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Steve Dryden and The Baja Wine Country..... Valle de Guadalupe

Monday, July 30, 2007 A Day Trip to Mexico’s Nearby Baja Wine Country By Steve Dryden “Summertime with wine and the living is easy” — didn’t someone write a song about that? This August is the perfect time to visit the premier wine country of Valle de Guadalupe, as long as you don’t mind temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s. The heat is on and so is the excitement as August marks the month long Harvest Festival celebration in the valley, and in regional towns throughout Baja California. Harvest event information and tickets can be found at: www.fiestasdelavendimia.com. Mexico has always been known as one of the unique and captivating culinary capitals of the world, and now the wines of Baja California are awakening and surprising the most sophisticated wine enthusiasts in the region and internationally. Guadalupe Valley is a beautiful rural area filled with interesting and scenic wineries, high quality wine, friendly people and an amazing assortment of fine dining opportunities and excellent lodging possibilities. The wine country is located about 70 miles south of San Diego, California, and can be explored by heading south on the Tijuana-Ensenada toll road to the last collection station before the seaport of Ensenada. About one mile south of that toll station look for the sign Tecate Highway 3, or Ruta del Vino (Wine Route), and travel east on Highway 3 for seven miles until you drop down into the Baja California wine country at San Antonio de las Minas. This is the western end of the Guadalupe Valley wine region, which extends 14 miles east towards Tecate, ending near Km. 73.5 at the L.A. Cetto and Domecq wineries. As you venture along the coastline of Baja California on your adventure towards the wine country on Scenic Highway 1 (the toll road) from Tijuana towards Ensenada, you can visit one of the most scenic and beautiful wine bars in the world, Destino del Vino. This “hidden jewel” is located at Km. 89.5, in the new billion-dollar oceanfront community of “Destino, El Portal de Guadalupe.” This amazing and unique wine bar features rare and hard to find artisan wines, along with fresh seafood snacks, gourmet cheese, deli meats and fresh organic culinary delights from the region. Here you’ll discover expertise in Mexican wine and obtain wine country information from knowledgeable wine country concierges who can enhance your day in the wine country. Maps, wine tips, directions, lodging and dining information is provided, along with samples of Mexico’s best wines. You just might be captured by the beauty and charm of one of the most beautiful coastal developments in the world — paired up with Mexico’s high quality wines and fresh seafood. Vinisterra winery is a great spot for your second wine country adventure, located on the west end of Guadalupe Valley in the village of San Antonio de las Minas at Km. 94.5 — just off Highway 3. If you are coming from Ensenada, turn to the right in the center of this small village onto Calle Benito Juarez. Follow the only paved road in town thru the fifth stop sign and continue about 500 yards to the first left turn, go about 1/4-mile and turn right at the stop sign. The winery is ahead about 200 yards on the right side. Open Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 and Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Abelardo and Patricia Macouzet Rodriguez manage the winery and host the tasting room. Arrangements can be made for private tasting, medium-sized tour groups and special events. For information please call 646-178-3350; email: vinisterra@yahoo.com Vinisterra-Macouzet Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend is aged 30 percent in new French oak for 18 months, with one year and six months of bottle aging. Garnet color with aromas of ripe red berries with velvety balanced flavors. The end result is a soft, smooth wine with a light hint of wood, ripe fruit, medium acidity, mid-soft tannins and good structure. This wine has been rated as “superior” and is a fabulous value at about $25. Their superb Macouzet Tempranillo is an outstanding wine aged 40 percent in new American oak with almost two years bottle aging. Dark ruby color with aromas of black cherry, vanilla and a hint of oak. Flavors of black stone fruit mix with good mid-mouth mild tannins, good acidity with a balanced finish. Rated 84 points in Copenhagen competition. A good quality wine, local favorite and a “super value” at about $25. Winemaker Christoph E. Gartner uses 100 percent Mission grapes to produce a wonderful, robust and full-bodied Vino Rosado and blends Tempranillo, Grenache and Mission for their Vino Tinto. Both the Vino Rosado and Vino Tinto are delightful table wines retailing for about $12. A good way to compliment a wine country tour is with a hearty meal as you arrive in or leave from San Antonio de las Minas. If you’ve never been to Casa Blanca in Morocco, you can save money and time by having a superb meal at Mustafa’s Moroccan Restaurant two miles east of San Antonio de las Minas towards Tecate on Highway 3 at Km. 93. Look for the big Corona Beer sign and the red tile roof on the left side of the road. The cuisine and their “old vine” wines are excellent and the service is wonderful. Mustafa’s is open everyday (except Tuesdays) from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Breakfast, lunch and dinners are available from a menu offering a large selection of Moroccan and Mexican dishes. Two excellent dinner choices are Borrego estilo Marruecos and Pollo Mustafa. Borrego estilo Marruecos is oven baked lamb, vegetables, fried mushroom sauce, almonds, local raisins and pure honey. Pollo Mustafa is delicious, breaded *** of chicken, filled with spinach and cheese, topped with fresh mushroom sauce and served with mashed potatoes. Mustafa’s house white wine compliments the pollo and the red balances the lamb. Mustafa’s vineyard has some 60-year “old” vines that produce awesome wines. In addition to these wonderful and consistent entries, Mustafa’s offers another thirty-five delicious lunch and dinner selections that include top quality steak, fresh seafood, and authentic Mexican combinations. Mustafa’s offers quality and quantity with nothing on the menu priced over US$10.00. The breakfast menu will satisfy the most particular morning eaters, and it’s a great way to start a day of wine tasting and touring. Drive back onto Highway 3 and head east towards Tecate (you’ll pass the village of Francisco Zarco along the way) for about twelve miles, to Km. 73.5, where you’ll see a large L.A. Cetto Winery sign on the right. Turn right and follow the dirt road for three miles to the entrance of Mexico’s largest winery. Open daily 10-5 with a friendly, very knowledgeable staff on hand to make for the most enjoyable experience featuring quality wines at affordable prices. This Italian family provides regional and global markets with affordable quality wines. In fact, their winemaker, Camillo Magoni, was recently selected as “the top winemaker in the world” by the Dutch magazine Vinbladet. Seventy-eight years of hard work and dedication by the Cetto family and Camillo Magoni (40 years) has resulted in over a hundred awards for quality and excellence in both regional and international markets. L.A. Cetto makes an outstanding Petite Sirah that has received eight gold medals and many other awards throughout the world. Their Cabernet Sauvignon has won nearly 20 international awards. Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve gained 13 awards, and Zinfandel six awards. They also produce an award-winning classic Bordeaux style red wine, Terra, blended with 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot, 10 percent Malbec, and 10 percent Petite Verdot. This wine is from their Don Luis Cetto line of premium wines, made from very select grapes grown with the highest possible standards and daily management. Outside of Italy, L.A. Cetto is the largest producer of Nebbiolo wine in the world. The red Nebbiolo grape is often found in Piedmont, Italy, and is known to produce some of the finest Italian wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. This Nebbiolo has won 21 international medals, including a recent gold medal from the Winemakers Association of France and their trophy for “the best red wine of the year.” This private reserve wine is aged in French oak for 14 months and bottle aged two years, with an alcohol content of 13-14 percent. It has an intense ruby red color with flashes of garnet, concentrated red and black fruits with undertones of prune, vanilla, spices and wood, mature tannins, velvety, dry and well rounded. This wonderful Mexican wine with Italian design is a “Baja Best Value Wine” for US$11.00. As well, try their other white and red wines! Your wine country day won’t be complete without a visit to Doña Lupe Winery down the road from L.A. Cetto. As you leave Cetto’s parking lot turn to the left on the dirt road and drive about 500 yards to the first driveway on the right. This is no ordinary winery, as you’ll discover the moment you walk into the tasting room and gift shop. The scent of herbs, freshly baked cookies and natural aromas overcome your spirit as you melt into the natural ambiance of real people and unique wines. When was the last time you experienced something real as in natural and were greeted by sincere people with organic and non-organic wines? Doña Lupe greets all of her guests with a warm heart and open arms. She puts loving and creative energy into all her jams, jellies, salsas, cookies and pies. Doña Lupe also sells jams and jellies made by other locals in the valley. She planted the vineyard herself over 30 years ago and has practiced organic and biodynamic farming for several years. Her end of the valley still has some of the purest water in the region, and combined with rich riverbed soil her vineyard produces high quality organic grapes. Their patio is a relaxing and scenic spot to enjoy the afternoon! Daniel Yi, the son of Doña Lupe, creates some unique and interesting wines. He lets the grapes hang longer than most other vintners in the region and benefits from the extra natural sugars in the grape. Try his Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Grenache, Merlot and other blends of organic and regular wines. Don’t miss this beautiful boutique winery and their famous Port wine! They are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are some 32 more wineries hidden in the valley, holding treasures and awaiting your discovery! If you want to spend another day or more in this beautiful rural setting you might consider the charming Hotel El Mezon del Vino in the heart of the Guadalupe Valley wine country. This clean, tranquil and comfortable wine country retreat has eight excellent rooms with beautiful valley views from the balconies of the upper level rooms, as well as a café and wine tasting bar. Room rates (up to four persons) during the fall and winter are US$50.00, and during the spring/summer US$60 for two persons. The location is ideal for wine tasting, as it sits in the middle of Baja California’s wine country and there are several wineries conveniently located in the area. Visit www.elmezondelvino.com; hotelelmezondelvino@hotmail.com; or call for reservations (664) 331-2433 —————————— Steve Dryden, a MexiData.info guest columnist, is a wine, travel and history writer for the Baja Times. Mr. Dryden lives in Guadalupe Valley, Baja California where he also guides private and motor coach tours.

Steve Dryden is a wine and travel writer living in Guadalpue Valley where he guides private and van wine tours. He can be reached at 619 300-4976 or Baja 646 118-9801 email: sbdryden@hotmail.com

Steve Dryden

Published Monday, July 30, 2007 7:02 PM by Laura Tierney

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