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Column 122908 Dryden

Monday, December 29, 2008


Happy 2009 from Baja California's 'Tres Mujeres' Winery


'Vino-Tourism' by Steve Dryden


Three Women Winery, or Tres Mujeres, has become a super star operation in the artisan winemaking movement of Baja California. And it is the artisan winemakers in Mexico that are gaining local, regional, national and international attention from serious wine connoisseurs and consumers.


When it comes to the best value for quality wine, these small producers are providing wine lovers with Mexico’s best wines. Handcrafted, artisan wines are becoming the rage and are sought out by wine enthusiasts who are tired of paying premium prices for marginal wines.


Fortunately, Tres Mujeres has a diverse variety of crafted wines of superior quality, all for US$20.00 per bottle.


Artisan winemaking has become a global phenomenon. As the gourmet food and premium wine movements capture the attention and palates of the world, more and more wine lovers are turning to making handcrafted wines.


Several years ago three ambitious and creative women in the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, decided to enroll in La Escuelita, the local artisan winemaking school in El Porvenir. La Escuelita, or the little school, is officially named Union de Productores del Valle de Guadalupe, RL de CV, or Estacion de Oficios del Porvenir.


These wine artists, Eva Cotero Altamirano, Ivette Vaillard, and Laura MacGregor Garcia, have gone from beginners to classic artisans in a matter of just five years. They’ve created a wine cooperative that now includes about eight women with two “token” men, and has gone from a total production of a few barrels of wine per year to about five barrels per artisan. And the quality of the wines is remarkable.


According to Ivette, owner of the winery property, “we’ve learned more about the art and science of winemaking due to the structure of our group effort. We learn from each other by sharing information, knowledge and experience among ourselves. In addition, we are working diligently with our vineyards to improve the quality of our grapes. It’s getting harder to find grapes and the prices are soaring, so we’ve increased our vineyard production with a focus on achieving high quality fruit for our wines.”


She adds, “in addition, we’ve developed our own label, Tres Mujeres; [we] have purchased new equipment, bought new barrels, built a bigger wine cellar, and constructed a large work area under the guidance of famed architect Pedro Camarena.” The original intimate and cozy wine cellar/winery is now the tasting room.


Ivette prefers to make wine blends with her own grapes and from dry-farmed old vine Grenache that are over thirty years old.  Currently she handcrafts 2006 and 2007 vintage wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, and Terrazas and Grenache. She states: “The Cabernet Sauvignon compliments the old vine Grenache well. I craft my wines to be drinkable at a young age, light in body and fruit forward. I listen to what my clients want, and this is what most of them desire in my artisan wine.”  Many visitors to the winery love her wine because it’s fresh, easy to drink and matches well with many foods and events.


Eva Cotero Altamirano makes an incredible Merlot called Isme. In fact, I’m drinking some right now as I write this article and believe me, it’s a super value for US$20.00 per bottle! Eva states, “I’ve been focusing on experimenting with new types of yeast, using high quality fruit, and am now working with Tempranillo. My main craft and art form is in making 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.”


Today, she creates three excellent wines, 100% Tempranillo – Besod’eva 2006, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – Ibi, and 100% Merlot – Isme.  She’s increased her bottle aging to one year with great results, creating superior quality. Her wines have a cult following and are of supreme quality.


Laura MacGregor Garcia is getting more and more serious about her craft. In fact, this year she’s taken classes in enology and viticulture from the Autonomous University of Baja California in Ensenada, where she’s received her most recent certification. Laura reflects, “The formal training has given me more confidence, a better understanding of chemistry in relationship to winemaking, and a deeper awareness of plant science and vineyard management. One advantage I held in school was that I had already been making wines for a few years and understood the process.”


She adds, “I have four acres of land near Laja in Valle de Guadalupe, and I plan to cultivate vineyards of Tempranillo, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc.” You can sample her two premium artisan wines, 100% Tempranillo and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, by visiting the winery. Her wine, that is excellent and fully reflects her intense focus on creating high quality artisan wine, is a steal at US$20.00.


Aime Desponds is one of the two token men in the Three Women wine cooperative. He’s been a gourmet chef in Mexico City and southern California for over forty years. He owned the well-known Swiss Chalet restaurant in the Zona Rosa of Mexico City, and he was chef at the renowned Nieuport 17 restaurant in Tustin, California. His expertise is creating gourmet Swiss, French and Italian cuisine.


Aime moved to Baja California in 2005, “because my heart was in Mexico.” Aime purchased a property adjoining the Three Women winery and Rancho Mogor-Badan, where he’s built a house, studio, clay ovens and planted a vineyard. Having built a home of clay, under the warm sun of Valle de Guadalupe, he’s designed an appropriate wine label called Sol y Barro, or Sun and Clay.


His 2007 blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sarah is stunning to say the least! This man is a true creative artist in every aspect of his life, wine being no exception. Unfortunately, he’s only made 400 cases in 2007, so it won’t last long. He laments, “next year I plan on making about eight barrels or 800 cases to appease my followers and keep the peace.”


Aime is one of those artisan wine and cuisine wizards that should be watched closely by serious wine lovers. His skills in alchemy – transforming raw materials into jewels – are amazing. Currently his bottled treasures of delight can be purchased only at the winery and for a limited period of time due to the small and select production. Most likely his wine is one of the best artisan wines of Mexico for US$20.00.


I’ve known of this cooperative of women and token men for several years, and it is one of the top choices and favorite winery experience for many of the people I have guided through the wine country of Baja California. In the beginning everyone loved the intimacy of the little wine cellar, and the country hospitality of the women. And that aspect continues. But the wines – yes the wines – are now stealing the show!



Steve Dryden writes about wine, food, travel, Native Peoples, and history.  He lives in the Guadalupe Valley of Baja California, Mexico, where he guides wine tours for individuals and small groups.