diego ’s Little Italy is a hot spot for rustic country style Mexican cuisine, and a showcase for Via Guadalupe wines.  A favorite on the menu is “Nana’s Lentil Soup”

We also present wine tasting at the biggest events in Southern California .  A name to know is Monte Xanic ( shah-neek), with 50,000 cases of wine  a year. They do a blend, the Don Ricardo, with only the best grapes from Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. ($50.)  I also recommend the Rafael from Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards and Inn , a blended wine of great elegance and intensity with Cabernet and Nebbiolo. ($40.),” Fernando concluded.  Rafael was so flavorful, it landed in the TASTE OF WINE Top Ten Tastes for 2016.

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