Monday, December 29, 2008
Mexican wine visits Bay Area
A growing number of Mexicans and Mexican Americans are enjoying wine, though if you want to enjoy Mexican wine you have to travel to Mexico. A recent event in Napa gave Bay Area people a rare taste of Mexican wine, which is not available in Northern California. The event, hosted at COPIA, attracted more than 500 people who sampled wine from 14 Mexican wineries.
All of the wineries at the event are located in the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, where most of Mexico's wine is produced. The wine-growing region 67 miles southeast of San Diego has a long history of winemaking dating back almost 200 years. First settled by the Kiliwa and Kumiai native people, Spanish missionaries, settlers from other parts of Mexico, and immigrants from Russia and Europe created the unique character of the valley. Today the wine region is home to 27 wineries, ranging from small family operations to the largest, L.A. Cetto, which produces 600,000 cases a year and exports to 26 countries.
The Napa event also featured Mexican food, musical performances, and a panel of winemakers from both the Napa Valley and the Guadalupe Valley to address the question, "Is Guadalupe Valley the Napa Valley of the 1970s?" Future growth of the Guadalupe Valley and its wines was discussed in relation to the strict regulations the United States (especially California) and Mexico has on importing alcohol. Current laws greatly limit the importing of wines between the two countries, whether by distributors or individuals. Many people visiting Mexico would like to see higher limits on the alcoholic beverages they are allowed to bring home. Currently, California residents can bring only one liter of wine back from Mexico.
While L.A. Cetto and a few other large wineries export their wines, the Baja wineries are not very interested in becoming large, global brands. The great interest in Mexican wines among Bay Area people is probably not enough for the wineries to work through government regulations and expand their production for export to more markets. Like many smaller winemakers in California, the Baja winemakers say that they aren't willing to compromise their wine or their business in order to compete in larger markets. For Bay Area wine lovers, a trip to Baja may be the only way to satisfy their curiosity and taste.