Think Baja Think Wine! Meteors!…and Tequila

The Perseid meteor shower in mid August seemed like a great excuse to return to the Villa del Valle in Guadalupe Valley, rest a bunch, watch the llueve de estrellas and shop in Ensenada and Rosarito. The Missus conspired to visit wineries we had missed the first time…and tBoW was impressed! This is harvest time so the vines are heavy with fruit.
We stayed once again at the Villa del Valle. Fast becoming our #1 getaway. Host (Phil) and hostess (Eileen) could not be more gracious and charming. Phil bottles his own very nice wines under the VenaCava label. He has a new distributor and will be shipping most of his 800 cases to Mexico City. vena_cava.jpgLook for his production to increase creating even more pressure for high end fruit in the Valley. Eileen runs the VdV kitchen under the direction of Chef Omar. Top notch service all round. Omar has the right flavors in mind and ably delivers them to the satisfied diners.
2007 Vena Cava Chenin Blanc $25 on the VdV list: Cloudy in the glass as it is unfiltered. Fruity, pears, yeast flavors. Creamy with good acid. Bright, middle weight. This grape seems to do well in the valley. All wines are 11% to 12%
2007 Vena Cava Sauvignon Blanc: Banana nose and flavors. Unusual with good acid. Once banana blows off resembles more of a white wine from Languedoc, like a ripe Grenache Blanc. A good contrast to the Chenin Blanc. tBoW favors the Chenin.
2006 Vena Cava Chardonnay: Clear light yellow in the glass. First shows glutin and wood flavors, but it has no oak! Mrs. tBoW says the valley is not the right spot for Chardonnay. Strongest showing of saltiness in the soil typical of the region.
2005 VenaCava Tempranillo: Nice plum flavors. Has the salt water taffy flavors that come with the better made wines in the Valley.
2005 Vena Cava Petite Syrah: A crowd favorite for its heavyweight feel. Has sweet strength. Almost dessert style. The sweetness does bring out the salt.
The goal with Guadalupe wines is to neutralize the salty soil. Not such a simple task since the grapes also harvest very ripe. The most recognizable food that resembles this combo of salt and sweet is saltwater taffy. The flavor is not offensive. It is unique. You have to live on a the East or West coast to now what fresh saltwater taffy tastes like.

2002 Paul Lato Duende Gold Coast Pinot Noir
: tBoW brought this wine. And even though we have reviewed this before we will do so once again. The wine is stunning. Nose shows beets (as before) and some funk right away that is not unpleasant. This blows off. The flavors are married very nicely. Cherry, cocoa, cola, mocha. Delicious. Gets better with the meal over an hour. This wine has emerged in the past 8 months. In a word? EXOTIC. 14.3%
These folks at the Villa del Valle are having too much fun! Phil has planted blue agave to make…you guessed it…his own tequila. More later on tequila. Join them and have your own fun.
guadalupe valley vineyard.jpgAdobe Guadalupe is the only other place to stay in the valley. Styled as a Spanish Adobe it is grand and majestic while managing to remain tasteful. Wine production is about 6,000 cases. The best winemaker in the valley, Hugo D’Acosta, makes their wines. He also make wines for Casa Piedra and his own establishment Paralelo. uriel.jpgtBoW did not taste Casa Piedra but did taste at Paralelo. We bought Adobe Guadalupe. The D’Acosta wines at ADobe G were excellent. He has managed the trick…subduing the salty soil allowing the fruit to come forward.
2007 Adobe Guadalupe Uriel Ros√© $16: Tempranillo, Barbera, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Muscat in the blend in order of proportion. Is this Ros√© or Chianti?!? form mt:asset-id=”512″ class=”mt-enclosure mt-enclosure-image” style=”display: inline;”>gabriel.jpg

It is fruity, floral, rich and masculine as rose’s go. One of the most appealing pinkies tasted this summer. 200 cases. 11.1%
2005 Adobe Guadalupe Gabriel $32: 55% Merlot, 28% Malbec, 11% Cab Sauv and 7% Cab Franc. Where did he get the Malbec? That is a grape that should grow well here. This is the Bordeaux blend from which tBoW expected little at best. WRONG. miguel.jpgFruity and friendly. All Bordeaux should taste this balanced and show this much happiness. 13.4%

2005 Adobe Guadalupe Miguel
$32: 80% Tempranillo, 15% Grenache, 5% Cab Sauv. The new style blend and closest we came to Rhone. There are two other blends, one of which is the Rhone style. Sold out of 1,200 cases. This works very nicely. The Tempranillo, which can be quirky, works very nicely here with the Grenache providing the bass to the Tempranillo tenor. 13.4%

Lucifer Tequila Blanco
$22/750 ml: Fiery, smoke, strong, herbal character. Made from green agave in South Jalisco. 40 proof. This is not easy to find. As far as I can tell it is only available at the winery. It is made at one of the most reputable distilleries in Mexico. My tequila consultant (see below) tells me it is the same as a rare and exceptional tequila made at the same distillery.
The tequila hunt was stimulated by a conversation with the owner at Cantina Mayahuel in San Diego’s North Park. cantina mayhuelSMALL.jpgThe restaurant prepares authentic Mexican cuisine with the most fresh ingredients including fresh squeezed atun for your purple and absolutely delicious margarita. [ed. atun is Spanish for tuna which is the name of the egg-shaped fruit of the prickly pear cactus the size of an ostrich egg that must be handled with great care] The place really is a shrine to tequila and mezcal with more than 100 tequilas on hand, pretty evenly represented across Blanco, Reposado and A√±ejo. Larry cleared up a bunch of Margarita and tequila confusion such as using reposado and not blanco in the margarita. Then he gave me a couple suggestions for tequilas I might hunt down. Very friendly. Cantina Mayahuel earns tBoW’s highest recommendation.
To summarize…the wines from Adobe Guadalupe are the most consistently fine wines we have tasted to date in Guadalupe Valley.
Baron Balché is up the road from Adobe Guadalupe. We are on the northern side of the Valley, a new area for us. The Baron is Mexican owned and operated. paralelo winery.jpgThe winery Р10,000 cases Рsells a premium line of six or seven wines that are triple digits. We did not taste any of these. We did taste the first line which was ordinary and offered nothing to write home about.
The third winery we visited was Paralelo. The property is owned and operated by Hugo D’Acosta. His brother Victor, an architect, has designed a supremely utilitarian building that is made of adobe & cement, and is striking to look at. Get up close and you will see the tire prints in the adobe walls. The tire prints are more than whimsical as you can see from the image at top of this post that tires are ubiquitous in the Valley and a part of many vineyards [ed. think Huraches?].
We tasted with the Assistant Winemaker, Alberto. paralelo tire stampSMALL.jpgHe was refreshingly candid about wine making in the Valley. He believes the future of winemaking in Guadalupe Valley is with Rhone style grapes (Mrs. tBoW could not stop patting herself on the back having drawn the same conclusion during her first visit 18 months ago!!). However, one cannot simply pull up all the 30 and 50 year old Cab, Merlot and Zin vines and start fresh. Little by little. The region is simply too hot and not well suited for Bordeaux vinifera like Cab Sauv, Merlot, etc. tBoW suggested Rousanne, Marsanne and some Grenache Blanc.
There are microclimates in the Valley and D’Acosta is experimenting with these (as we tasted). The oak program is first class blending French and American. Alberto has his won recently acquired property and will be planting Rhone grapes like Mourvedre and Grenache. He thinks the climate is not well suited for Syrah. tBoW looks forward to tasting his first bottling!
Like at Adobe Guadalupe, Paralelo fruit is all estate grown.

2007 Paralelo Emblema
: In bottle. Sauvignon Blanc that tastes like new world Sauvignon Blanc, as in grassy with grapefruit. But also old world as in not yet ripe lemon with enough acid to bring to mind a recent steely and super crisp Basque white wine. 11.8%
2007 Paralelo Estacion Porvenir: In bottle very recently. 40% Petite Syrah, 20% Cab Sauv, 20% Zinfandel and 20% Barbera. 8 months in barrel. Yes, there is quite a bit of Zinfandel grown in the Valley. This is the Linne Calodo blend. Works well. Porvenir is the name of a local village. [ed. but you would never buy a wine that blends cab and zin!]
Then we tasted 2007s from the barrel. Here works the mad doctor.
2007 ensemble Arenal: Valley floor fruit. 50% Merlot, 30% Cab Sauv and the rest Petite Syrah and Barbera. The Bordeaux blend. Fruity, earthy. Tannins mid sized.
2007 ensemble Colina: Hillside fruit. Same Cab and Merlot weights, finished off with Petite Syrah and Zinfandel. More tannic, sticks and stones, fruit buried behind oak.

2007 Valley Merlot
: Earthy, veggies, fruit is there in front but set off by herbaceousness.
2007 Hillside Merlot: Good fruit, brawny, no veggie qualities.
2007 Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Earthy, salty, more veggie qualities. Fruit is strong.
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Conclusion? It appears Valley floor fruit has the strongest saltiness and is more herbaceous while Hillside fruit has more tannins, less herbaceousness, and stronger fruit quality.
The hillside vines we saw are not at such a high elevation that the effect is more than simply stronger drainage. Maybe the soils are different? Shoulda asked. Looks like another trip is required.
As for the meteor showers…the sky was clear but the moon was half full and did not set until 0230. Pretending we were Valley vinifera we caught a handful of streaking meteors until the cool ocean fog rolled over us, then turned in like good little Rhone grapes that will one day replace all the Cabernet!

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