Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekend Wine Warriors

What does a mama get when she raises a plastic surgeon, an x-ray technician, an architect, and adds a soon-to-be oenologist grandson, and turns them loose in a winery? Serious, muscular, deep, rich, thigh-slapping red vino on the dinner table, that’s what!

 

What does a Swiss-French oceanographer do in his spare time? Other than: rescuing damaged olive trees, growing organic produce, managing a farmer’s market on his property, and raising chickens and Charolais cattle? He makes lip-smacking vino!

 

In this installment, we’ll take a look at two smaller, focused, highly artisanal Valle de Guadalupe wineries producing the good juice.

 

In 1994, trace hermanos, Roberto, Abel, and Bernardo Lafarge began planting grapevines in the upper Valle under the name Vinedos Lafarga. Concentrating on four heavyweight red varietals, Cabernet Savignon, Merlot, Syrah, and interestingly, Nebbiolo, a varietal originally from northwest Bella Italia (think Barolos, and Gattinaras).

 

Loving the evenings cooled by marine breezes, and warm to hot days, the grapes thrived. Initially, production was miniscule, because consistent pruning made for small, but highly concentrated, lots. Now up to only about 1000 cases, Lafarge would have to be considered a small player in the game, but it would hard to find a group of reds with more power, extract, complexity, depth and flavor.

 

We were honored to be invited as the first ever visitors to their winery. There is no formal tasting room yet, so we stood among the barrels and we were treated some of the finest juice of the trip. A” wine thief” (a long glass tube winemakers use to draw barrel samples) was employed to taste upcoming blends. The smart thing to do would be to take a small sip and dump the rest but they were too delicious to waste. Loved ‘em all. The brothers have made two special blends named after their parents. I thought the “DJ 1905”, a 2004 Cab/Merlot/Syrah a knockout! (father Don Jose, born in 1905). Janet liked the more approachable NV Merlot/ Cab blend, “Esther” (after mama).

 

Don Jose and Esther have much to be proud of.

 

Antonio Bedan arrived in the Valle at the ripe old age of two. His father, Henri, had come to the Valle to start an olive oil business based on the abundance of olive trees thriving there. He selected a 2500 acre property “El Mogor”. Among the olive trees, Henri planted some vine shoots given to him by a friend. So, you could say, Antonio grew up in the wine business, and in the European tradition, wine was served with daily meals, but it was many years before he got the “wine bug”. A trip to Bordeaux changed all that, and he began to devote all his “free time” to studying wine (and getting a doctorate in Marine Physics all the while). Mogor-Bedan Winery was born.

 

Only two types of wine are produced: a tightly wound, intense, Bordeaux style Cabernet/Merlot blend with some Temeranillo and Cabernet Franc. And, Chassalas, a pretty, fresh, citrusy white with elegant, delicious tropical fruit flavors. A Swiss varietal, it is grown only in Switzerland, northern Germany, and at Mogor-Bedan.

 

Antonio oversees every aspect of his 600 case per year operation, from crushing the grapes to pasting on the labels. He had the labels designed using old print type from a print shop in Paris. He is totally “hands-on”.

 

His sister Natalia lives on the property and operates a weekly impromptu farmers market on the porch of the main house. As active as her brother, she has organized protests against proposed housing subdivisions, and other large scale intrusions into the Valle.

 

The recently completed wine cellar is stunning; made from rocks dug from the property and surrounding area. Armed with a generous glass of the red blend, we repaired there, sat around on the barrels and talked shop, among other things. A true Renaissance man, fluent in many subjects, he is old school, deplores “creeping gentrification”, and dumbing down of society.

 

Viva Antonio!

 

Visit www.vinoclubsma.com for information on Mexican Wines

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