Is the Guadalupe Valley, Baja Mexico, the next must visit wine region?
This year I crossed out a couple things from my foodie bucket list, one was attending the Cancun Food and Wine festival and the other was learning more about the Wineries in Baja Mexico.
I attended a wine tasting workshop called “Guadalupe Valley, The Jewel of Baja Wine Country”, during this workshop I learned that we have an emerging and dynamic wine growing region, just south of the border. becoming more tourist friendly and maturing wine industry, it is emerging to eventually compete with the Temecula or Santa Ynez wine growing valleys.
My Experience while on a cruise
My first experience with Guadalupe Valley wines was almost three years ago when I went on a Carnival Cruise to Ensenada. The shore excursion that we took was the ATV ride and stopped at a local winery. What I didn’t know is that the Guadalupe Valley wine growing region was going through a little renaissance at the time.
Fast forward 4 years later and the region is now booming with wineries and tasting rooms popping up all over the valley along with high-end hotels and farm to table restaurants.
History of the Guadalupe Valley
Around In 1834, Dominican priests began growing grapes at the nearby Northern Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mission de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Norte), now known by the abbreviated name of the Guadalupe Valley (Valle de Guadalupe).
The valley continued to evolve with the first large scale winery in 1888, Bodegas Santo Tomas. In 1904, the region received an influx of immigrants from Russia who helped establish the valley as a wine producing region.
Although there has been wine production in the region since the 1800’s, wine has been produced on a large scale commercial basis during the 1990’s, with an original 12 wineries. Heavy tourism to the area began around 2005-2007 as word got out in the United Stated about the Guadalupe Valley. Even the cruise ships started organizing tours to the wineries.
After several years of bad press from cartel violence, the Baja wine growing region is once again gaining international interest. Fancy restaurants in Mexico city proudly feature Guadalupe Valley wines.
Grapes and wine making in the Guadalupe Valley
During the workshop at the Cancun Food and Wine Festival, I listened to the winemakers talk about the grapes and wine making process The wineries have discovered that warm weather grapes from Europe perform well in the valley including Spanish Tempranillo , Italian Nebbiolo, Grenache and the French Syrah. I also noticed that many of the blends use Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot as the base of their wines, these grapes also perform well a few hundred miles north in Southern California.
[quote style=”boxed”]“In Baja, Tradition and Innovation go hand and hand”[/quote]
The wine makers explained that they use their old world wine making methods although they could not rely on these skills alone. The terrior and climate has forced them to adapt, experiment and break rules with unorthodox combination of grapes. As a result of necessity, the region is known for experimentalism. According to veteran winemaker Camillo Magoni , “In Baja, Tradition and Innovation go hand and hand.”
Recently local winemakers have started to collaborate and figure out which grapes grow best in different parts of the valley with the goal of improving quality. In years past many of the winemakers were growing and blending for Bordioux style blends,” said Daniel Lonnberg, Winemaker for Adobe Guadalupe, “ although now you are starting to see more wines like Malbec.”
[quote]We are still defining our tradition[/quote]
In the words of Magoni, “We are still defining our tradition.” Winemaker Thomas Egli indicated that he thinks that Baja is about 10 years away from peaking as a world wine producing region.” I personally see that the Baja wine growing region is similar to Napa Valley in the late 1960’s, still evolving but on it’s way to greatness. One thing is for sure the valley is starting to develop its own wine personality.
Meet the Guadalupe winemakers who spoke at at Cancun Food and Wine Festival
Daniel Lonnberg Hume – Adobe Guadalupe – Daniel, who is originally from Chile, move to the Guadalupe Valley to apply his knowledge in this quickly evolving wine region. Chile’s wine growing climate is similar to California and Baja, so he is applying his knowledge and skills. He has worked with various Guadalupe wineries including under famous winemaker Hugo D’Acosta.
Thomas Egli – Paralelo Winery– Thomas studied enology in Switzerland and moved to the Guadalupe Valley to apply his skills in this up and coming region. Thomas embraces the challenges and experimental nature of winemaking in the Gaudalupe valley.
Camillo Magoni– L.A. Cetto Winery – Camillo is one of the Grandfathers of the Guadalupe Valley’s wine making business. He Immigrated from Italy as a young winemaker at an eager age of 25 to assist the Cetto Family is developing their wines using the old world techniques and knowledge of grapes. Camillo is considered to be one the foremost experts of the Guadalupe Valley Growing region.
Guadalupe Valley Wines I tasted
2009 Paralelo – Ensamble Colina
2010 Paralelo – Ensamble Arenal
Both of these wines from Paralelo winery are made from a mixture of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and together they form the main flavor profile of the wine. These two wines were developed in parallel with the same mixtures of adding Petit Syrah, Barbera and Zinfandel to add finishing flavors. The two wines differ by their soil and sun exposure.
Adobe Guadalupe Winery
2009 Adobe Guadalupe Gabriel – Gabriel is a regional favorite made with a blend of seventy percent Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Malbec. This wine had great complex fruit and leather flavors that I would find in wines on the Silverado trial in Napa.
2010 Adobe Guadalupe Rafael – Rafael is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Nebbiolo, aged 11 months in quality oak barrels. This wine was very similar to the Gabriel, atlhough this wine had a softer finish and a slight laquer aroma.
L.A. Cetto Winery
Angelo Cetto 2001
Angelo Cetto 2008
This is a delicious and very complex wine that is deep in ruby red color. Both The wine had aromas of violets, cherries and some leather. The wine had flavors of soft pepper, cherry and earth. The wine has a long, but elegant finish on the nose. The 2001 was a great year in the Guadalupe Valley and it showed in the the wine by presenting the fruit forward, more complex aromas and softer finish.
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