I just returned from another extraordinary trip to Valle de Guadalupe in Baja Mexico. This was my fourth trip in the last three years (and would have been many more visits if it weren’t for COVID). Each visit I am even more amazed at the quality of the wine and the culinary scene.
For many, Baja California is not on their radar as a wine region. Or there is a misconception that this is a “new” region. But grape growing and wine production has been a part of the Mexican landscape for hundreds of years. Valle de Guadalupe is one of the oldest grape growing regions in North America with roots dating back to the 16th Century, when settlers from Europe brought their rootstocks and began planting as they were building missions all the way up the coast of California. Today, Valle de Guadalupe is home to about 150 wineries. Most of these are very small, boutique wineries. Total production is about 2 million cases per year.
This region is Mediterranean-like in climate but experiences different meso-climates, depending on altitude and positioning of the mountains receiving the coastal breezes. The summer days can get hot and dry but can also have winds that create a cooling effect. The cooler evenings offset the heat which helps to maintain acidity in the grapes. There are a wide variety of familiar grapes grown in this region. Some of the more popular are Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Malbec, Nebbiolo and Barbera.
As I try to hold onto summer, here is just a peek at a couple of my favorite wineries/wines:
Winemaker, Lourdes Martinez Ojeda, spent 14 years developing her craft working in Bordeaux, France at Château Brane-Cantenac in Margaux. She returned home to Ensenada as winemaker for Bodegas Henri Lurton and consulted for other local wineries. Her wine style is precise and elegantly balanced. The Bruma Ocho Rosé is one of my absolute favorites. The rosé is made from 100% Sangiovese and made in a light and dry Provence style with aromas of strawberry and cherry with a slight herbal character. And if you like geeky wines, you have to try the Ocho Blanc de Noir of Carignan or the Vino de la Casa Sauvignon Blanc or Rosé of Barbera minimal intervention wines.
*The Bruma property is also home to one of the best restaurants in the Valle, Fauna.
The only certified organic and biodynamic winery in all of Mexico, growing Chardonnay and Tempranillo. Owner, Sergio Salgado is dedicated to organic farming and serves as the chapter president for Mexico CCOF (Certification on Organics). The Santos Brujos 2017 Tempranillo has beautiful complex notes of raspberry, cherry, black plum, violets, leather, menthol, chocolate and coffee. This wine is well structured with some grippy tannins from 18 months in new French oak yet balanced with a long finish.
Both of these wines pair wonderfully with so many different cuisines, but especially with the flavors of Baja‘s fresh coastal cuisine. Check out these wines and many others here.