Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mexican Winemakers Want You To Try A Glass

by Vanessa Romo

Weekend Edition Saturday, February 21, 2009 · In 1976 there was a major shift in the wine world. In a blind taste test, French wine aficionados proclaimed a Napa Valley Wine superior to a French one. Today, wine lovers can enjoy wine from all over the new world. Still, Mexican winemakers are having a hard time finding acceptance — at least in the U.S.

Listen to the 5 minutes interview on this page http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100961312

You will also find some comments and reactions on the same page about the audio message.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Great wining, dining and art, wrapped in great surroundings and weather...

By Eduardo Rincón-Gallardo

Because Vallarta Winefest takes place from February 22 to 28, 2009.

This time it all began at Lázaro Cárdenas square, a block away from the very renowned dining outlets all along Basilio Badillo Street and next to the sidewalk cafés of Olas Altas Street. Some of the best restaurants of Vallarta and the Bay Area brought out a selection of hors d’oeuvres and made them available to the general public for 10 and 20 pesos!

Man, you could dine like a millionaire for ten bucks!

Some wine distributors were also offering a great selection of wines from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay for only 10 and 20 pesos a glass!

It is the ideal opportunity to try some of the very diverse wines Chile is producing.

It is also a unique chance to witness the great breakthrough Argentina’s Malbec has become.

And for the many who thought Uruguay was not a wine producing country, there were some samples of high-quality wines, among them, their jewel Tannat.

Chefs and sommeliers from the bay’s restaurants and from the wine distributors were sharing their delight and expertise with the many locals and tourists who gathered at the plaza at sunset to enjoy the breeze, the music – there was a band playing traditional “Danzón” – and of course the very special selection of foods and wines.

By then, all participating restaurants had their Winefest menus and wines in place, so all, locals and visitors could savor something more special than usual during these days.

Continues here : http://www.pvmirror.com/artculture/214/winefest-ing.html

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Spring Wine Tour for 2009 (4/4)

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

L.A. Cetto is the largest producer of Nebbiolo wine in the world outside of Italy. This deep red and rich grape is often found in Piedmont, Italy, and is known to produce some of the finest Italian wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. L.A. Cetto’s Nebbiolo has won twenty-one 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 for two years, with an alcohol content of 13-14%. 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 Baja wine compliments red meat dishes, tomato sauce based entries, strong cheeses and is a “Baja Best Value Wine” with a retail price of about $15. This Nebbiolo is probably the best value for any red wine in Mexico - an absolute steal! Wine tasting here is FREE, they make over twenty different wines, tequila and excellent extra~virgin olive oil at $6 liter or $25 gallon.

As you leave the parking lot of L.A. Cetto, turn left on the dirt road and drive about 500 yards to Doña Lupe Organic winery, deli, and bakery. This is a very popular destination and you’re always greeted with “first class hospitality” by a friendly staff, including their bilingual parrot, Baby. Doña Lupe greets all of her guests with open heart and open arms. She puts loving and creative energy into all her natural and organic jams, jellies, salsas, cookies, pies and wines. She planted the vineyard herself over thirty years ago and has practiced organic and natural 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. Gourmet pizza on Saturday/Sunday!

Doña Lupe’s son, Daniel Yi, creates unique and interesting wines. His wines are pure, organic and fantastic! Try his Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Grenache, Merlot and others Don’t miss this beautiful boutique winery. Doña’s daughter, Shirley, is baking some amazing pastries, expanding the organic food selection and gift shop. Open daily from 9 am to 6 p.m.

Hopefully at this point you are safe and sober. If you want to spend the night I suggest the upscale Hotel Hacienda Guadalupe at (646) 151-3273. From L.A. Cetto winery drive back on Highway 3 towards Ensenada, watch for mile maker Km. 81 on the left side. Or, if you are seeking the ultimate in peace and quiet on a 500 acre ranch setting, you should visit Rancho Malagon B&B or Viñedos Malagon at 646 155-2015. In addition to having the most relaxed and excepting atmosphere, one of their wine were given 92 points by Wine Spectator Magazine. And, if you’re on a budget, Plaza Fatima Hotel in San Antonio de las Minas offers rooms for about $50 usd. per night at (646) 192-4531.

This is a wonderful day trip that I’ve developed over the last five years. It’s simple and to the point. But, it can really take several days to explore the region, get to know the people and experience the many high quality wines. I’ve exposed you to to several wineries, ranging from the largest in Latin America (L.A. Cetto) to some amazing artisan winemakers. This is a well-rounded tour that offers visitors the opportunity to discover why everyone is talking about the premier wine country of Baja California. Enjoy!

Steve Dryden is a wine, food, and travel writer living in Mexico’s premier wine country where he guides individual, private, and small group wine tours. He can be reached at sbdryden@hotmail.com or www.bajawineandtours.com

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Spring Wine Tour for 2009 (3/4)

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

For those who missed their morning cup of coffee, you can still “wake-up” with their potent distilled Grappa. called Aqua de Vid. Viña de Liceaga. But, don’t try driving, dancing or walking after a sip or two! Grappa is a distilled spirit without color made from black grape pomage, fermented, gently pressed from several wine varieties, and aged for three years in new American oak. Their Grappa creates a powerful clear beverage that will awaken even the most laid back individuals.

Now return to Highway 3 and turn left, back towards Ensenada, drive 1/2 mile and turn right into the drive way of Casa Vieja Wine Bar and gift shop. This new addition to the Baja California wine culture is a cozy and remarkable business hosted by an American/Mexican family with deep roots in the valley. Here everyone is fun, entertaining, speaks English, Spanish and are user-friendly. This historical adobe home, olive orchard, “old vine” vineyard and ranch was established in the early 1850’s.

Today, their relaxing and tranquil ranch features a wine bar, art and crafts gallery, picnic area and restrooms. Several artisan (homemade) wines from the region are offered by the glass or bottle. The atmosphere is a country setting where individuals and families can relax and enjoy the natural surroundings with friendly and hospitable hosts. According to the owners, Humberto and Colleen Toscano, “we wanted to create an environment where guests can feel at home, relax, walk around the ranch, vineyard and orchard, reunite with family, friends, nature, and enjoy the country life in San Antonio de las Minas.” La Casa Vieja is open daily (except Monday) from 9 am until sunset.

Now if you’re ready for the best lunch in the valley, leave Casa Vieja, turn right, drive 1/2 mile back towards Ensenada and the Los Globos creamery, then turn left at the large Corona Beer sign in San Antonio. This is the only paved road there (Av. Jauarz) follow it towards the hills, and turn left at the third stop sign where you’ll see a sign/arrow for La Hacienda Restaurant. Follow this bumpy dirt road for 500 yards, across the river and make the first right into their driveway. Here you’ll find outdoor dining among a retail plant nursery with a nice selection of fresh seafood, traditional Mexican cuisine, offered with good service and a reasonable price. They have a dynamic brunch and lunch buffet on Sundays!

After lunch, drive back up the dirt road to the stop sign and make a left. Go to the fist stop sign, go straight, pass the school and turn left when the pavement ends and turns into a dirt road. Follow it to the first stop sign, turn right for 100 yards and enter Vinisterra Winery. You’ll be amazed with the wine! Open Weds - Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Hosted by knowledgeable winery staff who provide hospitality and excellent samples of wine. Their newly released Macouzet 2005 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. Good quality wine, a bargain at under $30. per bottle.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Spring Wine Tour for 2009 (2/4)

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

Let’s start in the metropolitan city of San Antonio de las Minas at Km 94.5. As you approach this village from the coast on Highway 3, don't blink or you’ll miss the town! Watch the shoulder of the road and look for mile markers (kilometer) as this will aid you in your search for those “bottled treasures of delight.” Look to the right side as you enter the town and you’ll see two very large beer signs: Tecate Beer and Corona, at this point note that just before the signs, on the right side are two businesses of interest. Leonardo’s Pie Shop - you’ll need a chain saw to cut in to their eight-inch thick homemade pies, they serve amazing breakfast, and right up the street fifty yards is Los Globos Creamery - where you’ll find a nice selection of local cheese. Globos is a nice place to purchase gourmet cheese from Ojos Negros or Rancho Cortez, as many wineries have the perfect spot for wine and cheese tasting on their patios or terraces.

Continue on Highway 3 for about one mile beyond the village and as you travel towards Tecate you’ll see a large white building on the right at Km 93.5, this is Viña de Liceaga. Their newly completed complex offers amazing wines, great hospitality and is staffed with knowledgeable employees. The tasting room is open daily from 11 am to 5 p.m. with tasting fees ranging from $3 to $10 per person. $10 gets you a wine glass, samples of one white wine, four red wines, and one taste of their Grappa. $3 gets you one taste of white wine and one red wine. Large tour groups of more than ten people need to make advance reservations with Marisa at (646) 155-3281.

This winery is famous for their Merlot, but Viña de Liceaga continues to make a good Chenin Blanc from grapes grown in Valle de San Vicente. Their 2007 Chenin Blanc is aged in stainless steel tanks which allows for a refreshing and light white wine with hints of pineapple, green apple, honey, and peach. Their 2007 Vino Tinto is a palate pleasing blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, both varietals are grown in Valle de Guadalupe. This user-friendly table wine was released in mid-July 2008 after aging for nine months in American oak barrels. Vino Tinto is a smooth red blend, medium bodied and easy to drink.

Liceaga’s 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is a mellow red blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah ~ most delightful and smooth. The grapes are from Guadalupe Valley and are aged for two years in new American oak barrels. Aromas of tobacco, violets, vanilla and coffee with flavors of black fruit, and bell pepper. Smooth, elegant, and complex with 13.5 % alcohol. Their 2005 Gran Reserva Merlot is an elegant blend of grapes grown in San Antonio de las Minas with 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Aged in new French oak barrels and with 13.5% alcohol this wine makes for a smooth, fruit forward, rich, complex and palate pleasing Merlot. Their newest 2006 Gran Reserva Merlot was released in November 2008, with a slightly different blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, no Cabernet Franc added. My favorite wine for 2009 is their new 2006 L ~ Selection #1, which is the Eduardo Liceaga Campos memorial wine. This remarkable wine is a superb blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Merlot, aged for 20 months in new American oak ~ a connoisseurs delight!

To be continued ....

New Spring Wine Tour for 2009 (1/4)

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

This is my favorite year-round tour for wine tasting in Mexico’s premier wine country located near Ensenada, Baja California. Valle de Guadalupe is home to over twenty-five wineries, several restaurants and lodging. I’ve designed this guide in the appropriate order so that if you follow the narration and directions it will make for a wonderful day or two of wine tasting. Some of the wineries are hidden, and the dirt roads can be rough in a regular vehicle, but it makes exploring this region so much more of an “off road” adventure. Wine tasting in Guadalupe Valley is like prospecting for gold ~ sometimes you really have to dig into remote locations, but more than likely you’ll find hidden treasures! Be warned: temperatures in July and August can reach 100 degrees (F) plus, so spring and fall are better times to visit! Hydrate yourself with fresh bottled water on hot days and pace yourself. You won’t need a 4WD on back roads, just go slow and use common sense. It does get muddy after rain, so be cautious.

Most visitors travel from San Diego or Tijuana via Scenic (toll) Highway One along the beautiful coastline from Playas Tijuana towards Ensenada. The Mexican wine country is located seventy miles south of the border - a two hour drive from San Diego. There is an alternative route winding thru the back country of San Diego on Highway 94 and then south through Tecate on Highway 3. Most travelers use the coastal toll road (Highway 1) where before reaching Ensenada you’ll come to the third toll station at Playa San Miguel. Pay your toll, continue south for about 1.5 miles to a sign reading Tecate Highway 3 or Ruta del Vino. Exit to the right onto Highway 3 and drive over the foothills towards Tecate for seven miles until you drop down into the wine country at San Antonio de las Minas. I suggest that you don’t drive this route at night or when highly intoxicated, as it is a narrow, winding, one lane route, often occupied by slow-moving trucks. Here in San Antonio de las Minas the wine country begins and extends along Highway 3 for about fourteen miles. Scattered about the valley and foothills are about twenty-five wineries, several restaurants with great food, specialty shops, art galleries, gourmet coffee and lodging. And, you’ll find wonderful people!

At this point I’m going to share with readers my favorite and most popular day tour to the wine country. Some of the wineries are “user friendly” while others don’t focus on tasting room sales or hospitality. Some of the wineries sell out their inventory each season, market their wines to commercial distributors and could care less if you visit their wineries or sample their wine. I’m going to save you time and frustration by sending you to my friends ~ who love sharing their wines and hospitality. You’ll meet some great folks! You need to know that all valley restaurants and food establishments are closed by 6 p.m. This tour does focus on the region of San Antonio de las Minas and you’ll have to double back some, but this is an easy tour for newcomers as well as experts. If you are an early bird (9 am) Casa Vieja opens at 9 am, and you can adjust your tour as needed.

To be continued ...