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Valley Girl Wine Tours
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You're wine-venture begins here!
You're wine-venture begins here!

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In early 2012 my mother called me up to inform me she was moving back to Mexico to make wine. I laughed and was like, “Whatever lady! Not a thing!” Then I got served a big old dish of humble pie. I could not have been more wrong.

See, I’ve been a sommelier since before it was trendy, when most people didn’t have personal PCs, the internet was something we weren’t sure would take off, and Monica Lewinsky went from unknown intern to a household name in America. The year was 1998 and I was living in an apartment the size of a postage stamp (but with beautiful crown molding!) in one of the Big Easy’s less then desirable neighborhoods. While Will Smith was “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It” I spent 100s of hours studying under a master sommelier. In addition to memorizing facts, regions, varietals, styles, vinification techniques, chemistry, and about a million other details I had to train my nose and palate to identify and recall 1,000s of aromas and flavors and then be able to break them down into their distinct compounds. It was a lot of note taking and because “sommelier” had not yet entered America’s pop culture lexicon I was constantly explaining what a sommelier was and did to prospective employers.

Most people were confused and not all that impressed. I’d get these puzzled expressions and people would ask me, “You can go to school for that?” Most of them just called me “the wine girl” which isn’t the worst thing I’ve been called especially since the few people who knew what a sommelier was treated me like a unicorn. I got to sample exotic and rare wines worth and it was common to be asked if I wanted to board a private plane and spend my weekend wine tasting in Boudreaux or a medieval abbey in Hungary. I ran in the sort of circles you had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to even enter. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Ha-ha

By the time my mother called me up to tell me she was moving back to Mexico to make wine, I’d spent the better part of 14 years studying one of history’s most sought after libations and I’d never even heard a whisper about Mexican wine. I’m no expert but surely if Mexican wine was a thing I would have at least heard about it. Like, I don’t know, maybe when I was actually living in Mexico for example. I mean I was familiar with Chinese, Lebanese and Ethiopian wines! I’d even heard about some superb wines being made in West Sussex! But Mexico? Nope, never came up. I started asking my somm friends if any of them had ever heard of Mexican wine and I was consistently met with the same response, “They make wine in Mexico?” Apparently?

I had to know. Was Mexican wine a thing? What kinds of wines are they making in Mexico? Why has no one heard of Mexican wine? Is it any good?

Towards the end of my mother’s first harvest my bestie and I flew into San Diego and walked across the border into Tijuana to see what kind of trouble my mother was getting herself into. My mother took us to some of her favorite wineries and introduced us to some of her favorite winemakers. Though I was crazy skeptical when I arrive in the valle, I was in love after my first sip and couldn’t get enough. My bestie and I spent two weeks drinking our way through the Ruta del Vino. When it was time to go I felt like I’d barely begun to scratch the surface and I couldn’t wait to get back.

It took another 2 years before my bestie and I loaded up a 16-foot truck with everything we collectively owned and drove down the west coast chanting, “Full commitment” the whole way. My mission was clear: learn about the history of Mexican wine, sample as much as my liver can handle, and get the secret out.

I went full scholar taking notes, chatting up winemakers, cozying up to chefs, and asking a lot of questions. Though everyone I met was very friendly, I was also met with a little suspicion. Everyone wanted to know why this petite blond was so interested in Mexican wine culture and I was repeatedly told that no one visiting really cared.

How do I even begin to express my passion for this place, the people, the terroir, and the incredible wines being made here by rock star winemakers? There is so much creativity, ingenuity, inventiveness, and experimentation here. There is a rebellious attitude against the status quo of winemaking and what it means to be a modern winemaker. We are pushing boundaries and at the same time dedicated to the revival of old school winemaking and above all else honoring the grape and our unique terroir. There is also a real sense of comradery among winemakers and a consensus that our individual successes are contingent on our collective successes.

Mexico is the cradle of New World wines. We’ve been making wines here longer than anywhere else in the western hemisphere. We have over 500 years of winemaking history! Mexico is home to the two oldest wineries continuing to produce wine in the western hemisphere. Casa Madero has been making and selling wine since the 16th century and Santo Tomas has been doing the same since the late 1800s. Long before the Spanish ever touched foot in what is now known as Argentina, 200 years before the first missions were built to colonize Alta California, 300 years before California became a state, and over 400 years before Robert Mondavi planted grapes in Napa Mexican wines have been giving Europe a run for its money. In fact by the 1560s wines from “New Spain” were outselling European wines so much that King Felipe II actually had a royal temper tantrum and ordered his soldiers to cut and burn the vines. Wtf? Of course, some were spared because the soldiers still needed to drink…you know.

When books, blogs, encyclopedias, and museums failed me with large gaps in Mexico’s winemaking history I did the only thing I could think of. I tracked down descendants of the founding families to hear their stories and really round out my education of this enchanting region. Though initially met with some skepticism, once they realized my interest was genuine and I was motivated by wanting to get the secret out about Mexican wine, everyone opened up and was just as eager to share their family’s stories with me as I was to hear them. Plus my mother taught me to never show up empty handed. Tequila and wine have a way of loosening lips.

In the 4 years since I’ve been here I’ve watched the valley grow from 40 wineries to over 150 (and growing!), zero craft breweries to over 5, and 1 Michelin star chef to 4. I’ve taken out 100s of private tours including winemakers, sommeliers, and chefs as well as several members of the press and my passion for this place, its people, and of course all the amazing wines continues to grow with each day. I definitely have my favorites though I’m always looking for that next hidden gem. There are staples in my wine fridge I just can’t live without, wines that tempt my senses, winemakers I follow with the zest of a teenage girl, and chefs whose cuisine I dream about. If you’re wondering, I never hesitate to open a bottle and share it with friends old or new.

From Aimee Despond’s playful and slightly effervescent Malvasia with intoxicating floral aromas that reveals notes of lychee and fresh cut pineapple to Sitara Perez’s unconventional and provocative dry Moscato that smells like jasmine in bloom and tastes like honeydew melon rind, white peaches, and honeyed apricots. From the cowboy winemaker’s Carignan with bright acidity and notes of cracked black peppercorn, licorice root, and black cherries to legendary winemaker Ernesto Camou’s luscious estate Merlot with rich earthy aromas mixed with fresh cut Serrano peppers and supple tannins that give way to blackberry, snuff tobacco, flint, and melted chocolate on the palate. From Jorge Maciel’s voluptuous Nebbiolo with the firm tannins that unfolds into notes of violets, truffles, and tar to Adrian Garcia’s Barbera/Tempranillo blend that captures the unique qualities of these very different varietals presenting notes of sour cherries and oil-cured black olives complimented by notes of black cherry cola and cake frosting. What can I say? I’m a girl in love.

And my mom? Well, she may have taken a long and meandering road to get here but anyone who tries her award winning wines agrees this is what she was always supposed to do. Don’t believe me? Come on by and taste for yourself.

Now when people ask me, “They make wine in Mexico?” I smile and have a little chuckle because they don’t know I’m about to shake up everything they thought they knew about wine. Buckle up boys and girls, you’re about to have your minds blown.

Vaya con Vino
#valleygirlwinetours #valleygirl #inwinewelust #vayaconvino #ava #drinkpink #winerevolution #mexicanwine #guadalupevalley #girlboss #latina
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One of Mexico's dynamic winemakers who are putting Guadalupe Valley on the map as a premier winetasting destination. Jorge Maciel of Cava Maciel winery.
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Some of the wineries and winemakers we visit
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2014-11-16
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