Friday, October 31, 2008

Ruta del Vino: Wine Route from Tecate to Ensenada

The wine route, or the Ruta del Vino, can be traveled from Tecate in the north to Ensenada in the south, or vice versa. In either direction the acres of vineyards, quaint wineries, and friendly locals will urge you to stay in this undiscovered stretch of wine country that rivals the growing conditions of Napa Valley.

Continues here:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bordeaux in Baja - Chateaux Camou

Bordeaux in Baja - Chateaux Camou

How many people in their 40s dream about what they would like to do when they retire (@ 65+/-) and pull it off right on schedule? Ernesto Alvarez-Morphy did just that, promising to fulfill a life-long dream, when, in his mid-forties, he determined that upon retirement, he would own a winery. In 1986 he made his move on time. Combining forces with several Mexican businessmen, he purchased an existing vineyard in the Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe which had been planted in 1937.

The goal? Nothing less than world class wine! Anything less was not an option.

Now the hard work began. Six months later, a winery in the California mission style architecture was built overlooking the vineyards. After studying the soils and vines, the plan became to graft 60 acres and to reseed another 30 acres with the so-called “noble” French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

The area was settled by Russian immigrants early in the 19th century, who dry farmed wheat and some still call the area “Valle de Trigo”, or Valley of Wheat. We didn’t see any wheat, but there are a lot of Russian surnames about.

Ch. Camou sits in what is called Canada del Trigo, surrounded by about 95 acres of Bordeaux style grape vines. Production is in the hands of winemaker Victor Manuel Torres Alegre, who trained at the University of Bordeaux. Michel Rolland, a Bordeaux winemaker, has been a consultant at the winery since 1995.

There are three levels of wine at Camou. Leading off at the top is the El Gran Vino Tinto, a classic Bordeaux/Meritage blend of Cab, Merlot, and Cab Franc. After fermentation, it spends about three months in used oak barrels, then into new French oak for about 15 months. The Vinas de Camou line includes a “Fume” blanc (Sauvignon Blanc) and a Chardonnay. The Flor de Guadalupe is the “value” line, and includes a Zinfandel, a Blanc de Blanc, and a “Clarete” (a Bordeaux blend). The Zin is from purchased grapes, and is blended with a tad of Cab, and a smidgen of Cab Franc. Bordeaux-heads will love these wines, with their complexity, restraint, balance, and power.

Alvarez-Morphy feels he has achieved his dream of world class wines. With gold medals from the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles in 2000, highest honors in “Wines of the Americas”, and “Challenge International de Vin”, Camou is hitting on all cylinders!

The history of Ch. Camou shows how small-to-medium producers are taking the wine making art in Mexico to new levels.

Federico Valentine had no idea what awaiting him when, clutching his 1874 edition of “Traite Sur Le Vin” (Treatise on Wine), he fled post war France in 1919 to seek his fortune in the New World. Arriving first in New York, he later got a job on the railroads in Mexicali, Mexico. Moving to Tijuana, he met and married the comely Guadalupe.

With her family’s help, the newlyweds bought a small ranch near Ensenada. No High Chaparral, it had no electricity, water, or paved roads. It had “honeymoon” written all over it! Undaunted, they began raising vegetables and cattle. He sold his wares from a small cart door-to-door. Behind the little ranch house, and being ever the good Frenchman, Federico planted a small vineyard, and, using his handbook as a guide, he made the good juice for his family’s use. He had a small wooden vat in which he pressed the grapes with his own feet.

Volume increased and so did the family. Federico’s sons Hector and Gontran opened a general store in Ensenada, selling all sorts of vegetables. Years later, Federico’s daughter married Fernando Martain, who happened to be the head of production at Bodegas de Santo Tomas, another up and coming winery in the Valle (we’ll have a look at Santo Tomas in a future article).

The family had been discussing the idea of creating a family winery, so they decided to “take the plunge”. Things began slowly and very low-tech. Wine was produced in an old garage with rustic, manually operated equipment. The whole family pitched in. Cavas Valmar was born, and off and, if not running, walking. The first production came in 1985 with a whopping 350 cases of a wide scope of varietals: Barbera, Muscatel, Lambrusco, and Nebbiolo, to name a few. With the profits, they began to upgrade the equipment and expand production. Today, production has hit about 2000 cases coming out of about 50 acres of vineyards.

Cavas Valmar is dedicated to pushing the envelope on winemaking in Mexico. They take pride in the fact that their wines reflect the “terroir” (the unique characteristics that the soil in which the grape vines are grown impart to the grapes) of the Valle and have minimal human intervention. In this way they avoid standardization of their production and allow Mother Nature to express herself through each vintage.

Source: Baja Wine

Friday, October 24, 2008

La Finca de Ensenada: A Taste of Mexican Lifestyle and Culture

by Lisa Shannon

One simple word sums up this incredible restaurant: atmosphere. The tables are set with elegant tablecloths and silverware, as well as a welcoming glass for your favorite wine. The staff is also pleasant and well-dressed, promising a quality dining experience. Mornings at La Finca are probably the most interesting of all, as business people congregate here for breakfast, socializing jovially with their co-workers before the workday begins. The parking lot is packed with BMWs, Mercedes, and Nissans, attesting to the fact that a wide range of business people choose La Finca as the backdrop to their morning ritual. While everyone enjoys their omelets and steak and eggs, a crew of car washers feverishly details the vehicles in the parking area. The contrast between the frenetic workers outside and the relaxed ambiance of the restaurant’s interior is truly amazing to behold.

Evenings at La Finca are characterized by mellow music, romantic lighting and a fine dining experience. The most coveted seating is close to the fireplace (most favorable in Ensenada’s winter months), where you can cozy up to a bottle of Guadalupe Valley’s finest wines with someone special. The steaks are exquisite and the service is impeccable.

In addition to providing a wonderful personal dining experience, the restaurant is equipped to handle large parties for dinner conferences or receptions. It is recommended, of course, that large groups call for reservations.

This local establishment defines what a quality dining experience should be. La Finca is located two blocks south of The Corona Hotel on the main boulevard. Call (646) 172-5833 for reservations.

Mexican Wines to be Featured at San Diego Bay Wine Event (3/3)

Another examples of the many interesting classes and events are: Arousing the Senses with Chocolate & Vino featuring Master Chef Michael Antonorsi of Chuao Chocolatier held on November 13th, Find the Opus, featuring wine expert John Alonge and the world’s best sake tasting to be held on Friday, November 14th. For more information about these and many more events visit or call Michelle at (858) 578-9463 in San Diego.

Don’t miss this premier wine and gourmet food event on the beautiful harbor side in San Diego. Two events I never miss are the Reserve Tasting on Friday November 14th and the Grand Tasting event on Saturday November 15th. The cooking classes are fun and exciting, the food and wine selections ~ are just incredible. This is probably the best way to discover the region’s best chefs, some of the world’s better wines and see who else is out there enjoying the food and wine culture. Pace yourselves, and enjoy one of the best food and wine shows in the region. See you there...

Steve Dryden is a wine, food and travel writer living in Guadalupe Valley, where he guides private and small group van tours. He can be reached at:

Mexican Wines to be Featured at San Diego Bay Wine Event (2/3)

Some of the featured winemakers will be: Jon Emmerich, winemaker for Silverado Vineyards, Bart Barthe´lemy, winemaker for St. Barthe´lemy Cellars, Tyler Heck, winemaker at John Tyler Wines, Stephen Kroener winemaker/owner of Silver Horse Winery, Michael Richmond, winemaker for Bouchaine Vineyard, Etienne Cowper, winemaker at Wilson Creek Winery, Marketta Fourmeaux, winemaker at Chateau Potelle, Diana Snowden Seysses, winemaker at Snowden Vineyards, Steve Tamburelli, Director of Finance and Sales for Chappellet Winery, Amanda Cramer, winemaker for Niner Wine Estates, David Hopkins, winemaker at Bridlewood Winery, Justin Kahler, winemaker for Calcareous Vineyard, Jeff Ritchey, winemaker at Sensorium Wines, Steve Goldman, winemaker at Steven's Cellar, Alan & Mariela Viader, winemakers for Viader Vineyards, Kevin Hall, winemaker at Alexander Valley Vineyards, Louis de Coninck, winemaker/owner of Beaucanon Estate, Bryan Del Bondio, President of Markham Vineyards, Jack Cole, winemaker for Spring Mountain Vineyards, Dan Kleck, winemaker for Donati Family Vineyards, Andrew & Laurel Quady, winemakers/owners of Quady Winery, Dean De Korth, winemaker at Bernardus Winery, Bret Engelmann, winemaker/owner of Engelmann Cellars, Kathleen Inman, winemaker/owner of Inman Family Winery, Scott Peterson, winemaker at Joseph Family Vineyards, Bryan Kane, winemaker for Vie Winery, Al Perry, winemaker at Robert Biale Vineyards, Greg Gallagher, winemaker for Pope Valley Winery, Gove Celio, winemaker of Neal Family Vineyards, and Paul Tanguay, the Sake Ambassador.

Regional and national chefs making an appearance are: Gavin Kaysen, Executive Chef at Cafe Boulud in New York, Bernard Guillas, Executive Chef at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Sondra Bernstein, Executive Chef/Owner of The Girl & The Fig, Jimmy Schmidt, Executive Chef/Owner at Rattlesnake, Brian Malarkey, Executive Chef at Oceanaire, Richard Blais, Top Chef at Chicago, Casey Thompson, Top Chef for Shensei, Sam Zien known locally as Sam The Cooking Guy, Jeff Rossman, Executive Chef at Terra, Walter Manikowski, Executive Chef at Dussini, Michael Antonorsi. Master Chef for Chuao Chocolatier, Scott Wagner, Executive Chef at ChileCo Catering, Stephen Window, Executive Chef at Roppongi, Jeff Moogk, Executive Chef for Ladeki Restaurant Group, Gary Thompson, Executive Chef for Viejas Casino, Thomas McAliney, Executive Chef for Brandt Beef, Bridget Bueche, Executive Chef at Sub Zero Wolf West, Michael Rubino, Executive Chef at Napa Valley Grille, Thierry Cahez, Executive Chef for Paradise Point Resort, Damon Gordon, Executive Chef at Quarter Kitchen, Jason Knibb, Executive Chef at Nine Ten, Sarah Likenheil, Executive Chef of Sally's Seafood on the Water, Jason Marcus, Executive Chef for Red Pearl Kitchen, Matt Gordon, Executive at Chef Urban Solace, Rhy Wadington, Executive Chef at Bondi, Augustine Saucedo, Chef de Cusine at The Shores Restaurant, Vikki Nulman, Executive Chef Sol Cafe, NM., Kurt Metzger, Executive Chef for Concept Catering by CK, Christopher Gardner, Executive Chef at Flemming's Steakhouse, Wade Hageman, Executive Chef at Blanca Restaurant, Patrizio Sacchetto, Executive Chef for Oasis Bar & Grill, Deborah Scott, Executive Chef at Kemo Sabe, Indigo Grill, Elaine Ardizzone, Chef/Co-Owner Sweet Cheeks Bakery Co, Clay Bordon, Executive Chef at Clay's in La Jolla, David Warner, Executive Chef for Tower 23, Jefery Williams, Sous Chef at Rice at W Hotel, Joe Magnanelli, Chef de Cuisine for Laurel, Tony DiSalvo, Executive Chef at Jack's in La Jolla, Yves Fournier, Executive Chef for Pastries at Home, Marc Brislin, Executive Chef for Blue Wave, Dave Meade, Head Chef at Nobu, Teruya Noriyoshi, Head Sushi Chef for Nobu San Diego, Brian Rutherford, Executive Chef at Pinanfirina in the Keating Hotel, and Chris Kurth, Chef de Cuisine at the famous Grant Grill in downtown San Diego.

(to be continued)

Mexican Wines to be Featured at San Diego Bay Wine Event (1/3)

by Steve Dryden

One of my favorite annual wine and food events takes place from November 12th thru the 16th, along the beautiful harbor of San Diego Bay. I love this event because it features local, regional and national wine from Mexico and the western United States. In addition, it exposes Mexican wine to over 6,000 wine lovers and consumers that live within easy driving distance of our premier wine country, and allows us from Mexico a convenient opportunity to sample some of the best wines coming from US wine producers.

The Baja California premier wineries featured will be: L.A. Cetto, Cavas Valmar ,Chateau Camou, Bodegas San Rafael, Vin˜a de Liceaga, and Vinisterra, along with micro-brewed beer from Tijuana Brewery and Cucapah Brewery. Baja California restaurants in attendance are some of our region’s best: Villa Saverios Restaurant ~ Casa Plascencia Restaurant of Tijuana, La Querencia Restaurant of Tijuana, El Olivo Restaurant of Ensenada and El Asao Restaurant of Tecate. Copies of food and wine articles from The Baja Times will be available at the Baja California pavilion.

This amazing wine and food event features over 700 wineries, 60 of San Diego’s top fine dining restaurants, 30 gourmet food companies and many other exhibitors. Several palate pleasing events include presentations of gourmet foods, celebrity chefs, wine dinners, cooking classes, wine tasting classes, olive oil competition, live and silent auctions, personalities and “way too much” premium wine and gourmet food.

Endorsed as a “must do” event by the Baja Times, The Guadalupe Grapevine and other lesser known publications to include: voted one of California's top food festivals by the Los Angeles Times, ranked top 100 Southern California Events by BizBash Magazine and listed among top U.S. Wine & Food Festivals on One thing is certain, the diversity of food and wine selections are enormous and marvelous ~ there is something here to make everyone happy and content! The 5th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is an international showcase of the world's premier wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities, and gourmet foods with part of the proceeds used to benefit the American Institute of Wine & Food culinary arts scholarship program.

(to be continued)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Terrific Mexican Wine........Who knew?

As a fairly recent transplant from north of the border, I was seriously concerned as to how to satisfy my wine habit here in my new home. After all, who’d ever heard of a “good Mexican wine”? An oxymoron, to be sure!

However, a chance meeting in the lovely courtyard of an old house-turned-restaurant soon proved those fears to be unfounded. Oh, don’t get me wrong….there is plenty of Mexican plonk out there. It’s just that there is also world-class (NOT a typo) vino being made here if you know where to look.

A little background is in order. Just about everyone knows how grape rootstock was brought to the Americas by the Spanish missionaries, planted here, and that’s pretty much how things got started. But did you know Mexico is actually the oldest (450 years) wine producing country in the Americas?

Legend has it that Hernan Cortez, and his men exhausted their wine supply when celebrating the conquest of the Aztecs in the 1500s, (all that conquesting makes for a heavy thirst!) so as first governor of these new lands, ordered the new colonists to plant 1000 grapevines for every 100 natives in their service. What a guy! That couldn’t have been a hard sell, because wine had been an indispensable part of the daily life of the colonists in Spain, and that wasn’t about to change when they arrived in “New Spain” (certainly understandable!).

The grapes did so well that in 1531, Charles I decreed that all ships sailing to New Spain carry grapevines and olive trees to be planted here. The wine produced from these vines eventually became too good for their own good, however. The quality improved so much that wine exports from Spain to their new colony dropped dramatically. So much so that, in 1595, Phillip II decreed that ALL wine production in New Spain be terminated. It seems that Spanish wine producers and distributors were being squeezed just a little too much! (Not the first time a government sticks its nose into the free market!). The Crown’s local representatives, the Viceroys, strove to implement the 1595 decree eliminating wine production, but sometimes you just can’t keep a good idea down! Despite howls of protest from Spanish wine interests, vine cultivation, while limited, was here to stay, thanks mainly to the missionaries who maintained wine was necessary to perform religious ceremonies. When there is a will there is a way!

Article continues here:

Wine or Beer to go with Mole Poblano?

I love making Mole Poblano, the wonderful classical Mexican chile/chocolate dish, when I can, which isn't terribly often. (I live in Denmark, and the chile scene here is depressing.)

And yet, I have NEVER worked out what kind of wine or beer would go best with this dish. Does anyone have any good suggestions?

I've toyed with porter, and some red wines, but without too much success. I'm an enjoyer though not a connoisseur of either wine or beer. And I KNOW I won't be able to get advice from my local wine merchants on this one. I'm very grateful for any ideas!

Reactions and opinions continue here:

Looking for mexican wineries with hotel accomodations


I am visiting Mexico next April and wondered if you know of any wineries that have hotels or accommodation that I could stay at?

Many thanks


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Little Taste of Baja in a Bottle

With May approaching, we don our sombreros as we head south of the border for the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. While margaritas and beer are the typical beverages of choice, wine also offers an interesting pairing with Mexican cuisine.

As winter continued to linger, my wife and I recently fled to Mexico for a warm change of pace. Besides better weather, Mexico offers world-class culture and cuisine. Mexico has significant history behind its wine industry, as it has the oldest wineries in the new world. The Spaniards established grape growing and wineries in the sixteenth century, as they colonized this part of the new world. The majority of grapes were used for brandy production and food, with a small amount used to make table wine.

Two important wine regions today are Aquascalientes on the northeastern gulf side and the Baja Peninsula on the northwest side of Mexico. Both have ideal, Mediterranean-style climates for grape growing. The days are hot and the ocean breeze cools the grape crops at night, allowing the sugars to develop while preserving the grape’s acidity levels.

While dining, we tried Mexican and South American wines with our meals. Some of our favorite Mexican wines included Chateau Camou’s Vino Blanco, Monte Xanic’s Chenin Colombard and L.A. Cetto’s Chardonnay. These wines are all produced on the Baja Peninsula, along the Pacific coast. Delighted with these new wine discoveries, we looked in our favorite wine stores when we returned. Unfortunately, Mexican wine production is low, and these brands are not yet established in the Midwest. However, you may run across these wines when you visit the American Southwest, southern California or Mexico.


Wine viticulture in Northern Baja

By Gill Billy

Mexico is a diverse and mostly arid country with several areas appropriate for vineyards. Mexican commercial winemaking dates from the 16th century and now is producing several very good wines at competitive prices. In the past few years, the country's leading wineries have collected an impressive array of accolades, gaining a following among wine lovers excited by the prospect of finding excellent vintages in unexpected places. Visitors to Baja California’s beaches and marinas find its wine country a pleasant side trip while visiting the beautiful seaside town of Ensenada, 90 miles south of San Diego. Ensenada’s Vendimia Wine Festival in August is annually eagerly awaited and better hotels and yacht marinas partner local wines with wine tours year-round.

The vineyards are situated in coastal valleys on the western side of the long narrow Baja peninsula, facing the Pacific Ocean. The main production area is close to the American border south of San Diego. This region has become the leader in reviving the reputation of Mexican wines. 95 percent of Mexican quality wine comes from northern Baja California, centering around Ensenada. The three wine-producing sub regions, all located within 60 miles of Pacific coast, from north to south are the Valleys of Calafia and Guadalupe, San Antonio de las Minas, and the Santo Tomás Valley and San Vincente Valley. For the last thirty years new generations of ambitious vintners have been laboring to finally put Mexico on the winemaking map. Having decided that the time has come to develop a proper wine industry that competes with California and even France, they have begun to produce a number of surprisingly good table wines. These are accumulating good reviews, international awards and serious export interest.

The major winegrowing sub regions all lie close to the Pacific Ocean where they can benefit from the cooling ocean breezes and mists. Hot days and cool nights is a classic winegrowing combination throughout the world, allowing grapes to develop their sugars without a corresponding drop in acidity. The climate is classically Mediterranean, with low winter rainfall followed by a dry spring and hot summer. Pacific breezes and regular coastal fog make some of the coastal valleys less torrid than latitude would suggest, and several cooler micro-climates have a dependable humidity around 80%. Vines are supported by drip irrigation. All the wine producing valleys feature a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite. The Guadalupe Valley and especially its neighbor the Calafia Valley have become the most well-known appellations so far, although the term “appellation” may be a stretch, as the Mexican government seems even less interested in regulating wine than the Mexicans are in drinking it. Nonetheless, most producers do try to label their wines in accordance with U.S. and European standards to avoid difficulties in the important export market.

Conquistador-turned-governor Hernan Cortez commanded his Spanish colonial subjects to cultivate grapevines as early as 1524, but the name of Mexico has never been associated with memorable vintages. Although winemaking in the former "kingdom of New Spain", now Mexico (or the remains of it, after the American annexation of California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas in 1847), dates from the early 16th century, the altitude and climate in this country, in general, is not well suited to viticulture. Jug wines have been cheap and justifiably maligned. Yearly Mexican wine consumption has been under half a bottle per person, compared to two gallons in the United States and as much as twelve gallons in Argentina. The preferred drinks, of course, are tequila, rum and beer. Still, the country has never had trouble growing grapes to serve fresh, dry into raisins, or distill. The large brandy industry is the most important in Latin America, and Domecq's Presidente brand is one of the world's best-sellers.

The Mexican fine wine industry is still in its infancy, but results so far are promising. For wine lovers right now the challenge is twofold: identifying what these up-and-coming wineries do best, and then locating their wines. Production and export are small, and they are more likely to be found in better urban restaurants than in retail shops. Naturally, Mexican vintners are hoping this will soon change. Mexican labels are simple, giving brand, producer, and vintage. Varietal types are often indicated, but this is optional. The best wines, “reservas” or "reservas privadas" are more likely to be made with modern and traditional winemaking techniques in a dry modern style that emphasizes fruit.

While the region may not be ready to take on the best of Bordeaux, the wines of Mexico’s Baja region are coming into their own. An influx of European vintners looking for affordable vineyard property has sparked the recent growth of an area in which grapes have been cultivated for centuries. Mexican wines are well worth trying, and have begun to lure vacationers to the source.

Source: Baja Wine

Viñedos Malagon: Finding Gold in Francisco Zarco (3/3)

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

Nathan and Durant have teamed-up to create some awesome wines. Nathan is so intensely focused on creating high quality wine that he sleeps in the winery during fermentation so he can push down the caps himself and monitor every step of the process! Jose Luis Durant is one of Mexico’s top creative wine artisans. These two young and ambitious “ vino desperadoes” have created three phenomenal wines. Their 2006 Equua is a magical blend of 70% old vine Grenache and 30% Petite Sirah, aged in oak barrels for 12 months, retails for $350 ps. They’ll be releasing the 2007 Equua in about one month with a slightly different blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Petite Sirah, retails for $350 ps. It’s very distinct, rich, full of character, and of excellent quality. The 2007 Reserva is their most elegant wine, an outstanding blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% old vine Grenache, 14% Petite Sirah, and 6% Merlot, aged in new French oak barrels for 12 months, retails for $650 ps.

These remarkable wines can be enjoyed in their charming tasting room, decorated with classic Spanish-style handmade furniture located in a 110 year old reconstructed adobe Russian house. The tasting room consists of a small wine bar and staffed kitchen, two separate rooms with sitting areas, as well as two separate patios where you can enjoy wine and cheese platter service. Tastings are by appointment only and are for a maximum of 8 people per tasting. Van tours are available, guided by either Nathan himself or a local wine writer for the Baja Times.

The bed and breakfast facility is one of the most charming settings in the valley. Centered in a courtyard that features a cantina, private kitchen and dinning area with fireplace is most attractive and addictive. Visitors can cook their own meals in the fully stocked kitchen or have a local chef cater to their gourmet culinary desires. A 36 inch plasma television with Direct TV satellite and original handmade furniture compliment the dinning area. Four deluxe room options are available to meet your specific needs.The suite named the “Grenache Suite” features one queen bed, large private bathroom and spacious living room area with sofa. This room also features a private patio looking out into the beautiful private gardens. The “Green Room” includes one queen size bed, private bathroom and balcony with a sitting area offering a majestic view of the mountain range. The “Blue Room” includes two full size beds with one private bathroom and balcony with sitting area featuring a view of the mountain range. Many guests rent the entire complex to host family, friends and clients. Be warned that one visit to this amazing B&B maybe the beginning of a long term relationship with the ranch, the friendly Malagon family and their incredible wines.
Visit their web site for details, directions and reservation information. The Malagon family is generous in sharing their traditional family values along with their love of the valley. Come and explore their award-winning wine and discover the beauty and depth of quality old vine Grenache wine and more! With the future of Mexican wines in the hands of young and ambitious ““vino desperadoes” such as Nathan Malagon and Jose Luis Durant ~ the possibilities are endless....

Steve Dryden is a wine, food and travel writer living in Guadalupe Valley where he guides private and small group wine tours. He can be reached at:

Viñedos Malagon: Finding Gold in Francisco Zarco !2/3)

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

Nathan Malagon, ranch manager, dedicated host, and winemaker is the son of Jose Luis Malagon. His enthusiasm and passion for every aspect of the ranch operation is remarkable. He is among a handful of locals who fully understand and promote the old style of traditional California hospitality. Nathan spent much time growing up on the ranch among family, friends and nature, so when the opportunity presented itself, he felt that living on the ranch in a natural setting with unlimited possibilities was exactly what he had envisioned for himself. Today, he has taken his vision to superb levels of fruition by creating premium wine is a bed and breakfast setting with “world class” ambiance. Nathan came to Valle de Guadalupe armed with skills in traditional hospitality, knowledge in nursery and landscape technology, and experience in the food and wine industry gained by working at Wolf Gang Pucks Cafe Express in Orange County. The Austrian-born Puck is famous for restaurants like Spago, the Hollywood restaurant he opened in 1982, and other high-end restaurants in San Francisco and Las Vegas. The Puck Express concept was originally designed for airports, college campuses and amusement centers. The restaurants were centered around a large, open pizza oven, and also offered catering and takeout. Nathan was exposed to the culinary arts and some of the world’s best wines while working with Puck.

One of the first winemakers in Valle de Guadalupe to explore the old vine Grenache grapes at Rancho Malagon was Jose Luis Durant, Chilean oenologist, then the winemaker for Pedro Domecq. Soon, a relationship developed between Durant, the Malagon family and the vineyards that continues to this day. Jose is the current winemaker and consultant for Viñedos Malagon. He came to México in the year 2000 to work at the Casa Pedro Domecq vineyards and now owns his own wine company: Sinergi-VT. His natural talent for creating superb wines from Mexico has made him well known and much respected in the region. In addition to working for Viñedos Malagon, he works for local wineries Agrifolia and Norte 32, and owns a partnership in the winery: Vinos y Terruños, Icaro.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Viñedos Malagon: Finding Gold in Francisco Zarco

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

Rancho Malagon or Viñedos Malagon is a “hidden jewel” located in the village of Francisco Zarco in Valle de Guadalupe. This family owned 400 acre ranch, vineyards, winery, bed and breakfast gets a gold medal for hospitality, first class service, romantic ambiance, hidden location, and for creating fantastic wine. In fact, one of their three premium wines won a gold this year in the 16th International Wine Competition in Ensenada and their 2006 Reserva received 92 points from Wine Spectator magazine. Until recently this amazing private estate has been “a little known haven” for selected friends and members of the Malagon family whose relatives have owned the property for several generations. One would never have guessed that such a special ranch exists behind the village of Francisco Zarco where lucky guests experience a stunning setting with valley and mountain views, an abundance of natural beauty, blessed with wealth of peace and tranquility.

The ranch was originally a Russian homestead established in the early 1900’s by Molokan settlers. In 2000 Jose Luis Malagon purchased the ranch from relatives with the vision of creating premium wine crafted from old vine Grenache grapes planted over fifty years ago on his property. Over the years, with the help of his wife, children and friends the Malagons have created the perfect Baja California retreat and getaway complete with a hacienda-style compound featuring a family bar, dinning room with fireplace, and a four unit bead and breakfast complex. The ranch reflects the traditional values cherished by the Malagon family and showcases their respect for nature, conservation, preservation of the land and the Baja California ranch lifestyle. And, somehow their wines seem to capture that same essence via the expression of the old vine roots that are deeply woven into the native soil of the valley, transforming mature fruit into rich, complex wine that speaks volumes about the strength and determination of the abandoned vines, who waited patiently for decades for someone to discover their palate pleasing treasures. Thankfully two local “vino desperadoes” Nathan Malagon and Jose Luis Durant came to their rescue with lots of TLC, and the rest is now Baja California history in the making.

Continued soon ...