Saturday, March 08, 2008

Visit Monte Xanic

The highlight of my tour through the valley was a stop at Monte Xanic. As luck would have it, Backhoff was cooling off in the tasting room on this scorching hot day.

Backhoff is an old acquaintance. He and I have both judged at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and he came to San Diego a couple of years ago to judge at the San Diego International Wine Competition, where I am Director and Chief Judge.

He greeted me with a bit of a gleam in his eye, for he had a couple of special wines to share. Monte Xanic is well known for its Cabernet, its Bordeaux-style red and white blends and its Chardonnay.

On this day, Hans was on to something else.

"These are experimental wines, they are not for sale," he said.

One was a red blend of Aglianico and Nebbiolo, about 90 percent of it Aglianico. This is the most important red grape of southern Italy and produces a world class wine under the right circumstances.

"The Aglianico is doing beautifully," said Backhoff. "The cuttings came from a man locally."

The Nebbiolo Aglianico was exquisitely balanced and beautifully structured, a complex, world class red that's easily among the best wines I've ever tasted from Baja. The other wine that had Backhoff humming was a Petit Verdot, a gorgeous fruit bomb of a wine that reminded me of fresh blueberries.

"We usually blend this for color, but this was so good we had to bottle some on its own," said Hans.

I remember thinking as I left that I couldn't believe these two incredible wines were made in Mexico. Then I remembered my first visit to Monte Xanic many years ago. I went home with a bottle of Chardonnay and poured it during a blind tasting for a number of wine enthusiasts who met regularly at a local restaurant.

The Monte Xanic bested a stellar selection of French white Burgundies and California Chardonnays. As the winner was unbagged, one of the tasters, a confirmed Francophile, buried his face in his hands and cried: 'I don't believe I voted for a wine from Mexico over the Puligny-Montrachet!'
Source Robert Whitley

Visit LA Cetto

L.A. Cetto, well run and with high standards despite its size, was a different experience. Its tasting room and picnic grounds were teeming with tourists, but despite the crowd the staff remained in good humor and extremely helpful.

Much to my surprise Cetto poured an excellent Viognier, a white wine made famous in France's Rhone Valley. A Cabernet Sauvignon, a red Bordeaux-style blend and a Rose of Cabernet were all first-rate, too. I purchased a bottle of the L.A. Cetto Nebbiolo to take home. Though impossible to find in the U.S., I did run across this wine once in a wine bar in Paris. It's probably the finest Nebbiolo I've ever tasted outside of Italy.

Source Robert Whitley