Monday, May 18, 2009

California Winemaking Began in Mexico Centuries Ago.

By David Mandich

Angel Salinas is the sommelier at Don Emiliano restaurant in San Jose del Cabo (near Cabo San Lucas, Baja California) and a member of the International Slow Food Association - a movement that began in Italy 16 years ago to counteract the fast food industry. Members promote regional cuisine, local farmers and fine dining with family and friends in an unhurried environment. Senor Salinas' passion for Mexican wine, 85% of which is grown in the Guadalupe Valley of Northern Baja California, fits perfectly with Slow Food's philosophy of supporting regional growers.

Mexican wine, according to Angel, is produced in boutique quantities mainly for domestic consumption, but is exported in small quantities to 38 countries due to demand. With only 6,200 acres under cultivation in all of Mexico, he suggests Gallo Wine's production in California alone may exceed that of his own native country.

Small volumes, often in the range of 500 cases, are more the rule than the exception in Mexico. Bottles of finer vintages are often numbered like limited-edition art. Salinas shows me a bottle of 2004 Roganto Cabernet, which cost $75US when it was first introduced and now commands over $500 at auction. Many stockbrokers would be hard-pressed to match that kind of return. Roganto wines are known for their elegance and sophisticated single varietal red wines. Aged in oak barrels in the seaport town of Ensenada, these delicious wines pair well with seafood, local lobster and game.

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