The successes of Camillo Magoni and Vinos L.A. Cetto (together with Bodegas de Santo Tomás) have attracted many new grape growers and producers to the Valle de Guadalupe region in the past decade and a half.
Bodegas de Santo Tomás, situated in the lush and beautiful Santo Tomás valley, which lies a few kilometers south of Ensenada, was established in 1888, making it is the oldest winery in Baja.
Lara Vamoria, self-taught winemaker for Bodegas de Santo Tomás since 2005, is not only the first female winemaker in Mexican wineries, but as well is the first Mexican female winemaker. Her innovative study of the effect of vine age on wine character of Tempranillo is one more example of the innovative studies towards improving wine quality being conducted throughout the region.
The newcomers, inspired by the achievements of Magoni and Bodegas de Santo Tomás, are bringing in their own philosophies of grape growing and winemaking, and have also begun earning worldwide recognition for their wines.
“The small producers coming into Valle de Guadalupe are very important for the promotion of the potential of the region, and to offer different style of wines for the consumers,” Magoni emphasizes.
Many challenges awaited them, however, just as they did Magoni, not the least of which is the fact that the region “is a land of many coasts and little water . . .mysterious in its arid fecundity.” (Magoni, Camillo. Historia de la Vid y el Vino en la Peninsula de Baja Calfornia. Universidad Iberoamericana, Tijuana, 25.) This passage translated by Rhoda Stewart
“Our region is semi-arid, so we have very little rain, and only in the winter months,” Camillo explained. “We also have vines planted in different soil types—sandy soils, sandy loam, and decomposed granite—so we need to manage the water carefully to suit each variety and each situation, depending on the soil,” and, I might add, to be in harmony with the region’s “arid fecundity.”
Not deterred by this and other challenges, among the small producers now flourishing in Valle de Guadalupe are several who have returned in the past 15 years to join in the excitement of producing distinctive Mexican wines from this region, and to experience the enthusiasm with which the local and regional consumers and tourists are embracing their wines as accompaniment to the excellent Mediterranean/Mexican Fusion cuisine that has grown up out of the same land that has produced the wines. Exquisite local cheeses and artisan breads also abound, and make perfect accompaniments to the superb local wines increasingly available.
In Wine Valleys – A Journey through Wineries and Other Points of Interest in Baja California (Puente, Esperanza Bustillo. Mexico: Ambardiseño, S.C., 2009), Hugo D’Acosta (not exactly a “new comer!”), Oenologist for Casa de Piedra, Valle de Guadalupe, writes, “Mexican wine is representative of our cultural mosaic. . . . the presence of a national wine in the culinary culture, which finds itself enriched by its native products . . .is a component that refreshes and solidifies our culinary patrimony.” (22)
Jesús Diez, Oenologist, Viticultura – Espacio del Vino, writes that he returned “to Mexico this century with the firm idea that national wine should be recognized by Mexicans. . . .I know that the very nature of wine and its soils, sooner or later, makes our relationship with the terroir and our taste for the homegrown to be reborn. . . .Wine is a dynamic part of the new and changing Mexico. (Wine Valleys, 24,25)
Chilean-born José Durand, Oenologist, Sinergi (Valle de Guadalupe), finds in Mexican wines an “intensity, as well as the fact they are joyful, aromatic, full of shadings and subtleties, and with a solid structure and at the same time smooth. As happens with food, people slowly have opened up towards their wines . . . Mexicans have made them a part of their lives and this is incredible.” (Wine Valleys, 27)
Magoni’s influence in the region extends beyond wine production.
Guillermo Gonzáles Beristáin, Chef, Pangea Group, writes, “ . . .the development of gastronomy goes hand-
in-hand with that of winegrowers; both become accomplices, because success depends on these two arts. . . . To be able to count with one’s own wines provides Mexican gastronomy with the possibility of being fuller and that a dynamics is created, as in a majority of other countries, where regional cooking is accompanied by the wines produced in their own regions. We cannot forget that eating Mexican food requires Mexican wines.” (Wine Valleys, 29)