There's more than tequila south of the border 

Complex taste: Santo Tomas Gran Reserva Unico’s 2005 wine boasts a taste of black fruits, cassis, bittersweet chocolate, fruit tannins and some toast. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Complex taste: Santo Tomas Gran Reserva Unico’s 2005 wine boasts a taste of black fruits, cassis, bittersweet chocolate, fruit tannins and some toast.

Like many other gringos from California, I spent the holidays in Mexico with my new best friend, tequila. We wasted afternoons together listening to the Stones and the Dead, and on a couple of occasions, tequila actually helped me with a fiction story I’ve been writing. However, we were bound to get sick of one another and I started to miss wine.

So, I went into town, asked around and found Europea, a wine and gourmet shop. The tequila selection was excellent and the prices are more than fair but, if you are looking for wine, this store matches many in the Bay Area. The international selection is a little Spanish-heavy, all good by me, and there is an impressive stock of wines made in Baja California, an up-and-coming wine region.

You might wonder how wine could be made in Mexico, but the Baja Peninsula has a climate that is not too dissimilar from California’s. Essentially, it is a desert and, while it is warm to hot all year long, it cools down at night. There is plenty of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc planted, but tempranillo and syrah are gaining in popularity. In the past, I’ve had petit sirah and zinfandel from Baja that has been enjoyable. Chenin blanc also makes some pretty wines south of the border.

DOC, a wine bar downtown, is a must for anyone who is curious about Mexican wine, though wines from all over are served. Also, the food is way better than the well-known tourist trap next door.

I couldn’t try as many as I would have liked as I needed to go back and hang with tequila, but between the wines I found at Europea and DOC, my wine craving was satisfied, and I’m optimistic about the future of Mexican wines.

Here are a few I tasted that are worth a trip to Mexico:

Viñas de Garza, Blanco del Rancho Mogorcito, 2010 (Guadalupe Valley, Baja California, Mexico): Viñas de Garza is one of numerous family wineries that sprung up in the past 10 years. Unoaked, this is a delightful blend of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay that has an array of tropical and citrus fruit accents underscored by minerals and lively acidity. Suggested retail: $22

Acrata Tinto, 2007 (Guadalupe Valley, Baja California, Mexico): Primarily cabernet sauvignon, but with a dash of petit sirah blended in, this is flashy but well-made. Loaded with concentrated berry fruits, caramel and a hint of sage, it is a balanced albeit big wine. Suggested retail: $25

Santo Tomas Gran Reserva Unico, 2005 (San Vincente Valley, Baja California, Mexico): Santo Tomas is a very large winery that was founded in an old mission in 1888. The first time I had this cabernet-merlot blend, I was astounded. It is not just fantastic for a Mexican wine. It stands out on its own. I suspect the name Unico is meant to replicate the world-famous wine made by Vega Sicilia in Spain. While I would not put Santo Tomas’ Unico on the same level, it is one that Bordeaux enthusiasts and wine collectors should not miss. Though young, the ’05 has charm with concentrated black fruits, cassis, bittersweet chocolate, some toast, good fruit tannins and a long, chewy finish. Suggested retail: $50

Pamela S. Busch is the owner of, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit questions to

About The Author

Pamela S. Busch

Pamela Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched
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