The Wines of Baja: Discovering Surprising Quality

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  • By Chris Costales
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The Wines of Baja:  Discovering Surprising Quality

Modern Mexican wine is still at the wild frontier of the wine world. The grapes it produces are a jumble of French, Spanish and Italian varieties that can often be found together in interesting blends that will be hard to encounter anywhere else.  

Despite being a wine region you may have heard little to nothing about, Mexico actually has a long history of viticulture and winemaking, with the oldest winery in North America Casa Madero established in 1597.

 

Mexico's history with wine can be traced back to Spanish Conquistadors who found wild grapevines and water springs instead of the gold they were searching for.  Soon after, missions were constructed and vines brought over from Europe that adapted very well to this "new world" climate.  Quickly they multiplied to a point where the Spanish Crown, fearing too much competition and loss of control, banned wine production in the Americas unless made by the church.  Luckily for us, many of those missionaries refused to follow the new stricter rules and carried on their planting and winemaking.

 

Modern Mexican wine is still at the wild frontier of the wine world. The grapes it produces are a jumble of French, Spanish and Italian varieties that can often be found together in interesting blends that will be hard to encounter anywhere else.  Although vineyards are located in hot and dry semi-arid conditions, there are a number of unique geographic conditions that allow premium wine to be made.

Baja California is located at the southern end of the California current, a cool south-moving flow of water that hugs the coastline of North America.  The Valle De Parras has vineyards located at almost 5,000 ft in elevation that provide constant direct sunlight which thickens grape skins and makes powerful, rich wine, and creates more dramatic temperature swings that help retain natural acidity in the grapes.

 

Many of Mexico's largest wineries can be found close to Ensenada and if you do find yourself near the Valle de Guadalupe in July and August, make sure to attend the Fiestas de la Vendimia (Wine harvest festival) and enjoy the Mexican showcase of local cuisine, and as you're soon to discover here at The Wine Country's Baja Fest on May 5th from 1-4 p.m.  Fantastic wine, street tacos and quesadillas, all for just $30.

2012 Fluxus Tinto, Valle de Guadelupe, Baja California, Mexico

This is a delicious red blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre from very old, dry farmed vines. Less than one hundred cases of the Tinto will make it into the United States so make sure to pick up a bottle before its gone. Alberto Rubio Padilla who studied in France and brings an appreciation for French winemaking techniques, is one of the best winemakers in the Valle de Guadalupe, and he hits the mark with this ripe and juicy wine full of mixed berry, cinnamon, clove, leather, and violet. Mouth-coating and unctuous on the palate and a beautiful lingering finish. Pair with anything off the grill and be prepared to be an instant fan of Baja wine!

$35.99 per bottle

 

2016 Bodegas Henri Lurton Sauvignon Blanc, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico

Lourdes Martinez Ojeda, or Lulu as her friends call her, left her hometown of Ensenada Mexico to study in France. Like many of us the siren song of wine called her name while there and a short trip turned into 15 years. Eventually she found herself working for the Lurton family, owner of one of the oldest and most respected Bordeaux Chateau in Margaux and when they wanted to invest in Mexico she was able to return home as a proud winemaker. This wine is fermented at low temperatures for a longer period which preserves delicate floral aromas. The flavor is clean and bright with grapefruit and light tropical notes. This wine walks a delicate balance of fresh and rich that will put a smile on your face when you drink it.  

$25.99 per bottle

 

2016 Bodegas Henri Lurton, Nebbiolo, Valle De Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico

Outside of its native Piedmonte Italy, the Nebbiolo grape has been searching for a home. It may have found it in Mexico if it keeps making delicious wine such as this. Juicy is not a descriptor often used with this grape but this wine is big and lush with fresh cherries and herbed balsamic aromas that come with long cool fermentations that only quality producers such as this have the time and patience for. Tannins that are often overbearing with this grape are tamed here and well integrated with the wine.  Aged for ten months in all French oak barrels.

$34.99 per bottle

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