Nobody seems to know exactly how many wineries there are in the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s premiere wine region, just inland from Ensenada in Baja California. Some estimates range as high as 100 or so. I’ve counted 58 myself, but am undoubtedly missing some — not least because the valley remains steadfastly rustic, with only three paved roads, and many of its wineries, restaurants, and inns are located down dusty, rutted paths that look as if they’re more likely to lead to chicken coops or cabbage fields.
On one of these is Decantos Vinícola, which opened in 2015 — a stunning contemporary winery that wouldn’t look out of place in the poshest corners of Napa or Sonoma, with its black iron buttresses, wraparound windows, and sweeping views of vines and rocky meadows. (The design is by noted Ensenada architect Juan Ruíz.) Amenities here include a tasting room, a tapas café, and a "winemaker for a day" program allowing visitors to create their own blends. The most interesting part, though, is the winemaking facility itself.
Proprietor–winemaker Alonso Granados built the place to operate completely by gravity flow, with no mechanical pumping; he believes this method produces more aromatic, intensely flavored wines. The name of his enterprise, he says, “refers to decantación, or decanting, meaning not just the pouring out of wine into a decanter but also the gravity flow of the whole winery, which means that the wines are in effect decanted as they are made.”
The results are impressive. The vivid, unoaked chardonnay, redolent of citrus fruits and pineapple, is one of the valley's better whites. Maceración Carbónica, a red blend made by the carbonic maceration process (by which whole grapes are fermented with C02 in a sealed tank) is fresh and positively blooming with fruit. There’s an earthy, barnyardy cabernet sauvignon, a reserve malbec with plenty of varietal character and nice cherry-like fruit, a premium blend called 981 (an only-in-Baja combination of tempranillo, nebbiolo, and syrah) that combines red fruits with notes of coffee and caramelized hazelnuts, and an “amarone” in the Valpolicella style that smells like its well-ripened Italian counterpart and has a salty tang.
Granados also plans to produce a port as well as a sweet white (in the style of Hungary’s legendary Tokaj region, but made with chenin blanc). “Eventually,” he says, “we’re going to make wine from every variety in the region.” That’s a lot — more than 40, including, besides the aforementioned, cabernet franc, pinot noir, merlot, ruby cabernet, petite sirah, zinfandel, grenache, mourvèdre, barbera, carignan, mission, tannat, dolcetto, sangiovese, cinsault, Montepulciano, petit verdot, Durif, and aglianico among the red grapes; sauvignon blanc, riesling, palomino, sémillon, muscat, fiano, vermentino, gewürztraminer, colombard, chasselas, and grenache blanc for white.
Very few wines from the Valle de Guadalupe are available in the U.S., and those of Decantos Vinícola are not among those that are. The valley is an easy drive from San Diego, however, so going to see this unusual winery and tasting these good wines is highly advised.