Wall Street Journal Critic Spits on the Mexican Wine Industry with Unusual Saltiness

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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From two years ago...

This year's Vendimias, Provino's annual wine harvest festival in the Valle de Guadalupe saw another season of sold out events and special tasting dinners featuring some of the best chefs in the world. It was a challenge due to the fact that the government of Ensenada never fixed the collapsed highway and then made things worse by beginning construction during the busy weekends, snarling traffic on the free highway that runs through La Mision. 

On Saturday the 16th I attended the sold out Finca Altozano dinner in the Valle de Guadalupe that featured chefs Javier Plascencia (Finca Altozano, Misión 19), Jair Téllez (MeroToro, Laja), Timothy Hollingsworth (the Broad), Ori Menashe (Bestia) and more that prepared an amazing from an all star line up of chefs. Down the road at Corazon de Tierra, Latin 50 Best chef, Diego Hernandez cooked alongside chef Dante Neuquen from Monterrey, and in Ensenada, chef Benito Molina prepared a meal at Manzanilla using Ensenada products paired with legendary winemaker Hugo D'Acosta's wines. All in all the impressive events should speak for what's happening in the region but in a 24-hour trip, WSJ's Lettie Teague, who apparently wasn't treated as the important writer that she is, left with an attitude and just as uninformed as when she arrived.      



What was Baja's crime?--not being Napa (is Napa even Napa anymore?) and not having time due to the busy season to wine and dine a writer who was expecting a little more. Teague commented that on the day she went to Hugo D'Acosta's Casa de Piedra they were closed, well here's a news flash--Casa de Piedra has never been open for walk-ins, the tastings are by appointment only and have always been since D'Acosta opened in 1997. Every wine region in the world has wineries that only do tastings by appointment.   

Teague gave Lechuza Winery a mixed review and then went on a tangent about the saltiness of the Valle de Guadalupe wines when it's well known that many winemakers don't have this issue and many others are getting grapes from Santo Tomas, which lies south of Ensenada and doesn't have to contend with salty water. She visited Las Nubes, Vinas de Garza, and a few others but refused to mention these wineries because she deemed the wine to be unmentionable. There are perhaps 60 wineries in the region and over 150 labels, and Teague could only find good wines at one winery, Mogor Badan? 


She also loved Deckman's en El Mogor, which is one of my favorites, too, but left out 2 restaurants that are listed on the Latin America 50 Best--Corazon de Tierra and Laja. Teague also didn't visit Finca Altozano, one of the most popular spots in the Valle de Guadalupe; she didn't stop at La Cocina de Dona Esthela. Laja is a seminal restaurant in the region and in Modern Mexican cuisine, as is chef Benito Molina's Manzanilla in Ensenada--Molina also has Silvestre, his camp-style restaurant in the Valle de Guadalupe. Malva, Latitud 32, and many other restaurants in the Vallle are fine options for the Valle de Guadalupe cuisine that makes the area so attractive. Tegue didn't check any of these places out. A first trip to the Valle without hitting up Laja is like missing the French Landry in Yountville. 


Teague further complained about incompatible blends of grapes, as if Mexico should only stick to the Bordeaux blends that marked the 80's in the Valle de Guadalupe. Mexico isn't the only wine region to do unconventional blends--Artiste, a cult wine from Los Olivos which also has a tasting room up in Napa is sought by wine lovers for its unique blends, and their are plenty of other examples in other New World wine regions. 

When WSJ writer, Katy Mclaughlin visited the Valle de Guadalupe in 2012 she had a decidedly different experience that Teague.  

I believe that when we refer the Valle de Guadalupe valley to Napa we are not treating it as a facsimile, but more the idea of an underrated wine region that seemed to have grown a considerable amount practically overnight and has turned into a food and wine destination. But the truth is that you can dine at better restaurants in the Valle de Guadalupe than in Napa, with chefs that are among the elite in the world. For the same price as a night at the French Laundry you can hit all the top restaurants in the Valle with a region that boasts 7 of the 9 most expensive seafood products in the world. 

There are plenty of great winemakers in the Valle that are making delicious wines in the same league as Mogor Badan and the dining options are exciting and approachable--the best attribute of a wine region is the strength of its restaurants. The region's wines also hold up better to dishes with chiles and bold Mexican flavors. This leads me to believe (I also spoke with someone who knew details about Teagues experience) that Lettie Teague wasn't able to properly research the Valle de Guadalupe, and therefore had a limited experience in her rather brief 24 hour trip. It's not common for a travel writer to write up a destination with just 24 hours to figure it out. The story itself mostly misses what's great about the Valle de Guadalupe and is somewhat petulant-- ultimately it comes across as sour grapes.   

   
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16 comments
lolatmexicans
lolatmexicans

wine in mexico? that is way too high brow for those peasants... you know those mexicans only drink cerveza... Raaidersss....

Marie Dixon
Marie Dixon

Sounds like Teague is a wine writer that deserves to spit out.

Kimberly Grani
Kimberly Grani

Y que? Everyone's a critic and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Who cares what one woman thinks? Also, I agree, why compare the area with Napa? Every wine region is different, which is part of what makes wine tasting special.

Fred Bluedog
Fred Bluedog

Napa valley in CA, and the mexicans wines in baja, still California..

Dave_Lieberman
Dave_Lieberman

It's a good thing she didn't try to use the "but I'm press" excuse for any of the Provino events, then. Mexico is distinctly unimpressed with press credentials. You want to go, you pay.

Joe Castro
Joe Castro

who cares. how does this the rest of the raza? you know, us beer drinking, ceviche making, tortilla burning raza.

Henry Ruiz
Henry Ruiz

And I thought the French were jerks regarding wine!

Marc Hutton
Marc Hutton

It's all good. One of the things I enjoy when I visit my family in Mexico is the Mexican wines. The are great and still value priced. If they actually catch on here in the USA then we are going to have the same thing happen to them that has happened to Tequila, lower quality and higher prices, well at least for the stuff shipped to the USA. Somethings are better kept amongst those in the know and in Mexico. Besides, I have never found the WSJ to be a good and reliable source of wine reviews like you get from Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast. I have tried wines they have recommended that I couldn't finish a 3 oz pour because they were such swill. Tells you a lot about the tastes of their reviewers.

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

I know that Napa wines are supposed to be the best California has to offer. There are plenty of other regions producing pretty nearly, in not equal, quality and you don't have to pay for the Napa appellation.

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

"...  I attended the sold out Finca Altozano dinner in the Valle de Guadalupe ...". I hate you.

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