Vineyards and vintners
A couple of hours from downtown San Diego, just across the Mexican border, lies the Valle de Guadalupe, a place of green valleys and boulder-covered hills. Its dry, hot summers and cooler, damper winters, combined with porous soil and cooling sea breezes, are ideal for grape growing. This northern end of the Baja California peninsula is, in fact, one of the New World's oldest wine-growing areas. Jesuit priests cultivated vines here in the 18th century, and the first commercial winery, Bodegas de Santo Tomas (santo-tomas.com), opened in 1888.
But it was visionary winemaker Hugo D'Acosta who changed everything. Brought up in Mexico City, he trained in France and came to work for Santo Tomas in the 1990s before setting up Casa de Piedra a few miles north of the port city of Ensenada. Releasing his first vintage in 1997, he focused on wines that characterised the Mexican terroir – concentrated and complex, full-bodied and aromatic, generally with a higher alcohol content than European wines.
His wines – such as Vino de Piedra, a blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon – have a cult-like status among Mexican oenophiles, and Hugo has paved the way for a new generation of independent grower-producers with an experimental outlook.