It may come as a surprise to many that Mexico produces fine wines. This is especially true on the northern Baja where the climate is ideal. Ralph Amey, an Angeleno who lives there part time, holds many awards from and positions in winemaking circles, evaluates many different vintners and their wines in the area near Ensenada, especially the Valle de Guadalupe and nearby valleys. The book opens with a history of winemaking in Mexico, then provides a detailed map of how to find the ones in the Northern Baja. The book is lavishly illustrated with black-and-white photos. There are two different sorts of wineries in the area, Urban and Valley. Among the Urban are Bodegas de Santo Tomas and Cavas Valmar, both in Ensenada. The valley wineries are Casa Pedro Domecq, L. A. Cetto, Monte Xanic, Chateau Camou, Mogor-Badan, Vinos Bibayoff, Vina de Liceaga, Casa de Piedra, Adobe Guadalupe Vineyard, and Vinisterra S.A. de C.V. For each, Amey provides directions for getting there, telephone numbers in case you get lost or have been imbibing the wine rather than tasting it, fax and email addresses, their web pages, founding dates, owners, vintners, details on tour times, as well as their production capacities, and the acreage of their vineyards. He also lists the red and white wines produced at each, plus how each winery came into being. In the event you’re a novice and don’t know Merlot from Mogen David, a later passage describes the history of each wine and its distinctive taste. The only criticism I would have of the volume is its inability to be held open to the page you want at the winery you’re at. A spiral-bound book would have served both the amateur and the connoisseur much better. There is no question that Ralph Amey knows wines, especially Mexican wines. He is a founding member of the Southern California Society of Wine Educators. This is an invaluable book. Salud!
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As you begin this book you know immediately that Ralph Amey enjoys wines and is an expert on the subject. Here he has set out to tell us about “Wines of Baja California,” as his title states but it isn’t only the wines that he enjoys and writes about. He obviously loves Baja, and so we hear a lot also about “touring and tasting Mexico’s undiscovered treasures,”including practical tips for visitors to the area.
The book is a gracefully-written, detailed consideration of the history of winemaking in Mexico, how to get to the valleys where winemaking takes place, the history and ownership of the wineries, as well as the vintages and grapes. Finally there is a discussion of wine festivals and fiestas, places to stay and to eat, sources of more information, and a helpful glossary of wine-related terms.
What makes this book unique is not just Ralph Amey’s experience as a connoisseur and judge of wines, but his habits of thought as a research chemist and teacher; he is interested in history and geography and weather and people and processes as they relate to his subject, and his experience as a researcher and teacher help him to know the value of details and how to explain in an interesting way. An especially helpful touch is his suggesting, again and again, what foods go well with what wines, for example: “Unico Gran Reserva. . .Try with osso buco or mushrooms in puff pastry.”
There’s a refreshing informal tone to the writing and to the beautiful design of the pages, enhanced by vintage photographs, maps, and circular pre-columbian Mexican motifs. Very inviting.
The author is remarkably humble to our greatly improving vineyards while accurate to a pinpoint. So great a book about Baja North, Mexican wines (guadalupe Valley where I live) that I have given 16 copies, to date, to colleagues including one who lives in France and another in Germany.Roberto Chantlos: Rosarito, Baja CA, Mexico.
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