Wine in the Land of Tequila

Ah, Mexico. Sounds so sweet, and yes, we did go. My beautiful wife and I escaped recently for a few days to sunny Puerto Vallarta. If you can get past the image of me in a bathing suit, I'm certain you're wondering, "What did Corkdork drink in the land of tequila?" A valid question, considering that Mexico is not exactly a land with a wine culture. And the warm weather does not make the mouth water for a Walla Walla Syrah. So, what's a poor boy to do?

First off, let's remove weather from the equation because, you may recall, we discussed this last summer that you can, and should, be able to enjoy wine during periods of the warm and sunnies.

However, what do you do when you're in a country that doesn't put much thought into the fruit of the vine? In fact, in Mexico the word vino (besides meaning "vine") refers to liquor in general. In many shops down yonder, I have asked for "vino" and been shown the whiskey displays. I do speak Spanish well enough to make myself clear so when I would attempt "vino de uva" (wine from grapes), the friendly clerk would simply shrug no and smile. If memory serves, I was once in an interior region of the country where my tour book commented on a delicious local white wine. Naturally I scouted high and low for said product, only to meet with many friendly shrugs and smiles. ¡Viva Mexico!

It's interesting, because the history is certainly there. After all, Mexico was pillaged by the Spanish, who are no strangers to grape wine. I can't imagine the conquistadors, or settlers for that matter, existing in this new colony without their daily drop. And history does recount that Spanish missionaries planted wine grapes wherever the sweet soil of the earth would allow. Of course, results were superior in the coastal areas of the West, namely the Californias, both Baja and Alta (our present-day state). The wines were never remarkable, but at least they tried.

But the bulk of Mexican citizenry cared little for wine and took more to another Spanish innovation, brandy. Brandy is strong, sort of on the sweet side and, yes, made from wine grapes. Where do you think the bulk of wine grape production went? If you answered "brandy," please give yourself a well-deserved round of something.

Once again I ramble. What then does the modern-day wine geek do for that special thirst? Well, take heart. There are a handful of producers in the northern part of Baja that are concentrating their efforts on wines of quality. The Guadalupe Valley is due east of Ensenada and is home to Mexico's most promising vineyards. Some of these labels are quite easy to find in many Mexican shops, and the one brand that I would recommend is L.A.Cetto. If you like red, try their Petit Syrah - it's muy bueno.

Look, after a day of sunbathing, fishing, boating, scuba diving, beer, beer and beer, it's time for a nice dinner. There's no reason not to enjoy a good bottle of wine with your meal. That's what this wine lover did. I also did my absolute best to keep the tequila industry afloat, but that's a whole 'nuther story.

Jeff and Mim Zucker operate Corks Wine Shop and Tasting Bar in Magnolia Village.

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