Exploring the wines of Mexico

While Mexico is typically associated with tequila, mezcal, and beer, regions of the country are producing exceptional wines.

While Mexico is typically associated with tequila, mezcal, and beer, regions of the country are producing exceptional wines. Traveling through Mexico for a few weeks, I was determined to exclusively drink Mexican wines to attain the flavor of their releases that are growing in fashion and reputation.

We spent time in the Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods of Mexico City, the beautiful San Miguel de Allende and nearby Guanajuato and ended with some relaxation at a beach near Puerto Vallarta. During our travels, we discovered complex, diverse and affordable wines, all very accessible and welcoming to the palate. Most of the fine wines originated from two distinct regions, Valle de Guadalupe and Valle de Parras, each unique with several micro-climates and vineyards that produce notable European varietals like cabernet sauvignon, syrah, tempranillo, malbec, chenin blanc and chardonnay.

Clearly, one of the finest and best known wine and food regions is Valle de Guadalupe, located 15 miles north of the City of Ensenada and 90 miles from our southern border. The region is now home to over 100 wineries and is also the center of Baja Med cuisine where creative chefs flourish.

Inland from the Pacific Ocean, the climate in Valle de Guadalupe has been compared to that of the Mediterranean, but with extremely hot summers and more humid winters. There is also morning fog and sea breezes that seal the area’s identity as Mexico’s finest grape growing region.

Although I have yet to visit their local wineries, I enjoyed enough Valle de Guadalupe wines while visiting other parts of Mexico to inspire a visit in the near future.

A rainy evening dinner of mushroom risotto at Benito Pop Food in Mexico City’s vibrant La Condesa neighborhood included a glass of Vinicola Emeve Armonia de Tintos 2016, an eclectic, but balanced blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and cabernet franc. Like the risotto, it was full-bodied, aromatic and comforting.

Vinicola Emeve Armonia de Tintos 2016. (courtesy photo)

Another “coupage” or blended wine from Valle de Guadalupe is the internationalPauta Coupage 2017 Concierto Enologico with merlot, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, barbera and grenache. It combined France’s Bordeaux and Rhone Valley, Italy’s Piedmont and Spain’s Rioja regions together in a bottle. The wine was smooth and easy to drink while revealing deep, rich flavors of currants and blackberry.

Paired with a seared salmon filet at Tramonto in Nuevo Vallarta, the Vinicola La Trinidad Minotauro 2015, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, nebbiolo and zinfandel, was the most memorable Valle de Guadalupe wine that I tasted. It’s earthy aromas and vibrant flavors of cherry and red fruit were in perfect balance and did not overpower the crusted salmon.

When visiting the UNESCO-designated San Miguel de Allende, a pre-dinner glass of wine or cocktail during sunset at the Rosewood Hotel rooftop bar is a must. Aside from the gorgeous vistas and cityscape, the spicy, roasted fava beans are to die for.

Chef Donnie Masterton’s popular “The Restaurant” was steps from our door in San Miguel de Allende. It was there that we selected two wines including the Chateau Camou Umbral 2018, a Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, to accompany striped bass with barigoule artichokes. The jammy, black pepper bouquet preceded spicy fruit flavors that were balanced and soft on the palate.

The second paired wine, from the Valle de Parras region in central northern Mexico, was theCasa Madero ‘Casa Grande’ Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2018, a fine white wine that compares to many California chardonnay releases with complex flavors and a rich minerality.

Located at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet, the Valle de Parras region is surrounded by mountains and desert and the climate is much cooler than its counterpart to the west. Although it accounts for only 10 percent of the country’s wine production, the diverse vineyards in Valle de Parras are planted in cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, shiraz, tempranillo, malbec as well as field blends of cabernet sauvignon-merlot-tempranillo and chardonnay-chenin blanc.

Casa Madero is the region’s largest producer and has significance as the oldest winery of the America’s. Aside from the Gran Reserva chardonnay, Casa Madero produces several other wines including theCasa Madero “Casa Grande” Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon and the Casa Madero 3V, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo.

We discovered a nice sauvignon blanc from Don Leo, another Valle de Parras winery which also produces the highly rated Don Leo “Linde” Shiraz.

In addition to its vast historic culture and natural beauty, Mexico’s prodigious food and wine scene is vibrant, modern and welcoming to all who wish to explore one of North America’s new gems.

Guest columnist Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 20 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email sfewine@gmail.com

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