Baja’s Beaujolais Belt

Lisa Jennings Along the Pacific Coast, Northern California gets more international attention as a wine-producing region. But the vineyards of Baja California are gaining ground. For about two weeks every year, the fruit of the vine is celebrated in Mexico’s wine country, which is centered on Ensenada’s

By: Lisa Jennings

Along the Pacific Coast, Northern California gets more international attention as a wine-producing region. But the vineyards of Baja California are gaining ground.

For about two weeks every year, the fruit of the vine is celebrated in Mexico’s wine country, which is centered on Ensenada’s Guadalupe Valley. It is Mexico’s version of the Napa or Sonoma valleys further north.

The Fiestas de la Vendimia this year are scheduled for Aug. 6-22, and will include a number of events designed to highlight the region’s wines, as well as celebrating this year’s harvest.

It opens Aug. 6 with the 14th Wine Experience, a presentation of wines, labels and vintages of Baja California. It is followed by a formal dinner, wine tasting and concert.

The festival continues with events throughout the wine harvest season. Sponsored by the participating wineries, the events include gourmet meals matched with wines, along with lectures by wine makers, a wine competition, music, dancing, art, a paella contest, fireworks, a fishing tournament and a bullfight. Organizers say some events are sold out.

Throughout the festival, wine makers will host tours of their vineyards. Among the 18 vineyards participating is L.A. Cetto, Adobe Guadalupe, Casa de Piedra and Chateaux Camou.

The wine-making tradition came to Mexico in the 1500s with Franciscan and Dominican missionaries. They brought grapevines to make the wine they needed to celebrate mass.

Because of the ideal climactic conditions of the region, the making of wine grew rapidly until the tradition was put on hold for about 300 years by King Philip, who stopped all production, fearing that the wines of “New Spain” would compete with those produced in the motherland.

Jesuits brought the tradition back in the 17th century, and ranches began cultivating grapes again.

That was the beginning, many say, of the wine industry in North America. Today in Baja California, there are about nine major vineyards which produce an estimated 1.2 million cases of wine each year. Much is exported, but the vineyards supply about 90 percent of the wine available in Mexico. The industry has grown about 33 percent over the past five years, according to the Asociacion de Vinicultores.

The association’s Web site (www.bajacaliforniawines.com) offers a schedule of events in both English and Spanish. And more information is also available through the Ensenada Tourism Board at 800-310-9687.

www.discoverbajacalifornia.com
www.enjoyensenada.com

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