Exploring Baja California's Ruta Del Vino

(No reviews yet)
0.00 Grams
Current Stock:

When most people put Mexico and alcohol in the same sentence, you’d be forgiven for Tequila or beer springing to mind first. But there’s a region of Baja California, however, which in the last few decades has gained notoriety for vineyards, and producing great wines, and which has been compared to the iconic Napa Valley. Called the Ruta del Vino, or “wine route”, it’s a 23-kilometre slew of green valleys and boulder covered hills in the Valle de Guadaloupe, stretching from northeast of the bustling cruise port of Ensenada to Tecate, the small town nestling on the US border famous for beer.

As people embark on this increasingly famous wine trail from Ensenada, they quickly discover several things. For one, Baja California’s climate, combined with porous soil and cooling sea breezes, is ideal for grape growing; around 90 per cent of Mexico’s wine is produced here. Also, wine making isn’t exactly new to these parts. The northern end of the Baja peninsula is one of the New World's oldest wine producing areas, with the new Vine and Wine Museum near Ensenada, established in 2012, eloquently telling the story through its various fascinating exhibits. It begins in the sixteenth century with the arrival of the Spanish missionaries, who brought vines, and their wine culture, with them from Europe. Then, in the nineteenth century, commercial production was born, leading to the present day, taking Ensenada and the Valle de Guadaloupe beyond its traditional Tequila-and-Tecate roots.

The highest concentration of wineries are located in the Valle de Guadaloupe. There are around 50 of varying sizes, producing both red and white wines, although being a desert environment, almost all the world’s warm-climate grape varieties are grown. The reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Tempranillo, Malbec, Carignan and Grenache, wines which are full-bodied and high in alcohol, with lusty black-fruit flavours and an occasional blast of heat and or saltiness. Meanwhile, top picks among the lineup of white wines are early harvested, oak-free Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Viognier.

There are several major wine producers in the region, including Vinos Pedro Domecq, Vinos L.A. Cetto  and Bodegas de Santo Tomás, which dates back to 1888, all of which have produced award winning wines at international level. Wine experts argue, however, that most innovation in winemaking occurs in the Ensenada area in the vats of “boutique” producers such as Hugo D’Acosta. He produced Casa de Piedra first vintage in 1997, and his wines, including the tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon blend, Vino de Piedra, has earned a cult-like status among Mexican oenophiles.

Baja California’s climate is welcoming all year round, however, for wine enthusiasts a wonderful time to visit is during August, when the wineries celebrate the harvest with the annual “Fiesta de la Vendimia”. This is when grapes are picked, and the grape crushing begins for the making of new wines; it’s a tradition to celebrate in Mexican style, but there won’t be a shot of Tequila in sight. Beyond wine tasting and touring, there’s plenty to see and do in this region of Mexico also; don’t forget Mexico’s diverse and fascinating cuisine, the many types of Tequila to try, white sanded beaches, and surfing.

Joanna Hall