Welcome to Baja Online Realty Blog Sign in | Help

A New Draw in Baja: Wineries

September 22, 2002

A New Draw in Baja: Wineries

NOT long ago, the idea of a Mexican wine tour might have been as appealing as a ski trip to Kansas. No longer.

Since the late 1980's, winegrowers have been turning a corner of northwestern Mexico into serious sipping terrain. The wine is well worth a trip into the Guadelupe Valley, which lies in northern Baja California, near Ensenada, about 65 miles south of San Diego.

The Spanish conquistadors brought wine grapes to Mexico, then banned their cultivation, fearing competition. Vintners began to re-establish themselves in the Guadelupe Valley in 1888. For a century, most of what they made was pretty awful, better suited for cheap brandy or a gallon jug.

Then came Monte Xanic, founded in 1987. The estate of 160 acres lies in a Mediterranean microclimate, separated from the Pacific Ocean by a coastal range of mountains and fed by winter rains. It's not Tuscany, but it is easy on the eyes. The cool currents of the ocean bring rain in winter and allow the desert to bloom a little, giving rise to sycamores among the shrubs on the road to Monte Xanic. (Xanic is prounouced shah- NEEK and means, roughly, the first desert flower that blooms after the rains.)

The wines that flow from the grapes at Monte Xanic -- cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, chardonnay, chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc -- give the vintages from that other California up north a run for their money. The winemaker, Hans Backhoff, was born in Ensenada, with family roots in France, Germany and Spain. He rebelled at the idea that Mexico was too hot and dry to cultivate good grapes, and set out to prove otherwise.

He did. His wines were served at President Vicente Fox's inaugural dinner, and enjoyed by, among others, Bill Gates and Fidel Castro. They are hard to find in the United States but increasingly available in restaurants, especially in California and Texas.

His stiffest competition comes from up the road at Chateau Camou, founded in 1994.The winemaker at Camou, Victor Torres, learned his trade at the University of Bordeaux and has 16 years of experience. It shows in a good fumé blanc, among his other wines.

Both wineries have won top prizes at the annual Challenge International du Vin in France. And both are open to visitors. A traveler in the region might set up camp in Ensenada, a well-appointed Pacific resort town less than a half-hour away, where a flotilla of cruise ships also dock regularly. Highway 3 runs northwest into the Guadelupe Valley from Ensenada, and passes other wineries, including L. A. Cetto and Pedro Domecq.

Monte Xanic is open by appointment on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visits may be arranged through its Web site, www .montexanic.com.mx, or by telephone (52-646) 174-6155.

Chateau Camou is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and visits may be scheduled through www.chateau-camou.com.mx, or by phone (52-646) 177-3303.

Published Friday, May 25, 2007 6:59 AM by Laura Tierney


No Comments
Anonymous comments are disabled