The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2013

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Page 146 of 149

Gravity-flow tanks at modern Hacienda la Lomita. will drop $80 for a Bordeaux blend from Baja but many of the wines I sampled were under $40 and represented comprehensive bang for the buck. And the potential within Mexico is huge: Only 30 percent of wine purchased in Mexico is Mexican wine. The dominant wines are from Spain, Chile, Argentina and, to a lesser degree, the U.S. Mexican exports are another matter. Most wineries do not make enough wine to send across the border. Adobe Guadalupe, Villa Montefiori and Hacienda La Lomita for example export about two percent of their production to California retailers and some restaurants, and a smaller amount to Texas. "It's more of a hobby to export to the U.S. because Wines from Villa Montefiori. we can sell all our wine currently in Mexico City," says La Lomita owner Fernando Perez Castro. But Castro understands the necessity of a future American market, as does Las Nubes, who will begin exporting wine this year. La Lomita and its modern, holistic tasting room reflect the changes underway in Baja. A three-story gravity-fed open-air facility perched on a hill, this certified organic winery uses native yeasts and estate fruit to craft wines that can rival those of California. Aiming for production of 4,000 cases, one of their flagship wines is Pagano, a beautiful Grenache from 55 year-old vines. Villa Montefiori's focus on estate-grown Italian varieties, using rootstock from France and Italy. Located six miles from the ocean at 1,300 feet, they have 12 varieties in the ground, including Nebbiolo, Barbera and Tempranillo, and their 2011 Brunello is one of their best efforts. Overall Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from hillside locations usually produce better quality fruit than valley floor plantings. In spite of compelling wines the Guadalupe Valley faces many hurdles. Taxes for wineries within Mexico are as high as 40 percent. California enforces a punitive law allowing residents to cross the border into the state with only one liter of wine. There is little research of clonal rootstock, and real estate development is beginning to drive up land prices. But the single dominant issue is water. What little water exists is subject to salinity—as evidenced in some of the wines I tasted. Miller told me he ripped out his Syrah because the briny water killed it, and he replanted using rootstock resistant to the salt. There is no aquifer in the Valley and no reservoirs therefore rainfall, averaging 8–10 inches annually, flows freely to the ocean. But both Mexicans and Americans are visiting the Guadalupe Valley in ever-greater numbers and the Valley stands at a crossroads, pondering its next, crucial move. Victor Segura sums it up as he surveys his own field of dreams from his stunning stone winery. "If you build it, they will come," he says. Hacienda la Lomit's Pagano is made from 55-year-old Grenache vines. july 2013  /  the tasting panel  /  145 TP0713_100-148.indd 145 6/24/13 6:05 PM

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