Tag Archives: queretaro

¡Salud! A Toast to The Vineyards of Mexico

By Carole Reedy

Twenty years ago on our tranquil Oaxaca coast, wine imbibers had two choices: a liter box (the same container in which one finds milk) of red Don Simon for 17 pesos ($1.70 USD at the time) or an hourglass liter of red or white Padre Kino. To this day, I still keep one of those empty bottles to use for water or flowers.

Times have changed. Mexico has long been known for its beer and tequila, preferred beverages of locals and tourists alike. But now wines imported from Chile, Argentina, Spain, France, Australia, and the US are available in most places, even outside the big cities of Mexico, Monterrey, and Guadalajara.

More significant is our access to fine wines directly from the local vineyards that dot the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Querétaro, Baja California, and Coahuila. Fewer restrictions than some other countries, good climate, and the variety of grapes, styles, and blends make Mexico a grape-growing paradise. Most of Mexico’s grapes are of Spanish and French origin: Syrah, Cabernet, Malbec, and Chardonnay.

It’s important to note that wine production is not new to Mexico. Hernán Cortés and the Spaniards started growing and harvesting grapes in the 1500s. In fact, Cortés ordered the colonists to plant a minimum of 1000 grapevines per year. Mexican wines became so popular that in 1699, the Spanish Crown, threatened by the success and competition from France and Mexico, stopped production here. Only the Jesuits and other religious orders were allowed to continue making wine for sacramental purposes during this hiatus. The industry was finally revived and refined after the Mexican War of Independence (1810-21), and since has earned respectable status among the world’s finest wines.

In addition to our access to local wines, we can tour vineyards and enjoy a tasting, often accompanied by those tempting tapas. Here are a few of the best of the vineyards that are easy to locate for travelers and residents alike. Each has a variety of wine tours and tastings. It’s best to view your options on the individual websites; most require reservations.

BAJA CALIFORNIA

The 1000-mile long peninsula of Baja California is known predominately for its southern region (Baja Sur) that houses the beach resorts of Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos. But the region of the North, the larger area of the two, provides a variety of entertainment for visitors and residents alike. Not only are there the beaches of Ensenada, there is also the vibrant city of Tijuana that always seems to get a bad rap.

I have fond memories of Tijuana weekends filled with Sunday afternoon corridas de toros, Saturday night jai alai games, and fish tacos. Just to the south of Ensenada, you’ll find the home of the finest wines of Mexico.

The Valle de Guadalupe has been called the Napa Valley of Mexico due to its commercial success throughout the world. Ninety percent of Mexican wine and half the country’s wineries are from these areas west of the Sierra Mountains that divide the Baja Península. The Pacific Ocean provides the cool breeze for the warm peninsula and its grapes.

Monte Xanic vineyard derives its name from the indigenous word xanic, which means “flower that sprouts after the rain.” The vineyard is located 15 kilometers from the Pacific Coast and 400 meters above sea level, the ideal Mediterranean climate for growing grapes.

In the three decades that elapsed between 1987 and 2017, Monte Xanic managed to position itself as a prestigious brand, especially for easy-consumption young wines, the demand for which is growing.

The vineyard uses computerized irrigation, with sensors located among the roots of the vines to measure humidity levels and the need for water.

The vineyard uses computerized irrigation, with sensors located among the roots of the vines to measure humidity levels and the need for water.

The water used by Monte Xanic comes from several wells in the region. First, water from each well is tested for salinity and then conducted separately to an artificial lake, where further quality control occurs, again focused especially on salt concentrations, ensuring optimum quality water for the vineyards.

Harvesting both whites and reds, Monte Xanic wines range in price from 300 pesos per bottle and up. The reasonably priced Calixa Syrah complements Mexican food, such as tacos arrachera, cecina, and sopes.

L.A. Cetto vineyard, a nearby neighbor, was founded in 1928 by Angelo Cetto, who used the methods he learned in his native Trentino, Italy. Three generations of the family have continued the tradition.

There are several valleys where these vineyards are located: Valle de Guadalupe, Valle Redondo, San Vincente, San Antonio de la Minas, and Tecate. L.A. Cetto is a popular wine in Mexico, very reasonably priced and readily available in restaurants and retail stores alike (probably including your local grocery store!).

Both of these viñedos provide visitors with tours and tastings. If you have never experienced a tasting or tour and you’re a wine drinker, you will discover many interesting aspects and fact about wines. And the tours in Mexico provide that extra warmth that only Mexicans bring to a gathering.

PARRAS, COAHUILA

Casa Madero, dating from 1597, boasts the oldest vineyard in Mexico and is home to one of the most-awarded wines in Mexico. They produce my personal favorite red, Casa Madero 3V (three grape varieties: Cabernet, Merlot, and Tempranillo). For white wine lovers, the Chardonnay is a crisp delight.

The city of Parras, Coahuila, is located in the northeast corner of Mexico, 150 km from both Saltillo and Torreón. It’s considered one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos due to its gastronomy, artesanias (handcrafts), and cultural contributions to the country. It is also a part of the country that, while close to the US border, is not swarming with tourists and thus is a welcome respite for adventurers.

The area and winery have fascinating histories. It seems that even during prohibition they continued with wine production, probably in cooperation with the religious entities.

The vineyards, restaurant, and the accompanying Hacienda San Lorenzo are accessible by advance reservation only, and it appears the beautiful hacienda is available to groups only.

GUANAJUATO

The charming colonial town of San Miguel de Allende has so much to offer tourists, not only within the cobblestone city, but also just minutes outside it.

Close by, on the road from San Miguel de Allende to Dolores Hidalgo (km 73), you’ll find the popular Tres Raíces (Three Roots) Vinatería. Friends of mine recently spent a day enjoying the hospitality of the owner and staff, returning with rave reviews of the tour, wines, and excellent tapas.

The viñedo also houses a charming boutique hotel and a restaurant in case you want the full getaway experience into the world of wines.

QUERÉTARO

The areas surrounding the cities of Querétaro and Tequisquiapan are known as La Ruta de Queso y Vino as you will find several notable vineyards here. There are many organized tours out of each of these cities, Querétaro being the larger and more famous of the two, with Tequisquiapan the small charming pueblo, chock full of artesanias. Whichever place you decide to make your base, you will find it easy to explore both the wines and cheeses made in the area. There are different types of organized tours ranging from horseback, tranvía (trolley), walking, and the like, or you can rent a car to explore on your own.

Not only is this area the route of wine and cheese, historically the Bajío – the lowland plain of west central Mexico, is the cradle of the Mexican struggle for freedom that culminated in the War of Independence, making it a treasure trove of history that can be studied in the museums and tours of the cities of Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende, and Dolores Hidalgo.

Finca Sala Vivé by Freixnet México: Are you a sparkling wine fan? This is the place to experience a tour and tasting of that special “bubbly” that adds spark to all occasions. Finca Sala Vivé is the major producer of sparkling wines in Mexico, which it accomplishes through traditional methods. As with all the vineyards, you can buy the wines you taste by the bottle to take home to share with friends.

La Redonda is one of the most frequented vineyards, but don’t let that put you off. It is popular for a reason, and there are never crowds. You will experience the personal attention that characterizes all the tours and wineries in this region.

One plus of La Redonda is the value of their wines. Their prices fall into a very reasonable range for those of us who imbibe daily, and I find their wines to be readily available in many locations in the country, not just in this region.

These vineyards and wines offer a good idea of the state of wine in Mexico. Prices can vary dramatically, and people often are surprised that the Mexican wines can be even pricier than some French wines. Wine prices, like everything else these days, are only rising, in some part due to peso devaluation. I find that when I dine in a restaurant, my glass of wine is often more expensive than my friend’s margarita. But,“Así es la vida! Disfrútala!”