Sunday, July 27, 2008

From Mexico to India, the Wine Way


Leo Barrera, the wine director at Tabla, Danny Meyer's temple to Indian cuisine, was born into the hospitality business. His family owned hotels first in Acapulco, Mexico, where he was born, and then in Cancun. Growing up, he was a south-of-the-border version of Eloise. "Until my teenage years, I resided in hotels," he said.

He was not, however, born into a world where wine held great sway. "We don't really drink wines," he said of his native Mexico. "We have a small wine industry in Baja. But for the most part, we drink beer, tequila, and brandy. The big Spanish brandy outfits have branches in Mexico. I've looked at the figures. We drink a lot of brandy."

His Mexican heritage, however, came in handy when he was put in charge of the wine program at Tabla, after stints at Gramercy Tavern and Craftsteak. Confronted with chef Floyd Cardoz's inventive Indian cuisine, he realized he was not entirely in alien territory.

"My first introduction to Indian culture was 'In Light of India' by Octavio Paz," Mr. Barrera said, referring to the book-length rumination about India by the Mexican writer and poet, who was his country's ambassador to India between 1962 and 1968. "He deduced that moles" — the traditional Mexican sauces that date back centuries — "are actually derived from curries in India. At the time, India and Mexico had a lot of exchange, cultural and commercial. The basic mole, it's ground spices mixed into a sauce. If you look at it in a very simple way, that's what a curry is."

Thus feeling a natural affinity for Tabla's cuisine, Mr. Barrera, 30, knew where he stood, wine-wise. He also know he had his work cut out for him, because another commonality between Indian and Mexican cuisines is that, in the popular imagination, they both match up best not with wine, but with beer. "People don't see this as a wine destination because of the perception of beer going with the food," Mr. Barrera said. The restaurant's ardent regulars, however, know better. When Mr. Barrera began work last October, he was surprised at how many of his patrons realized a German Riesling was just the thing to go with rice-flaked halibut served with watermelon curry, or a Shiraz was perfect to wash down a pulled-lamb sandwich served on nan bread.

He went about trimming the list from more than 300 selections to a comparatively compact 250, retaining its accents on German and Austrian Rieslings (a full page) and Rhone varietals drawn from France, California, and Australia. At the same time, he added 20 wines from Spain and Portugal, a region he's passionate about. And he brought in some smaller producers, working with twice as many wine distributors as his predecessor did, in order to lend greater variety to the cellar.

Mr. Barrera also wanted to change a few minds on the matter of demi-sec wines — a big bogeyman in the collective consumer mind-set, which equates sweet with insipid. "I feel there is absolutely nothing wrong with residual sugar in the wine," he said. "As a child, I drank aqua fresca. Whatever fruit was in season was made into a drink." During a recent trip to Mexico, he accompanied a lunch with a tall glass of watermelon water. "That's what they have in the middle of a hot day. There's a sweetness behind those drinks, and sweetness works well with spices."

Mr. Barrera's mind rarely rests in its pursuit of beverages that marry well with Tabla's spicy menu. Also in charge of the cocktail program, he is not neglecting that area. At the back of his cellar, on a wire rack, sits a collection of boutique gins. These constitute his new "project," due to be unveiled in the near future. "I find that gin, at least in theory, should work really well with the food because of the botanicals," he reasoned. He thinks a gin cocktail and appetizer pairing might make for a good match. "Cardamom, ginger — a lot of those spices are in the cooking."

And then there are those bottles of Mexican wine in the cellar that he hasn't sampled yet. Might India's and Mexico's cuisines meet yet again, this time in the wine pages of Tabla? Mr. Berrera is not committing himself. "I'm very proud of my Mexican heritage, but I'm an equal-opportunity wine guy," he said. "If the wine is tasty, I don't care where it's from. But if the wine is not up to standards, I'm not going to put it on the list, no matter where it's from."

Source: New York The Sun

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fine wine tasting awaits just across the border

By Beau Russell, Staff Writer

My girlfriend's parents were visiting from Denmark, and I offered to entertain them for a Sunday. After thinking about potential places to take them that would be both culturally educational and entertaining, I couldn't come up with anything. So I asked my brother, an insider when it comes to travel tips, where I could take them.

"Do they like wine?" he asked.

"Of course. They're European," I answered.

"Well, take them to Mexico," he said.

You're probably as bewildered as I was when he uttered "Mexico" and "wine country" in the same sentence. However, a little known but highly revered wine country has finally begun to gain the recognition of Mexican and American winos alike.

Ten years ago, the Valle de Guadalupe began to sprout vines full of grapes, transforming into the wine-producing region it is today. Wine has become the staple of the valley, and because of the expanding viniculture, restaurants and innkeepers have claimed their stakes right alongside the wine producers. With the development, the quality of the Mexican wines has risen.

"The wines are comparable to the Napa Valley or the regions of France," said Jens Nielsen, my foreign guest. "They are very fine wines."

What has drawn steady-but-not-overwhelming crowds to the region for the past few years has been an exquisite mix of fine dining and award-winning wines, without the notoriety of other regions. Even on Sundays, restaurants with gourmet menus accompanied by wines from the Valle sit half full with excellent service standing by. A day trip is easily feasible on any day of the week, with most of the wineries offering tastings from morning until mid-afternoon. Many wineries that front the Ruta del Vino (Route 3) are easily found by markings from Scenic Highway 1 along the coast of Ensenada. This scenic, well-paved, two-lane highway snakes through green hills, which become lively in the spring months after moisture is carried from the Pacific Ocean into the valley.

Our first stop of the day was the expansive L.A. Cetto winery. Around 80 percent of the valley belongs to L.A. Cetto, and it shows in the full-service wine shop. Because of the sheer size of the winery, including a large shopping boutique and friendly English-speaking employees, it is an easy introduction to the Valle de Guadalupe. Not only do they allow you to sample all of their many products, from merlot to chardonnay to their own tequila, they do it at the most reasonable of prices: free. The employees are equally knowledgeable about the other locations throughout the valley for more tasting and even tips on where to dine.

Other wineries, such as Chateau Camou, a short drive east, are more informal and a great way to explore a less commercialized side of the valley. With hallways filled with oak barrels that raise the wine to specific tastes and textures, the small Chateau sits atop a hill overlooking the valley. The tasting room is nothing more than an informal oak table set in a small room filled with the cool dry air that is essential in the wine-making process. Upon arriving, we shared the hallway with a Mexican family on vacation. Without a care, we all drank our wine and discussed the fruit and bouquets while our friends belted out Banda songs.

And this is what the Valle de Guadalupe has become: a little-known wine region that has incorporated Mexican hospitality and culture into a European tradition. Because of its relatively undiscovered status among even the most well-versed Mexican travelers, a free weekend definitely deserves consideration for an exciting mix of Mexican wine culture.

-Beau Russell is a sociology junior.

Source: The Daily Aztec

Friday, July 18, 2008

Discover a nice Mexican wine region : the Laguna

1. Situation and climate

This region is situated in the Coahuila and Durango States. It has a desert climate with an average annual temperature of 64.4 ° F (18 °C.)

Two very distinct periods occur in this region; the first one from April to October, has an average annual temperature of over 68 ° F (20 °C ) and the second one, from November to March, has temperatures that vary between 56.48 ° F (13,6 °C) and 66.92 ° F (19,4° C). The lowest average annual temperature occurs in January and the highest in July and August.

The relative humidity varies seasonally. In spring it is 31 %, in summer 16 %, in autumn 53 % and 44 % in the winter.

Wine production, including quality wines, continues in these areas of Mexico as well, most notably in the La Laguna region, which straddles the states of Coahuila and Durango in the northeast; this is the home of the Parras Valley, the first appellation recognized by the Mexican government. Half of Mexico’s vineyards are in Sonora.

2. Vine

The typical varieties of vine grown in these wine regions are :

Wine region of Coahuila

Chardonnay - Chenin blanc - Semillon - Colombard

Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot - Syrah - Tempranillo - Uva Lenoir y Rosa del Peru

In this area 75 % of the grape production is used for distilling and 25% is used for wine production and eating.

More about other wine regions in Mexico:

Want to import wine from Mexico ?

If you want to import wine from Mexico in New York.
If you want to offer fine Mexican wines in your restaurant in Australia.
Here is a nice list with Mexican wineries where to buy.

Enjoy the Ensenada Wine Festival

The Association of Viniculture organizes an annual wine festival that showcases the best wines in Ensenadas Valle de Guadalupe. The Festival takes place during the firest ten days in August. Below is a schedule of the events that will take place during the baja wine festival called Fiestas de la Vendimia.

See for the detailed program here:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hot August Days

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

Things are heating up in Mexico's premier wine country for two specific reasons: the summer weather and the upcoming Fiestas de la Vendimia 2008 party season from July 31 through August 17th. If you don't already have your tickets for the Festival events, you're probably not serious about attending the fiestas, as many of the better events are already sold out. Tickets are still available for many events, but are selling fast, so please get going if you want to attend the events by contacting: (646) 178-3038, or

For those quick and lucky guests who are attending events ~ remember to pace yourselves due to the consumption of wine and high temperatures, often in the high nineties or low 100's. Always start the day with a hearty meal and hydrate with bottled water throughout the day. One popular formula for those who want to fully enjoy the concerts and remember what they did is to drink two glasses of wine followed by a bottle of water. Last week during an event in the valley with temperatures in the high eighties, I observed too many folks drunk, sick and crazy, or injured from falls. It was easy to see which folks read my column and took my advice prior to the concert. Unfortunately, I only saw five people out of the three thousand guests drinking water and acting normal. Thanks to those five people ~ for reading my column! One guy in front of our group downed four bottles of Champagne, fell in love with my girlfriend, then me, and then her sister and then the sister's boyfriend. Heat, high temperatures, and too much wine, sometimes brings out the worst in some people! Pace yourselves.

As of July 15th, rooms are still available for some Vendimia events in Guadalupe Valley at two new lodging establishments: Hotel Plaza Fatima and Hacienda Guadalupe. Hotel Plaza Fatima has eight simple and clean rooms with budget pricing, plus a restaurant and internet communication center on site. Hacienda Guadalupe has twelve upscale, view rooms, with pool, waterfall and jacuzzi. If you are staying at a hotel in Ensenada you can make arrangements with local taxi drivers to drop and pick you up after events. Many taxi drivers now have cellular phones, so you can call them when you are ready to go or 30 minutes prior to your transportation needs.

Two concerts of interest that aren't part of the official Vendimia Festival are: Baja Jazz Festival and Raul di Blasio at the L. A. Cetto winery in Valle de Guadalupe. The Baja Jazz Festival 2008 will feature the Iraida Noriega Trio, and the Gilbert Castellanos Sextet. The concert will be held on Saturday August 9th, beginning at 4 p.m. This concert is presented by Saverios Restaurant and will benefit del Puestro de Socorros del Valle de Guadalupe. Ticket are $35usd. at Cetto winery outlets and

Fall is a great time to visit the Baja California wine country in Valle de Guadalupe. And, L.A. Cetto has a special concert in mind for those who love this time of year ~ that usually brings cooler weather and beautiful sunset evenings. The Cetto family presents the incredible concert of Raul di Blasio on Saturday September 20th in Valle de Guadalupe at 4:00 p.m. VIP $60, general admission $40. Information and Reservations (664) 685-3031 or Tickets are extremely limited for both events, so move fast to secure tickets and to attend these fun productions.

Chabert's Restaurant in the Rosarito Beach Hotel will be featuring a wine dinner event on Friday August 15th. Normally, these wine dinner events are held on the first Friday of each month, but with the "opening inauguration" during the first weekend of August for their new hotel/condo project, the date has been moved to the 15th. Artisan August will feature handmade wines of limited production. Tickets are $40 person and can be obtained by contacting the Hotel: from the US at (800) 343-8582 or local (661) 612-1126 or Laura Torres will host the event.

Steve Dryden is a wine, food and travel writer living in Valle de Guadalupe where he guides private and small group wine tours. He can be reached at:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Artisan Cuisine of Baja California

by Carlos Travesi Bosch and Steve Dryden

Chabert’s Wine Dinner Moved to August 15th

Chabert’s Restaurant located in the historic mansion at the Rosarito Hotel has moved their monthly wine dinner to August 15th. Normally, the dinners are held on the first Friday of each month, but with the Grand Opening of the new Hotel/Condo project during the first week of August Laura Torres felt it would be best to move the dinner event to another date. Chabert’s Restaurant has a kitchen that continually provides gourmet cuisine at reasonable prices.

Their Artisan August wine dinner will feature handmade wine from local artisan winemakers in Guadalupe Valley. The event will be hosted by Laura Torres and will feature wine that hasn’t been presented at Chabert’s in the past. According to Laura Torres, “our wine dinner events are about unmatched flavor and an innate sense of occasion that make for the perfect culmination to an unforgettable evening.” On Friday September 5th, Chabert’s will feature the premium wines of San Rafael Winery, owned by the Hussong family. This will be their first visit to Chabert’s and lucky guests will discover their amazing wine and the culinary wizards in the kitchen have something special in mind to match with these wines.

This summer I attended the Mussel Festival in Ensenada and was exposed to premium mussels grown on a farm near La Bufadora. These gourmet mussels are from the Mediterranean region and have a consistent size with plump and tender meat. So, over the past several months I’ve been experimenting with mussel recipes and will share this one with our readers. I’ve included another new discovery from Olivarera Baja Mar, a Mexican company that makes gourmet olive oils from olives in Mexicali and from orchards south of Ensenada. This particular oil is flavored with real, whole tangerines that are crushed into the oil during the processing. I often pair this meal with a rare Sauvignon Blanc from Three Women winery.

Mussels, Smoked Marlin,Tangerine Olive Oil and Oregano

1/4 cup of tangerine olive oil
four ounces of smoked marlin - cut into 1/4 inch dice
3 garlic cloves, thin slices
2 pounds of mussels
2 tablespoons of chopped oregano
ground pepper
one cup of Sauvignon Blanc from Three Women winery

Works best with a large soup pot, add and heat the olive oil, add the smoked marlin and cook over medium heat until the garlic is tender. Now, add the mussels and the wine and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook with medium heat for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the mussels open. Remove the pan from the heat and add the oregano and pepper. Place the mussels and the broth into warm bowels and serve. Serves four people and takes about thirty minutes to prepare and cook. You’ll probably need two bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc to fully appreciate this meal and the wine.

Carlos Travesi Bosch is chef and owner of Capricho’s Wine Bar and Gourmet Cafe, located directly across from the original Hussong’s cantina. Steve Dryden is the wine writer for the Baja Times.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The best pairings of Mexican entrees with Mexican Wines

I have been to Roberto's restaurant called Babita's many times, and I always enjoy bringing my loved ones and out of town guests there to experience non-traditional "Mexican food". They are always amazed!. We treated our entire work place of 30 people to a holiday lunch a few years back, and everyone was blown away! He does a fabulous wine dinner once in a while as well, and unfortunately I am out of town most of the time he schedules it. However, the last one I attended last year was fantastic and I you have to be on the special list (!) to be invited! The wines he did last year were great - special Vale de Guadalupe (near Ensenada, Mexico) whites and red paired with his special upscale flavorful meat and fish entrees - if you can make it during regular hours, just drop on by some weekday and ask him to suggest something special - we neve even look at the menus anymore - viva Roberto!

Babita restaurant
Address: 1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel 91776 (Los Angeles)
Phone: (626) 288-7265