Just past the stoplight in the small pueblo of San Antonio de Las Minas, is the sign for Casa de Piedra. Flipping a U-turn brings you back to the main entrance and a narrow dirt road. On your right, you will see the vintage rock building that was the original structure when Casa de Piedra, Stone House, was founded. Today it is where all wine production takes place. Reservations for a tour are needed. As Casa de Piedra grew into a well-known winery, it was necessary to relocate the wine tasting and offices further up the hill. Continue to the top of the hill and turn right into a parking lot carved into the hillside.
Taking several flights of stairs up to the wine tasting area, the view is outstanding. The traveler looks down onto the lush vineyards. Groves of olive trees move like silvery ocean waves in the afternoon breeze. The new building is modest and finished in natural earth adobe and stressed woods. The patio is delightful. Delicate white butterflies danced through the shelter of a grape arbor providing shade with plenty of seating to enjoy a glass of wine. The sounds of jazz float up from the deck below and the little gem of Conchas de Piedra, from Deckman’s restaurant is discovered. Tucked into the hillside under shade cloth, it offers succulent tastes from the sea created in artful designs.
Deckman’s is known for its gourmet presentations, using only organically grown vegetable from El Mogor gardens and the best of the best local sea food. The seating is on high stools with heavy wood plank tables, festooned with Deckman’s signature sunflowers. Sparkling white or rose wine is served. Mexican sparkling wine is fairly rare in the valley due to the labor intensive three years for completion in a second fermentation. But it is worth the wait and accompanies nicely the very delicate presentations of the seafood. Try it with lightly grilled slices of abalone with a touch of beet salad garnished with sprigs of fresh fennel and tiny onion flower blossoms. Or try the intriguing tostada using the “foot” of the clam, stacked with finely chopped garden vegetables. A group of young women from the U.S. were enjoying a bachelorette party and having the time of their lives.
Time for wine tasting! Abimael Valdovinos presents the tasting options in a leather-bound folder. The first thing that is noticed is how impassioned Abimael is about the visionary owner and winemaker, Hugo D’Acosta. If you tour the Guadalupe Valley frequently you will hear his name spoken with reverence from almost everyone producing wine these days. He is known as “The pioneer of Mexican winemaking.” Casa de Piedra was his first project of which he has many now over the years. D’Acosta graduated from the School of Agronomy of Montpellier, France and the Agricultural University of Turin, Italy. His vision produced the first wine making school in Baja California, “La Escuelita.” Students study the art of winemaking with the master himself as he reveals the mysteries of making unique wine that starts with an understanding of geography, weather, water and soil. As D’Acosta himself states, “wine is made in the vineyard” and his classes are meant to bring future vintners to a closer relationship with the earth.
First, we are introduced to the beauty of crystal clear Chardonnay. Looking through the glass into the wine is seen a surreal vineyard floating in the pale liquid sunshine. It was leggy as the alcohol clung to the glass. A bit of effervesce came with the first sip, then it filled the mouth with a long lingering buttery finish. This was followed by the two reds in the first tasting. The first is a 2010 Contraste Continental, 50% Tempranillo, 50% Cabernets Sauvignon. The labels are unique to each wine, each year. This year had a large black and white eye looking out. D’Acosta is known for his modern sense of the boutique wine of which this label expresses. With 12 months in the barrel and time in the bottle it was luscious, yet had a fresh lightness about it, lots of energy with a long finish. All the while, Abimael entertained with his experiences as a new winemaker himself. He graduated from Escuelita and now has had the advantage of being mentored by D’ Acosta for two years. Water, weather and soil are always changing, so that learning is always new, as well as challenging and never ending. The final tasting, Contraste Intercontinental, 2010, its label displays a photo of a man’s body. On one shoulder birds are in flight and below his belly button was written, “Jetaime.” It’s dark blend of Tempranillo, Cabaret Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Cardigan made for a very elegant presentation. During this tasting, Abimael gave a brief introduction about the way to savor wine with food pairing. Done properly it will give the benefit of the wine lingering in the mouth adding to the savory food flavors; a full experience for the mouth. With a wolfish grin Abimael said, “Wine and food pairing is like a good marriage, both should combine creating a perfect harmonic dance.”
Hugo D’Acosta’s visions unfold each day. They are a central part of his life. He states, “Inertia is my worst enemy.” In an interview with Wine and the City, Hugo expressed his thoughts:"... It's an exciting time for Mexican wine at the moment, there's a lot happening in a small region...It's still very fresh and experimental, there are things happening you'll never find again, and blends you like that you'll never get to see again. We don't have the vision to expand. We're not looking to export and perhaps that's a mistake. We need to be part of the wine world to keep the project running. My aim is to show the world that Mexico is a serious winemaking country. My intentions are simple; I'm passionate about getting more people into making wine."
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