Mexico has given us much to be thankful for: Aztec ruins. Fish tacos. Tequila. But wine? Who heads south of the border for anything but cerveza or Cuervo? Yet, as I discovered at a recent tasting, Mexico is home to a number of wineries scattered across a dozen grape-growing districts in the northern half of the country. The best are in Baja California's Guadalupe Valley. Less than 20 miles from the Pacific, the valley runs east to west, which allows the ocean's cool, moist air to channel into an otherwise hot, semiarid environment.
A Few Standout Mexican Wines:
Monte Xanic Cabernet-Merlot 1997 ($17)
Founded in the early '80s, Monte Xanic led the march to quality in the valley with its commitment to low yields and state-of-the art winemaking. Their blend of 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 percent Merlot tastes much like a big, bold, fruit-filled Napa red.
L.A. Cetto Nebbiolo 1996 ($20)
The largest producer in Baja, Cetto is known for its modestly priced wines (which include an $8 Petite Sirah), but the real winner is the suave, smoky, spicy, yet surprisingly light-hearted Nebbiolo.
Château Camou El Gran Viño Tinto 1997 ($30)
Made with the assistance of Michel Rolland (one of France's most famous oenologists), Château Camou's classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot offers gobs of superripe, richly extracted red- and black-fruit flavor, supported by a firm foundation of toasty new oak.