pc: © Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com
If you ask wine enthusiasts to name popular regions here on the west coast, most people will immediately mention places like Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles or even Temecula Valley – for those of us that live in SoCal. While we’re not here to tell you that those regions aren’t worth a visit (some of the best wines in the world come from those areas), if you are looking for a region that has been somewhat “undiscovered” and produces some of the most interesting and complex wines in North America, you have to check out Valle de Guadalupe. Regarded as the hottest wine region on the west coast, you’ll find artistic expression throughout the region and your taste buds will experience that same creativity in the wines.
Located less than a two-hour drive from San Diego, Valle de Guadalupe is already being touted as “the Napa of Mexico”, but don’t bring up that comparison to the local winemakers. With the region’s distinctive blends, the rustic charm of the wineries, and the absence of anything commercial, winemakers in Valle de Guadalupe are doing things their own way.
Valle de Guadalupe consists of only 6,000 acres of vines, yet is responsible for approximately 90% of all wine coming from Mexico. Typical varietals of the region include Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Merlot, but some of the most incredible wines come from the experimentation on behalf of the winemaker to explore new possibilities.
As Kristin Shute, co-owner of Lechuza Wines mentions, “The mono varietals allow consumers to see the beauty of each grape on their own, effected merely by their terroir. [But] blends give us the platform for creative expression that may be restrained by other regions and their rules for blending
The Lechuza winery was started by San Diego natives who had traveled down to Baja on family trips and ended up purchasing land in 2003. When asked why the family chose Valle de Guadalupe, Kristin replied, “We chose Mexico based on many variables. First, the land bears some of the best fruit (in our opinion.) I think most of all, we are so in love with the culture and the community here, where we only have the option to succeed with great effort. It takes only one trip south of the border to fall in love with the people, the land, and the plethora of opportunity waiting to be utilized. We are blessed that the community continues to embrace us with an open mind and open heart.”
Another stop you have to make when you visit Mexico’s wine country is at Vena Cava. The winery was designed by architect Alejandro D`Acosta and connects winemaker Phil Gregory’s past with his passion now as a winemaker. As Vena Cava’s manager, Glenda Galarza notes, “Phil was a boat skipper when he was younger, working with sailing boats”.
Image via Vena Cava
As you can see, the beautiful winery is built out of the hulls of recycled ships. Sustainability and recycling are themes you will see throughout the winery. Glenda adds, “everything that happens at the ranch La Villa del Valle is done with the same philosophy”. Vena Cava offers six labels of wines that are all natural and sulfite free along with a traditional method sparkling wine and seven standard wines.
Image via Vena Cava
There is as much science as there is art that goes into each bottle of wine coming out of the “Valley”. That being said, the more time you spend with the people in the region, the more you realize that even with all the different varietals, the different processes from mono-varietals to blends and stainless steel vs. oak fermentation, there is one constant you’ll find in every glass produced in Valle de Guadalupe – corazón.