One of the best kept secrets of the wine world is the fact that there is a steadily growing high-quality wine industry right across the US border in Baja, Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, just outside Ensenada. Owing to Mexican government export tariffs favoring tequilas, and a general disbelief in Mexican dedication to quality, most of these wines never make it out of their country. But things are changing, aided by growing attention to the Valle de Guadalupe’s annual Fiestas de la Vendimia every August. I got the opportunity to visit one of the top producers, Monte Xanic, and taste many of its competitors during a crush season visit a few months ago for a story in The Tasting Panel. Here are some candid photos (many taken by Kelly Duckhorn) from the visit. Xanic owner Hans Backhoff Sr, Jr, Viticulturalist Kelly Maher and consulting winemaker Scott McLeod are depicted most prominently :
Had a chance to attend the Paso Robles Grand Tasting on March 2 in downtown LA’s unique former cathedral Vibiana—and I have to admit, I was a bit unprepared for the sheer number of wineries represented. Though Saxum (on the cover of the current Wine Spectator) was missing, there were dozens of others, some well established (J. Lohr), others total mom-n-pop operations with case numbers in the three digits. PR has been slowly but steadily gaining ground as a respected wine region, with widely varying potential, and what I tasted reflected that diversity of product and approach.
It would’ve been impossible for me to taste everything and not lose my palate—even if there was enough time—but I did manage to sample a fairly random selection (with some guidance from fellow winemakers).
In general, at tastings, I tend to look more for strong identities, personalities and expressions of terroir over quintessential expressions of style. I find the latter to be far too subjective, especially in a “tasting” environment. But that’s just me.
Here are a few highlights.
Adelaida ’08 Grenache: bright berry flavors with strong acid and a dry finish.
Also enjoyed their ’08 Version Red blend (Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise)
Alta Colina ’08 Toasted Slope (92% Syrah with Viognier, Mourvedre, Grenache) –aptly named deep red with ashy, cigar, mineral notes. Would make an interesting BBQ pairing.
Also enjoyed their ’08 GSM, chewy with strong tannins, dried herbals and fresh tobacco’ and their ’08 Claudia Cuvee, a smooth foody white
Calcerous ’07 Meritage (CS, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec): a big, earthy fruit nose leads to a more delicate, very nicely balanced harvest fruit/chocolate palate with quite a dry finish
Caliza ’07 Syrah: a very balanced, direct expression of the grape
Also enjoyed their ’07 Companion (50/50 CS, Syrah), dangerously drinkable
Kukkula ’07 Sisu (GSM): savory-juicy blackberry, anise and a little floral
L’Aventure ’08 Cote a Cote (GSM): all I wrote was “smooth as a baby’s bottom” – particularly impressive as it’s high alcohol at 15.9%.
Lone Madrone ’08 Points West White (85% Roussanne withViognier and Picpoul Blanc): A rich deep white, balanced but finishing dry. Probably fantastic for vegetarian Indian food.
Also enjoyed their ’07 Bailey Ranch Zin (cherry, peppers), ’07 Points West Red (juicy with strong tannins) and ’07 The Will (Grenache, Petite Syrah, Zin) [I confess I spent more time at this table than others, only partially because their pourer Amanda was so adorable]
Minassian-Young ’07 Mourvedre-Syrah: drinkably lush, big plum and harvest fruit notes with a little leather
Also enjoyed their ’09 Estate Zin (sweet but dry, good for BBQ)… Impressive young mom-n-pop shop.
Silver Horse ’08 Estate Malbec: tart plum/green tomato and cherry, a lively expression of the grape
Tablas Creek ’10 Rose: strawberries and tropicals with a dry finish. Brunch me!
www.pasowine.com for more info