Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Let's Play "Name That Wine Region"

Napa? Nope.

Tuscany? Tsk tsk.

Guadeloupe Valley? Gold stars for you!

Yep, Mexico has it’s very own wine country about 20 miles northeast of Ensenada. You reach it by turning away from the ocean onto the Ruta de Vino (also known as Highway No. 3) and traveling inland. Along the way, “vinacolas” (vineyards) are clearly marked, but be prepared to pull off onto the shoulder to let the constant big-rigs pass on this narrow, two-lane road sometimes bordered by steep cliffs. Then, once you leave the main road, it’s a long, dusty haul to your destination. This wouldn’t be so bad, but if you’re suffering the aftereffects of the previous night in Ensenada…well, you get my drift.

Because of said aftereffects, we arrived in the valley late—which means after noon (most of the public tours and tastings shut down around 1:00 p.m.) and ended up at L.A. Cetto (pronounced shetto). Turns out these Italian settlers have been brewing up the vino since 1926, and they’ve got a pretty decent international reputation. In fact, much of Mexico’s wine (85% is produced in the Guadeloupe Valley) is beginning to get a good name. A couple of barriers have worked against them: 1) an indigenous culture who, when they drink at all, are more focused on tequila (I can hardly blame them); and 2) barriers to exporting. Apparently, that’s why the new push to spruce up the valley as a tourist destination.

When we arrived at L.A. Cetto, we went (where else?) straight to the tasting room. Unfortunately, it was clogged with tourists (predominantly Mexican), and short of knocking over sweet little old ladies and small children, we couldn’t edge our way to the bar. Although most Mexicans speak English way better than I speak Spanish, I kept getting misinformation about how the place “worked.” At one point, we traipsed after a tour, only to discover it was the “tour en Espagnol”. Thank goodness we figured it out--I can’t think of anything less fascinating than hearing how wine is made in a language I don’t understand. Then, while tracking down the “tour en Inglese,” we realized the tasting room had cleared out, so we ditched the tour idea and made a beeline for the bar.

An adorable, young Italian-looking man served us. I’m ashamed to admit the writer in me didn’t get his name, but I could swear he was a descendant of the original guy from Italy. Anyway, he oozed charm and even brought out “the big guns,” prefacing the presentation with, “I’m not supposed to do this, but I thought you’d like…” (fill in the exotic grape). I’m no wine connoisseur (can’t even spell it without spellcheck) but I liked what I tried, so I bought a bottle of Nebbiolo. When I Googled the word, I learned nebbiolo is a very closely held grape from Italy, and that few countries grow it successfully because it’s sort of the diva of wine grapes. Can’t wait to see if it’s as good as I remember!

Sigh. So many vineyards, so little time. We didn’t even scratch the surface. Plus, there are a couple of highly recommended restaurants to try.

Oh, well. Maybe next trip.

No comments: