The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2015

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Page 58 of 140

58  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2015 WINE TRAVEL W hen you first taste it, perhaps your palate isn't ready. Wine from Mexico? Tequila yes, beer yes—but wine? One of the least-known wine regions in the world is a two-hour drive south of San Diego, in Baja California. This region is one of the New World's oldest wine-producing areas, dating back to the 18th century. Its mix of Old World tradi- tion and modern technology has made for some interesting and, in many cases, remarkable wines. A personal visit to the government-designated "Ruta del Vino" in Baja's Valle de Guadalupe (not far from coastal Ensenada) will give an interested wine lover much to ponder. The list of varieties grown here could make a DOC or AOC regulatory board member's head spin: Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Syrah, Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, Aglicanico, Grenache, Nero d' Avila and Sangiovese—varieties that in the Old World would be separated geographically by many miles and international borders. There are more than 100 small-scale independent wineries in Baja, and the list of Mexican wines available north of the border is expanding thanks to some dedicated U.S. importers. Common threads I found with all Baja winery owners and their importers are love of the soil, commitment to the bounty of this drought-ridden land and the connection of family. Many other labels are available through U.S. importers and reps, including Michelle Martain at La Misión Associates (, 951-294-7531); The Wine Source (, 310- 516-6452); Youseff Benjelloun at Volubilis Imports (; and The Other Wine Company ( Other wineries are currently seeking U.S. distribution. Special thanks to Fernando Gaxiola of Baja Wine + Food ( for his time and pas- sion in introducing us to this incredible wine region. Carneros? Think again! These vineyards are at Monte Xanic winery in Mexico's Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Down Mexico Way AN AMBITIOUS WINEMAKING MOVEMENT THRIVES IN BAJA CALIFORNIA by Rachel and David Michael Cane Some Standouts Monte Xanic (shan-EEK) is "the best kept secret in Mexico" according to partner/winemaker Hans Backhoff, whose intention is not to imitate other wines of the world, but to show off what Baja is capable of in his unique style. The C henin-Colombard is a great intro wine, while the Gran Ricardo, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, is a knock-out: rich and ripe, with an undertone of the salinity of the soil and an ethereal balance. Not far away is Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards & Inn, a venture of passion from horses to grapes. The spectacular wines, named after archangels—Serafiel, Gabriel, Kerubiel, Rafael—are red blends showcasing the art of Chilean winemaker Daniel Lonnberg and the passion of proprietor Dutch-born Tru Miller. Impeccable in every way, the winery offers romantic lodging in a unique setting and remark- able dining as well. Villa Montefiori expresses itself through Italian varietals as diverse as Italy itself. From an extraordinary wine called Nerone (100% Aglianico) to the Nebbiolo de Guadalupe (100% Nebbiolo), proprietor Paolo Paoloni Remia has carved out expressions of Piedmont, Tuscany and Campania under one roof. His wines are worth seeking out. PHOTO COURTESY OF MONTE XANIC

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