Pulling off the El Porvenir road at Km. 9.5 into the parking lot, the first thing that is noticed are the magnificent old growth trees reaching high into the sunny sky and creating a deep welcomed shade. They have been the sentinels watching over the unpretentious Rancho “Toros Pintos” and Bibayoff Vinos since they were planted as tiny seedlings. A Pacific breeze cools the August heat. It is Vendemia, the harvest time, in the Guadalupe Valley. Stepping out of the car the visitor is about to experience 85 years of history. David Bibayoff Dalgoff’s greeting is big and warm and reminds one of the favorite grandfather and storyteller who is happy to share the bountiful history and its wines of Rancho Toros Pintos.
David laughs good naturedly, “Everyone who comes here wants to know about the history.” There are volumes of stories to tell. The first Russian Molokan families came by way of Ellis Island in the early 1900s. David adds, “Today you will see their churches in California.” The Molokan’s Christian based religion believed in peaceful coexistence with all people. Part of this group found Baja California to have a great potential for farming and decided to put down roots in the rich soil of the valley. David’s grandfather purchased the land and established Toros Pintos in 1931. These early vineyards were planted in order to sell grapes to a few winemakers. “Today our living comes from the grapes themselves. We sell most of our grapes that have been establish for 50 years.” These “old vine” grapes are highly prized by winemakers. “They need very little water because their roots run deep.” And you could say that about the Bibayoff family, a family that never lost their heritage. Today David’s grandson scurries around investigating everything, occasionally runs to his grandfather for a bear hug. He is the future of Bibayoff, as well as his other 3 brothers and 2 sisters.
“We began the harvest the first part of August, these are the white grapes that don’t tolerate the heat. This year we harvested three tons. We estimate we will have 150 tons of red by the end of the harvest in September.” David pours the 100% Colombard, labeled with the influence of the Russian language, KOLOMBARD, with the AR printed backwards. David explains that when the family first came to the valley there were just a few varietals available. “We make wine as a family project with limited sales. However, a new destination winery, Rocas del Valle, will be featuring the Bibayoff wines. The Kolombard had a fruity aroma that reminds you of pineapple and citrus. In the mouth it is bold and floral and at the end the acidic taste lingers nicely with a note of orange blossom.
It is very obvious that David loves to play around with what nature has given. He has many stories about how some of the wines came into being. “One year the birds ate most of the Nebbiolo. He started with the Zinfandel added the Nebbiolo and Cabernet, thus its name ZINC, using the first letter of the grapes. He knows the rules of winemaking and is comfortable with taking license in the creating and labeling. Like a magician he has lived with and grown up knowing the necessary elements of sun, soil, water and air. All the elements are required to grow the best grapes and in this alchemy, producing unique aromas and flavors. “It is all about the grape.” If the soil is good, the weather and rain cooperate and there will be a good grape and that makes an excellent wine. I don’t need to add much and I fertilize very little.”
David pours the old vine, ZINFANDEL, a rich deep red color with an intense aroma of red fruits presenting smooth, round, warm and wonderful in the mouth. As the flavor moves through into the long and lingering finish a hint of acidic effervescent rises like sparkling fireflies on a warm dark night. David waits for a moment to give time for the full experience, he smiles and asked, “Now can you go back to the white wine?” He teases as he knows the answer, because he knows that nothing can beat this superb old vine Zinfandel.
Tastings are available 7 days a week and require no reservations. However, on weekends reservations are needed for groups to enjoy a complete tour into the vineyard and cava. The restaurant is also open on weekends with tastings. Visitors are invited to buy a bottle of wine and have a picnic under the majestic shade trees behind the winetasting room. “I love my lawn!” exclaims David and tells how hard he worked filling it in slowly with the natural grasses, creating the lush green carpet. During summer months, the trees provide dense shade, “but then in the winter when we need the warm sun, the trees have dropped their leaves.” He grins and holds up his hands, “Just perfect.” In the small museum, there are the cute Russian nesting dolls called Matryoshka. The name literally mean, “little matron.” Made of wood the dolls are skillfully handcrafted in a decreasing size and placed inside another. “They are becoming collector’s items and driving up the price,” David said. A few interesting artifacts and photos from the earlier days cover the walls. “We welcome people to wander around, you can take your time and not feel rushed.” Certainly, it would not serve the experience to hurry through a day in the valley. There is an opportunity to enjoy the slower pace of country life, fill up on a thousand stories and complete it with the lingering finish of an old vine Zinfandel.