What is it, this sense of anticipation, driving into the Valle de Guadalupe’s wine country? In the summer months, just before harvest, the heat can be intense. The vines are heavy with fruit and vintners are poised, waiting for the right moment, just before the birds know, it is time to pick the luscious grape. It is more than the anticipation of finding the perfect wine. It is an historic alchemy of climate, sunshine and ocean breezes, rich soil and pure water. Turning into the unassuming entrance of El Mogor, little buffs of dust rise up. The great old pepper trees offer seclusion and shade. The first thing which is noticed, is the stillness that speaks of love and caring by the steward of this land, Natalia Badan. Born of Swiss-French parents, she was raised on this land and now continues to carry on the family dream in both the winery and her organic gardens.
Natalia sits peacefully on the shaded patio, the Mexican workers who tend the grapes and her organic garden come to her for guidance. A lovely rock and wood structure is the small store for an array of freshly picked organic vegetables. Bright fresh greens, sun ripened tomatoes and baby carrots want to jump into your shopping bag. Tempting crusty homemade breads are clustered on a picnic table under a shade tree, surrounded by sweets like tiny pecan pies and squares of rich cake. It is here I was lucky enough to join Natalia and listen to the history and vision of the future. Natalia has lived here her entire life and was very forthright on how she feels about the valley and its sudden growth in the last ten years. She smiles knowingly, “Boom. Suddenly we are in fashion. We are the place to be and to bring visitors. This is good as it moves into the local economy. On the other hand, we have to stay very conscious in order to keep the landscape pristine and beautiful. We have to watch for too much growth too fast that would contaminate what we really care about. If we grow too fast, we can’t go back.” She stops and talks with a worker, continuing, “I think it is fine that some of the wineries have grown and can accept large numbers of bus tours. But when you come to Mogor, you feel the essence of nature and can understand that growing takes time and is very sensitive to changes.” She points to the hills, “Here we want slow growth and to keep this small and beautiful.” She punctuates, “Small IS beautiful. We can then be caregivers and invite harmonious groups to enjoy the whole afternoon. Here we watch the sunrise, the sunset, moon and stars and all of this care is part of producing wine.”
Thanking Natalia for being a gracious hostess, the next move is to the wine tasting area. The smell of freshly mown grass mingles with hints of warm onion and fragrant mesquite wood smoke. The path leads across a rustic bridge. Another beautifully honed rock and wood building is shelter under a graceful 60-year-old pepper tree, as a sapling it was brought from Switzerland. I am drawn to a table in the shade and let the lovely young woman speak about the two wines that are being offered that day. Only two, you might wonder? However, after talking with Natalia, it is certain that these two presentations will be very special. First the Chasselas Blanc. Natalia imports from her small vineyard in the mountains of France. From the first glimpse of its clarity, the sunshine illuminates leggy tendrils. Delicate with a hint of apricot. A note of freshness is a surprise and quite intoxicating. The flavor lingers in the mouth with a delicate dry finish.
Between tastings and clearing the palette, it is easy to immerse in sights and sounds of nature. The tree seems like it is singing, as tiny birds flit through the shadowed branches above. Next, an extraordinary ruby wine, sparkles with clarity like an exquisite gem. It is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot. The bouquet leaps into the nose with licorice and earth tones. Deep, dark and smoky meets the palate and the spicy finish lingers and lingers. It calls out to buy a bottle, spend the rest of the afternoon with friends and “linger” with the finish of a beautiful afternoon.
The grapes are grown on only four acres and would be considered a small production. 1,200 bottles of Mogor-Badan red are produced each year. The entrance to the cava leads down deeply into the earth. The rock work is solid and artfully hand-done by Natalia’s father. The temperature is perfectly maintained. Quiet and cool, the oak barrels are fermenting the 2016 wine. Around the World in 80 Harvests travels to eighty of the world’s wine regions in 42 countries. They wrote of El Mogor for a 2017 visit as “A small family endeavor and a passion project of upmost quality and this wine certainly delivers as one of the most renowned blends in Mexico today.”
The treats continue as near the wine tasting area is the unique Deckman’s restaurant where the kitchen is outside and the dining area has fresh straw floors. But don’t let this fool you, Drew Deckman, chef, has a farm to table gourmet menu and this is no joke, the prime rib for two is four inches thick. His motto, “Authentic, Sustainable and Seasonal.” The sun slants low in the east, the fog bank that hovers over the coast can be seen trying to creep over the mountain tops. Leaving beautiful El Mogor is not easy, it has given rest to the body/mind, but you carry away a bottle of Mogor-Badan, filled with the essence of today’s warm and delightful experiences.