Friday, October 10, 2008

Bottled Up in The Baja

In this issue, we’ll plug you into two of the small, artisanal producers of the good juice from Mexico Lindo. Both have their operations in the Ensenada area in the Baja Norte.


Roganto Winery (officially, “Vides Y Vinos Californianos”) is located in downtown Ensenada in a most unlikely place. As a matter of fact, we got lost trying to find them. After driving up and down a busy main drag, we finally found them in a small building behind a water well services business. Seems the winery is located behind the water pumps! Go figure! (Owners are the same….vineyards are out in the country south of Ensenada). “Roganto” takes its name from the first few letters of the first names of the partners, Rogelio Sanchez and Antonio Luis Escalante.


The very affable Antonio gives us a private tour (the winery is not open to the public) of a very modern, but modest sized winemaking operation. 1987 marked the first vintage (Antonio says “it was like a wine you might make in your garage”), of only about 200 cases which they just gave away to friends. The response was so positive “Tony” and his partner decided to go commercial with the 2001 vintage, buying all of their production from various growers in the area. Since then, they have owned their vineyards.


Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo are the”stars” here. Deep, dark, packed with fat, intense, high extract flavors of blackberries, plums, walnuts, sweet oak, and spices, these beauties add new meaning to the word, “Wow”! Roganto bottles these reds separately and as blends.


Vino blancos were added to the product line in recent years. We tasted an absolutely delicious pair, a Sauvignon Blanc, bursting with honeysuckle aromas, flavors of melon and sweet spices, and a steely crisp, citrusy, non-oaked Montrachet-style Chardonnay that had a finish from here to Christmas!


Roganto Winery has it going! In a recent tasting held by top Mexican wine gurus, its Tempranillo was voted the 2nd best in the country!


Pau Pijoan Winery was a bit of a challenge to find. Not visible from the main road, no sign to mark the turn off on a dirt road leading to the winery. But hey, that’s why cell phones were invented! Finally, by “take[ing] the first left dirt road past the horse farm”, and “turn at the next dirt road”, we finally found Pau and his winery!


Pau Pijoan Aguade, a retired research veterinarian whose family roots go back to the Barcelona area in Spain, produces a wide range of varietals (12) which goes into making five different wines, all with a Spanish flair. We tasted the four named after his wife and three daughters.

I noticed no vineyards the area, and wondered about that until Pau informed me that all of his grapes are outsourced. He keeps his operation small at 1600 cases per year, almost all sold in the Mexico City area.


Mare (wife) is a robust Zinfandel blend of 2/3 Zin, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, with balance Merlot. Rich, flavorful, and intense with great mouthfeel and a long finish, she was a big glass of wine. Maybe she’s a big girl!


Silvana is a tasty blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Muscatel and offered pretty floral notes on a framework of crisp, clean flavors. A “patio wine”, made for easy sippin’ as an aperitif or with light foods.


Paulinha is a Beaujolais Noveau style blend of Zin, Petite Sirah, and Merlot and comes across that way. Light, fruity, with candy flavors, I found it to be a little bubble-gummy and innocuous. I’m sure Paula, the wines namesake, isn’t that way!


Dominica must be a big girl ‘cause she got us back on track with a full-figured blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. An interesting nose of perfume led onto a dark fruit bomb in the mouth, followed by a long finish. Dominica spends 13 months in oak, and tips the scales at 15.5% alcohol. She was clearly the star of the show!


It shows to go you what is happening right here in Mexico Lindo! 


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