If you were to drive the length of Baja California on a wine-themed road trip (which is not a bad idea), you'd pass acres and acres - nearly 9,000 of them - of vines and dozens of wineries, most of them modest in size and scale, and many of them family run. It's likely none of the names would be familiar to you. Though hailed by numerous American media outlets as "Mexico's Napa,” Baja wines remain relatively unknown in the United States. This is due, in large part, to their limited production runs and small-scale exportation. But a new celebration of all things Baja, the Baja Meets NYC wine and food festival, is about to change all that.
Many Baja winemakers seem to be content with this status quo; they like the intimacy and manageability of a boutique-sized winery and they appreciate the exclusivity that comes with small production levels. But some Baja viticulturists are eager to help the area's profile (and production levels) grow to the degree that they can fulfill the promises inherent in being “the next Napa.” Joaquin Prieto is among them.
Prieto, the winemaker for Vino Tres Valles, located just outside Ensenada in the town of San Antonio de las Minas, has big aspirations. “Our winery is ready to enter the U.S. market, and as a region, we're eager for Baja California to become known as a place where wine is produced,” Prieto said.
For these reasons, Prieto is looking forward to the upcoming Baja Meets NYC wine and food festival, which is scheduled for the last week of February. Prieto, along with other winemaking colleagues from Baja California, is excited to speak with wine-loving New Yorkers about the particular properties of Baja wines, and, of course, to pour and share plenty of copas.
While Prieto's ambitions for his winery and for Baja California wines in general are grand, he is also incredibly conscientious about not growing at such a scale or rate that the very attribute that makes Baja so special is threatened. “I believe we should scale only to a level that we don't lose the human touch,” he said. The hands-on approach of Baja winemakers is legendary among those who know something about the region's wines, and it's a factor that distinguishes its bottles from mass-produced competitors north of the border.