A special sunlight touched the vineyard and olive trees. The first appearance of the fruit hangs in tiny clusters of pea size grapes; still months away from harvest. Venturing up the dirt road to Clos de Tres Cantos, enchantment begins to build, knowing the experience is going to be memorable. Pulling into the parking area, sun-washed pathways surround the unique rock structures. To add to the heightened senses, warm wind picks up the sweet scent of flowering plants. It would not be surprising to see a robed figure walking out in greeting. Instead, Maria Benitez Cantarera and Joaquín Moya Cussi, will invite you in to share their vision of what it takes to be successful, by blending the passion of wine making with ancient history and the philosophy of living a happy life.
The design of the buildings are based on Maria and Joaquin’s life experiences, their love of nature combined with an impassioned desire for sustainability that respects Panchamama - a Quechua word for Mother Earth. Each detail found in the buildings are thoughtful and significant. All the materials are reclaimed wood and glass found locally. The blocks of stone, which create a monastery-like appearance, were cut by hand from La Misión rock. Architect, Alejandro D’Acosta, followed the couple’s ideas, adding his own inspired and surprising touches. The massive doors swivel open to allow for air flow and wine bottles become decorative windows that actually cut the UV light from entering. A water catchment system diverts the gray water through channels out into the vineyard.
Sitting down with Maria and Joaquin at the long table was like being invited to a family gathering. The conversation was exuberant as a group from Mexico City filled the air with excitement as the tasting began. This couple has realized a dream. It was to be their retirement, yet they laughingly say they rarely have a weekend free. It is easy to see that they love what they do. Their mission to inspire people is being realized and they have a very clear vision on how that is done. We begin the first tasting of “TuMismo.” Maria says the name carries this message: “Be yourself, always and do not try to be anyone else, in this way you will embrace happiness.” TuMismo is a blend of Petite Syrah, Cardigan and Grenache, with one year in French oak. It gave plum and smoky aroma and was bright in the mouth with a long spicy finish. While sipping, Joaquin begins to spin his stories of a life in the search of the truth. He began with a Law Degree, looking into Theology and completing a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. Maria brought to this adventure what she calls the “four pillars of success.” This idea she learned working 24 years for Johnson and Johnson. The first pillar, you respect your customers. The second pillar, treat the staff with dignity and pay them well. Pillar three mandates that you must give back to the community, having respect for future generations. Maria said, “If any business does the first three very well, they don’t have to worry about the fourth pillar of finance as it will happen automatically.”
The second tasting is called “Nada,” or nothing. It brought out the philosopher in Joaquin, with eyes flashing he said, “We are only atoms and molecules. Humans are actually 95% nothing!” Thus the wine was named for truth proposed by Schopenhauer. The winery’s old mission look of square hand-cut granite blocks, honors the contemplative padres who made the first wine here, while living their spiritual truth. The pyramid domes are a reminder of the Mayan culture and their advanced thought. The peak at the top allows for natural illumination and allows rising heat to escape. Taking the first sip of “Nada,” a blend of Tempranillo and Petite Syrah, was dark and mysterious with fruity aroma and a note of vanilla from the year in French oak. It had a delightfully long finish of plum and chocolate that would pair nicely with most foods. Maria smiling said, “But the most important pairing is good friends and good conversation.”
On to the third tasting and more adventure stories with “Noesis” meaning intuition or instinct. Joaquin suggested intuition is true knowledge, not from books, but from living life. Noesis is a 100% Tempranillo in American oak for one year. Maria explained, “The trend is moving away from the popular blends to the challenge of using only one grape. With blends you have an opportunity to manipulate the outcome. With a 100% Tempranillo is it all about the grape and fermentation. This proved to be delicious with pepper notes, butterscotch, berry and a touch of vanilla. Maria stated a little known fact, “It is amazing, but there are actually a billion different kinds of aromas.” Further discussion revealed the brain and palette are not clearly connected. The brain needs to be trained. Joaquin pulled out a velvet lined box, Le Nez Du Vin, the nose or aromas of wine. Tiny glass bottles contained a hundred different aromas found in wine. Everyone had a great time trying to guess what the fragrances were. It was a peculiar experience, several people exclaimed, “I know it, I know it, but I can’t name it!”
With the final tasting came the 100% Petite Syrah, 2012, called “Resiliencia” or becoming resilient in life. It was luscious and bold, lively and strong. It continued to open in the mouth with spices and the finish was like tasting all of nature’s elements; a philosophy of life in itself. The tour proceeded with a look at the two cabins available for a weekend stay in order to witness the celestial skies at night. Maria and Joaquin will create a personalized event of evening tasting around a central fire under the stars. The steps then lead into the depths of the earth, housed in the granite and quartz crystal structures. Proceeding deeper, natural boulders were not ripped from the ground, but left in place, respecting Panchamama. The pressing and fermentation here is done by hand. The juice is transferred to stainless steel fermentation tanks. When ready, it is transferred to the barrels. A heavy swiveling portal opened to the cava, followed by a sense of stepping back in time into a sacred world of the padres. The great slumbering barrels created a sense of peace in the filtered light. Maria pointed to the shaded windows high above. “When the moon is full, we open the windows and invite the moonlight to shine on the barrels.” Juaquin concludes with a warm welcome to all travelers to take their time, “if you are in hurry don’t come.” Rather have the time to listen to the stories told by a master, contemplate life and allow the full experience of Clos de Tres Cantos to touch all the senses. Good wine cannot be rushed nor can a truly rich experience.
The most dramatic feature of this ecological construction is the roof line. While it is extremely beautiful, its purpose is fundamental to life itself. Water. The large doom catches the rain water and morning dews. There are funnels on the roof channeling the water down into what look like “legs,” into the citrine below. The citrine has a 50,000-meter capacity and combines with the good fortune of having a sweet water well on property. Having an independent water system is a must for future growth in this region. Alvaro is passionate about growing his grapes as close to organic standards as possible. The official labeling for an organic wine is very hard to come by. First, the neighboring ranches and vineyards would also have to be participating. No line can be drawn in the ground or air designating an organic environment, however AlXimia stands on its light-touch commitment wherever possible.
Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km.81
Rancho Santa Lucia, San Antonio de la Minas, Ensenada, B.C.
Phone from US: 011.52.558.586.9240