Monday, April 14, 2008
Class Wine & Winemakers in Baja California, Mexico
by Steve Dryden
· Fernando Martain,
of Cavas Valmar, named the Eduardo Liceaga Campos Memorial Award “Person of the Year” winner for 2008 in Mexico’s
like every wine region has a few heroes and pioneers who stand out for their contributions, vision and determination. One
such special soul was Eduardo Liceaga Campos, owner of Viņa de Liceaga Winery in the Guadalupe Valley of Baja California,
Mexico. He was a shining star in Mexico’s wine industry and one of the founding fathers in the region’s early
quest for creating high quality premium wines.
dedication in promoting, marketing and educating consumers on behalf of the wine industry in Baja California was instrumental
in encouraging and supporting development of superior wines and the wine culture in Mexico. So, it was with great pleasure
that we chose him last year as Person of the Year 2007 in Guadalupe Valley.
his passing late last year, after receiving the recognition, the decision was made to name this annual distinction in his
honor, the Eduardo Liceaga Campos Memorial Person of the Year award, that we may never forget what a special person he was
to us all.
was one of the most knowledgeable wine and food specialists on the West Coast, and a member of the International Wine and
Food Society of London. This non-profit organization was formed in 1933 with the aim of raising the standard of selection,
preparation and service of good food and wine. The common goal is for members
to “learn more about food and wine and enjoy the pleasures of the table.”
Eduardo Liceaga was the founder of the Chevaliers du Tastevin in Tijuana. The original Chevaliers du Tastevin was created
in 1934 in Nuits-Saint-Georges in response to the economic crisis of the time. Two Burgundians decided to “invite our
friends to drink wine, everyone will come if we know how to make them want to.” Basically, the group strives to represent
Burgundy, its products and traditions.
group in Tijuana did the same.
Liceaga Campos was born and educated in Mexico City. He received his college degree in civil engineering and spent most of
his career working in Mexico City, developing major construction projects for schools, airports, bus stations, hospitals,
office buildings, and condominiums for the government and private companies.
a natural leader who used his energy and wisdom to focus on educating his fellow countrymen about good wine and gourmet food.
During that process, in 1982, after his completing his own incredible career, Eduardo retired to “personal projects”
and moved his family to a beautiful location near San Antonio de las Minas, in the Guadalupe Valley. He purchased fifty acres
and named it Rancho el Paricutin. Today the winery is known as Viņa de Liceaga.
de Liceaga has been producing award-winning wines for several years. In fact, in 2002 his winery was selected as the Best
of Nation (Mexico) by the “world’s biggest wine competition” at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Numerous other awards include gold medals from Brussels, Austria and Mexico; and silver medals from San Francisco, Israel,
Los Angeles, Orange County and Mexico City.
Gran Reserva Merlot has been the focus of much attention and appreciation from global wine enthusiasts. This marvelous 2004
Merlot is a blend of ninety percent Merlot and ten percent Cabernet Franc. Today
lucky guests can expose their wine-loving palates to his 2003 Merlot Reserva or Vino Tinto Castillo de las Minas, which is
a pleasant blend of Merlot and Grenache. His wonderful Castillo de las Minas Chenin Blanc 2005 is a dry table wine made with
grapes from Valle de las Palmas. It has intense tropical fruity aromas of peach, pear, guava, apple, jasmine and citrus fruit.
winery, in addition to indulging in superior wine guests are offered the rare opportunity to taste his amazing selection of
Grappa, called Aqua de Vid. Viņa de Liceaga is the only winery in Mexico to make and sell Grappa commercially. Grappa is a
colorless distilled spirit made from black grape pomage fermented and gently pressed from several wine varieties.
Person of the Year
Martain is being honored as the 2008 Person of the Year in Mexico’s Wine Culture. The current president of S.P.V., or
Sistema Producto Vid, Martain has been a driving force in getting equal representation for all of the Baja California wineries.
was instrumental in breaking up a monopoly of special interest wineries and forming an association that includes every winery
and winemaker in an equal and professional manner. His vision and leadership has helped to transform the Baja California wine
industry, and he has forged a relationship with the government that is now supporting the wine industry in many positive ways.
the unification that Fernando brought to the industry, and thus gaining government support, many wineries would not have expanded
so rapidly with the aid of low interest loans, marketing plans and other lucrative programs. Fernando has accomplished exactly
what Robert Mondavi did – he has brought the wine industry together, and this has and will continue to benefit Mexico’s
“silent revolution” in creating high quality wines. We all know that Mondavi conquered France, so keep your eye
on Fernando Martain – he’s a natural leader with a vision for the entire wine culture.
Valmar winery is owned by Fernando Martain and Yolanda Valentin. Fernando, a
dynamic and passionate leader in the Mexican wine industry, is a chemical engineer and the former head of production at Bodegas
de Santo Tomas. In addition to making his own award-winning wines, he is the winemaker and driving force behind several boutique
wineries in Baja California.
his love for and knowledge of wine by teaching classes in winemaking, and by leading a government sponsored program supporting
the Mexican wine industry. His expertise and vision has contributed to the movement
in transforming this region’s grapes into world class premium wines. He is among an amazing group of diverse and unique
individuals in this area who are creating a “new wave” of boutique and artisan wines that are getting attention
from international wine enthusiasts.
Amey, author of Wines of Baja California, has an interesting and enlightening perspective on the Cavas Valmar owner and winemaker.
“To me, Fernando Martain displays at least two characteristics that make his wines and winery special. First, unlike most modern Baja enologists, he is an autodidact, that is, a largely self-trained winemaker. His valuable experience at Bodegas de Santo Tomas, plus the home winemaking influence
of his wife’s family, paid big dividends in his early wine efforts. Secondly,
Fernando was trained as an engineer, and this has paid off in his sense of equipment design, and his clever blending of grapes
from diverse vineyard sites.”
Martain focuses his energy and passion on creating wines from three varietals: Chenin Blanc, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
He has a keen ability to search out and utilize quality grapes that grow in the Valle de San Vicente, San Antonio de las Minas,
and Valle de las Palmas areas, and he transforms them into bottled treasures of delight!
One prime example is his Cavas Valmar 2006 Tempranillo,
which retails (at the winery only) for about $16. This outstanding Tempranillo
is but one example of many that are being produced in Mexico, and Fernando feels that this varietal could have a potential
as a “classic wine” for the US market. His is one of the few wineries in the area to have opened up markets in
the US, and he is fortunate to have the assistance of his beautiful and charming daughter, Michelle Martain. Michelle is an international business professional working to create a brokerage and distribution plan
for her family and other interested Mexican wineries through her import firm in San Diego (her email: email@example.com).
Martain loves Cabernet Sauvignon and fully appreciates “the diversity and complexity” of this grape, which is
reflected in all four vintages of his Cabernet wines. Most of the grapes for
his Cabernets come from forty to fifty year old vines harvested in Valle de San Vicente, which blesses the wines with “complexity,
dark rich color and longevity.” His popular 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon is
still available for about $24, 1999 for $22, and 2000 for $29. Other Cabernets are from about $20 to $25.
a real treat – and a culinary delight – Fernando suggests “matching my Cabernet with rib eye steak and spicy
pepper.” Wine expert Ralph Amey has told me that, “the cab goes particularly well with poblano [chile] rellenos.” In addition to creating unique and dynamic red wines, Fernando creates a fresh, balanced
and dry Chenin Blanc from Valle de las Palmas, which won a bronze medal at the 2005 Los Angeles County Fair competition. The current release, 2006 Chenin Blanc, sells at the winery for $9.
Valmar offers you an opportunity to experience their wines and hospitality Mondays through Fridays, or by appointment. Furthermore,
you are welcome to attend their upcoming special event on August 18th, as they celebrate Fiestas de la Vendimia
with music, food and house wine. Tickets sell out early, which is why I’m warning you now, six months out! For event
tickets or information call: (011-52) 646-174-1890, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Dryden, a MexiData.info guest columnist, writes about wine, food, travel, Native Peoples, and history. He lives in the Guadalupe Valley of Baja California, Mexico.