Monte Xanic Winery
Mexican wine? Tequila, mezcal, even Kahlua, sure…but wine? Greg has been trying to get me to check out the Mexican wine country for quite some time now. In my ignorance, I resisted. Never heard of it, how good could it be?
But the Valle de Guadalupe has been generating an increasingly louder buzz of late. This picturesque swath of Baja California is fairly close to LA and is being compared to “the Napa Valley of sixty years ago.” The coup de grace for me was listening to Evan Kleiman’s report of her recent Baja road trip on my newly installed KCRW app.
Plus, I had an ulterior motive. I’m in the process of drinking, er, tasting, my way through UCLA Extension’s Wine Management Certificate program. This term’s course is exploring New World wines, and I figured it doesn’t get much newer than this. I’m in the process of developing my palate, as you might be able to tell from my past posts, so I rationalized this trip as “homework.”
I did my research before we left. Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia gave Monte Xanic the highest rating of the Ensenada-area producers it reviewed, and Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson gave it a shout out in their World Atlas of Wine. So I had my destination.
Monte Xanic, pronounced sha-nik and meaning “flower which blooms after the rain”, is one of Mexico’s first “boutique” wineries. It was founded in 1987 by five friends who shared the desire to make high quality local wine. Sixty or so other small wineries eventually followed their lead.
Valle de Guadelupe seems to sprout rows of vines everywhere you turn– from the literal valley floor to the surrounding (granite) boulder strewn hillsides. I was also struck by the variety of varietals! The terroir is hospitable to traditional bordelaise grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Not to mention smatterings of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Syrah and a good portion of Palomino (Spain), Nebbiolo and Tempranillo (Italy).
Our tasting adventure, lakeside at Monte Xanic, focused on the bordelaise. A pleasant setting was made even more enjoyable by our personable pourer, Isabel. We had a choice between four whites or four reds… or all eight. I opted for the full Monte. Brief tasting notes follow:
Wine 1: 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. Clean, bright and water white. Grapefruit, lemon-lime zest delivered with a tart acidity. More fruit than grass (a la New Zealand).
Wine 2: 2011 Chardonnay. Golden, buttery. Rich California oak-styled Chard. While not as refreshing as Wine 1, definitely more complex and well-balanced. A winner.
Wine 3: 2012 Calixa (their less expensive “house wine” brand) Chardonnay. Stainless steel replaces French oak here for a fruity, light quaff. Tropical fruits and citrus make it a natural with seafood.
Wine 4: 2012 Chenin Colombard. Semi-dry tropical fruits with crisp acid and floral notes. Not my favorite.
Wine 5: 2011 Merlot. Pleasing ruby color, medium body. Notes of tobacco, leather and coffee bean translate into black fruit, vanilla and chocolate on the palate. Smooth tannins make it go down a little too easily!
Wine 6: 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend. Red and black fruits– plum, black cherry– highlighted by licorice and caramel. Nice structure with strong tannins and refreshing acidity.
Wine 7: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. My favorite– we bought a couple of bottles (the maximum allowable!) to bring back. Black fruit and tomato leaf on the nose, almost sweet on the palate with the expected cassis, red cherry and touch of vanilla.
Wine 8: 2012 Chenin Blanc Cosecha Tardia (late harvest). Semi-sweet, floral and fruity. Pineapple, fresh baked lemon tart with cream. A lovely finish to the flight.
While it is tempting to compare Monte Xanic wines to their old world counterparts, it is also counterproductive. “Terroir” means place, and Valle de Guadelupe is a truly unique, delightful and developing designation in its own right. KEN
Monte Xanic wines are available online from: Vino from Mexico
More on my trip to Valle de Guadalupe: GREG