by Fred McMillin
for May 26, 1999


Mexico On The Go


Hernando Cortez founded the Mexican wine industry in 1524. In the past 25 years it has moved further than in the previous 450 years.

Change started with the planting of noble grape varieties in the Guadalupe Valley, a short drive south of the California border.

...Hugh Johnson, World Atlas of Wine

The Rest of the Story

Today's wine was made by the pioneering firm of L.A. Cetto, with 2,000 acres of vines in the valley. Here's how it came about.

Angelo Cetto arrived at Guadalupe from Italy in 1923. His labor job was not a barrel of laughs, but he saved his pesos, moved to Tiujana, and began working with real barrels. They were barrels of bulk wine he was making. Profits sent his sons to college in Mexico City. The eldest, Luis Angel, joined dad and the business took off.

The Region

Charles Mitchell vineyards  
What's the potential of this area in the northwest corner of the Baja peninsula? It is cooled by the breezes and fogs from the Pacific. Locally, it is referred to as "the Napa Valley of Mexico." As the wine industry was awakening, critic Leon Adams wrote that he had tasted 452 wines from all parts of the country, and "all but four ranged from drinkable to good." Quality has been improving steadily, which leads us to today's wine.

Wine of the Day

1998 Mexican White Wine, Valle de Guadalupe
Producer—L.A. Cetto, Importer—Charles Mitchell
Composition—60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Colombard
My Panel's Comments:

    "Dry style. Interesting wine."
    "Well done except slightly yeasty."
    "Acidic. Interesting."
Tasting This Wine—At least 90 minutes in the frig. Then, I had mine with mild white cheese and water crackers, to examine the wine. With food, I'd prefer it with a simple fish sandwich, such as the one I enjoyed yesterday at the Balboa Cafe in San Francisco's Marina District.
Where to Get the Wine—If your merchant doesn't have it, phone Kathy Dawson at (800) 704-WINE, or FAX (530) 620-1005.
Price—$7 range.


One reason for the long delay in development of Mexican wines was the lack of a domestic market. It must not have been the fault of the vines, for Mexico provided Argentina it's first cuttings. Ultimately Argentinian annual per capita consumption hit something like 85 quarts per person. The last figure I have showed the per capita consumption in Mexico was less than eight ounces a year!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


WineDay Annex

More articles by
Fred McMillin


Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend.


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