Many of us know that Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Independence Day in Mexico — that’s properly celebrated in September. But the 5th of May does mark an important battle when the Mexican army beat French forces near the city of Puebla.
Stateside, Cinco de Mayo offers an excuse to down lots of beer and tequila. But for a more sophisticated celebration, consider uncorking a fine wine from Mexico’s Baja California Norte, the region just south of San Diego that includes Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada.
The nation’s leading winemaker is Hugo d’Acosta, a visionary and consultant who studied in Bordeaux and Montpelier, France. At Casa de Piedra and Paralelo, he crafts wines that express the unique Mediterranean tierra in the Valle de Guadalupe east of the city of Ensenada — and teaches others to do the same. D’Acosta doesn’t sell wine via his web sites, but fortunately, BajaWines does. Here are some of our top choices:
Piedra del Sol Chardonnay 2011 (Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico) $23: A lithe, unoaked chardonnay, this refreshing wine reveals the grape’s playful side along with flavors of green apples and tropical fruits.
Contraste Vino Tinto 2008 (California, USA and Baja California Norte, Mexico ) $47.50: A collaboration between d’Acosta and Karl Wente of Wente Vineyards, this wine is half tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon from the Valle de Guadalupe of Mexico and half merlot from the Livermore Valley east of San Francisco, Calif. Intensely aromatic with fragrances of violets and dark fruits, this lush wine delivers flavors of chocolate, plums, and cedar, and is wrapped in firm tannins.
Paralelo “Ensamble Colina BA1” 2008 (Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico) $37: With Paralelo, d’Acosta wanted to demonstrate the effect of terroir by making two parallel red blends in different soils. A mashup of cab, zinfandel, merlot, barbera, and petite syrah grown in clay-strewn hillside soils, this half of the Ensamble duo is a supple wine with deep flavors of dark cherries, plums, and figs.