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Column 041309 Dryden

Monday, April 13, 2009




Ensenada, Mexico, has a Fine New Wine Tasting Room


By Steve Dryden


As of April 1, 2009 Roganto and Malagon wineries have formed a partnership with their wine tasting room and wine bar in the Adobe Shopping Mall, on First Street in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. This cozy wine outlet is located inside a modern shopping plaza originally designed for cruise ship guests who walk along Lopez Mateos (First Street), with an additional side entrance at #69 Gastelum.


The Adobe Shopping Plaza is centered between Ruiz and Gastelum, at #490 First Street, and it features thirty foot tall entrances and ceilings, modern sculptures, artwork, custom jewelry, and specialty gift items.


The wine tasting room is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm – providing guests and local wine lovers an opportunity to purchase wine from two of Mexico’s top wineries at winery prices with no middleman interference.


Roganto Wine, or Vides y Vinos Californianos S.P.R. de R.L, is considered by experts to be one of the top wineries in Mexico. Their 2005 Tempranillo has been awarded top reviews by international wine experts and judges. Currently only about 100 cases of the wine are available for purchase, by the taste, glass or bottle, from the new wine tasting room. This 2005 Tempranillo was aged in a combination of various new oak barrels for ten months, and it is a prime example of a top quality Mexican wine.


In addition, wine lovers can purchase the 2005 blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, or the superb 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. About 80 cases of the Temp/Cab blend (aged in new oak for 22 months) remain, and 100 cases of the Cabernet (22 months in new French oak) are available by the taste, glass or bottle.


The Roganto winery is technically a boutique winery in size and production, but the wines are artisan in quality.  Their state-of-the-art winery is truly a hidden treasure of Ensenada, located behind a well drilling and commercial pump business – just a few miles south of downtown on Reforma Avenue.


Two wine enthusiasts, Rogelio Sanchez and Antonio Luis Escalante, have teamed up to create the remarkable Roganto wines. One of their newest premium wines is an incredible 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not a traditional herbal and grassy tasting wine typical of this varietal, but an elegant wine with tropical fruit, guava, pineapple and pear on the nose, refreshing, crisp, well balanced and delicious. The production was limited to 550 cases, with fermentation in stainless steel tanks and no oak barrel aging. These two dedicated local winemakers also create two distinct Chardonnay wines, one with stainless steel fermentation and no oak barrel aging ($22), and another excellent Chardonnay aged in new French oak for 22 months, which will be featured soon in the new tasting room.


Nathan Malagon of Viñedos Malagon Winery near Francisco Zarco, in Valle de Guadalupe, is the new partner of the Roganto-Malagon Tasting Room. According to Nathan, “both Roganto and I wanted to provide visitors and local wine lovers in Ensenada an opportunity to explore our wines. Due to the fact that our wineries are located in remote areas, we’ve teamed up to bring our wines directly to wine consumers with our winery pricing. In addition, by May 1st we plan to be open on Friday and Saturday nights until midnight, so on weekends we’ll transform into a wine bar and lounge.”


Renowned Orange County Peruvian Chef Ennio Rocca will be offering his famous Peruvian-Italian-Mexican fusion entrees on Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon until 5 pm.  Currently the tasting room offers free paella on Wednesdays with the purchase of a glass of wine, and cheese cake topped Malagon’s lemoncetto at $3 per slice – everyday.


Ennio Rocca has been a leading chef in the Laguna Beach and Newport Beach areas for over 25 years. He’s originally from Peru and is in the process of transitioning from Laguna to become a contributor to Ensenada’s “culinary renaissance.”  He’s well-known for his style of cooking that combines a blend of Peru, Italy and Mexico cuisine, seasonings and flavors into culinary delights that pair well with premium wines.


Viñedos Malagon is known for growing quality “old vine Grenache.” In fact, one of their three premium wines won gold this year in the 16th International Wine Competition in Ensenada, and their 2006 Reserva received 92 points from Wine Spectator Magazine.


One of the first winemakers in Valle de Guadalupe to explore the old vine Grenache grapes at Rancho Malagon was Jose Luis Durant, a Chilean oenologist, then the winemaker for Pedro Domecq. Jose was the original winemaker and consultant for Viñedos Malagon. He came to México in the year 2000 to work at the Casa Pedro Domecq and now owns his own wine company: Sinergi-VT. His natural talent for creating superb Mexican wines has made him well-known and much respected in the region. In addition to having worked for Viñedos Malagon, he currently works for local wineries Agrifolia and Norte 32, and owns a partnership in the winery Vinos y Terruños, Icaro.


Jose Luis Durant is one of Mexico’s top creative wine artisans, and he has helped Nathan Malagon in creating three phenomenal wines. Their 2006 Equua is a magical blend of 70% old vine Grenache and 30% Petite Sirah, aged in oak barrels for 12 months. They just released their 2007 Equua with a slightly different blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Petite Sirah.  It’s very distinct, rich, full of character, and of excellent quality. The 2007 Reserva is their most elegant wine, an outstanding blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% old vine Grenache, 14% Petite Sirah, and 6% Merlot, aged in new French oak barrels for 12 months.


The Malagon family is becoming a serious player in Mexico’s emerging wine culture. In addition to creating great wines they host an amazing B&B operation. The Rancho Malagon bed and breakfast facility is centered in a courtyard that features a cantina, private kitchen and dining area with a fireplace. Four deluxe room options are available to meet your specific needs. The “Grenache Suite” features a spacious living room area with sofa, a queen bed, and a large private bathroom. This room also features a private patio looking out into the beautiful gardens. The “Green Room” includes a queen size bed, private bathroom and balcony with a sitting area offering a majestic view of the mountain range. The “Blue Room” includes two full size beds with one private bathroom and balcony with sitting area featuring a view of the mountains.


Many guests rent the entire complex to host family, friends and clients. The ranch reflects the traditional values cherished by the Malagon family and showcases their respect for nature, conservation, preservation of the land and the Baja California ranch lifestyle. And somehow their wines seem to capture that same essence via the expression of the old vine roots that are deeply woven into the native soil of the valley, transforming mature fruit into rich, complex wine that speaks volumes about the strength and determination of the abandoned vines that waited patiently for decades for someone to discover their palate pleasing treasures.


Rancho Malagon, or Viñedos Malagon, is a “hidden jewel” located in the village of Francisco Zarco in Valle de Guadalupe. This family owned 400 acre ranch, vineyards, winery, and bed and breakfast gets a gold medal for hospitality, first class service, romantic ambiance, hidden location, and for creating fantastic wines. Until recently this amazing private estate has been “a little known haven” for select friends and members of the Malagon family whose relatives have owned the property for several generations.


One would never have guessed that such a special ranch exists behind the village of Francisco Zarco, where lucky guests experience a stunning setting with valley and mountain views, an abundance of natural beauty, blessed with wealth of peace and tranquility. The ranch was originally a Russian homestead, established in the early 1900’s by Molokan settlers. In 2000 Jose Luis Malagon purchased the ranch from relatives with the vision of creating premium wine crafted from old vine Grenache grapes planted over fifty years ago on his property. Over the years, with the help of his wife, children and friends, they’ve created the perfect Baja California retreat.


Next time you’re in downtown Ensenada, stop by and sample wines from two premium wineries of Baja California. The tasting room will be featuring guest wineries each month as well as hosting special events. Guests from the cruise ships who purchase a case of wine will be offered free transportation to the port, and local residents can use their free taxi shuttle if they live within five miles of the tasting room.


This summer Roganto wines will be available for tasting and purchase at the Rancho Malagon tasting room in Valle De Guadalupe, and Malagon will be hosting another unique food and wine event this summer during Baja California's Fiestas de la Vendimia in August. 



Steve Dryden is a wine, food and travel writer living in northwestern Baja California, in the heart of Mexico’s premier wine country, where he also guides private and small group wine tours and books lodging.  He can be reached via e-mail at sbdryden@hotmail.com or www.bajawineandtours.com.