In a land of smoky mezcals, rompopes, monodistilled roots, beers, tequilas and Kahlua, that thick and sweet coffee liqueur made in Veracruz whose name in Nahuatl means the house of the people Acolhua. . But at the 30-mile stretch between San Juan del Río and Bernal, known as the Querétaro Wine Route, there is evidence that Mexico’s wine heritage, though not as well known as the spirits of the plant. ‘agave, it also intertwines with the agricultural history of the country. .
The oldest winery in the Americas, dating from the 16th century, is Casa Maderas, located in Parras, a town in the southern part of the state of Coahuila. Founded in 1597, it predates Brotherhood, a stop on the Shawangunk Wine Trail in New York’s Hudson Valley, which is the oldest in the United States, for 242 years.
Most Mexican wineries are located in the Baja California peninsula, an area that won 68 medals in the Mexico 2020 Selection of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, an international touring competition. Querétaro took 19. Not close, but not bad for a wine-growing region that is still developing.
Years ago I set out to visit all the magical villages or magical villages, a designation given to charming villages with great architecture, history, culture, food and charm. It seemed feasible at the time, as there were 49 of them, but before I could check my list, the number of Magic Cities increased considerably. He is now 121 years old and still growing.
I raise it because many wineries and Pueblos Mágicos seem grouped together. In La Baixa, the city of Todos Santos has ten or a few wineries, Loreto has one and Tecate, probably best known for its brewery, has about five. Parras, where Casa Maderas is located, is also a magical village.
Wine is magical, so it makes sense.
There are cheese shops where to stop, as well as wineries along the Querétaro wine route, especially in the section I follow, which stretches between Bernal and Tequisquiapan. Since I only have one day to explore and there are at least ten wineries, I decide to focus on just a few and try the local cheeses offered to each. After all, so much can only be done in one day.
Bernal, a small village with cobbled streets with shops and restaurants painted with shades of dawn, such as pale peach, pink and Mayan blue, along with the bright yellow of the church of San Sebastian de Parroquia and eclipsed by the Peña de Bernal, an imposing tower the stone monolith that rises to 1421 feet above the ground (the third largest in the world) is a perfect starting point. The village also has good food and I plan to have dinner at El Negrito Gorditas, a 2021 traveler option on TripAdvisor.
Then I will continue, stopping at the wineries between Bernal and Tequisquiapan, famous for their cheeses, the Temescal steam baths and as the main area where pasilla peppers are grown in Mexico. The city annually organizes a cheese and wine festival called the National Cheese and Wine Fair every May-June. It is also home to the Museo del Queso y el Vino and the Tequisquiapan Opal Mines, where after a four-wheel drive to the Tequisquiapan opal mines and a tour, there is the opportunity to try opal mining. before visiting the gift shop.
Two other stops on my agenda are Cadereyta: the other Pueblo Mágico along this stretch of road, known for its caves, neoclassical mansions and its proximity to the archaeological site of Ranas y Toluquilla, located on top of a mountain with spectacular views of the valleys. below – and Ezequiel Montes, who hosts the popular Vintage Festival at La Viñedos La Redonda every year.
The latter was founded in the early 1970s, when Don Vittorio first planted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes imported from France, as well as Salvadore grapes. The winery also produces wines from other grape varieties such as Merlot, Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Moscatel. He also specializes in kosher wine. Viñedos La Redonda is located in a flat valley with a backdrop of mountains in the distance.
One of the wonders of Querétaro wineries is that the grapes thrive in a seemingly deserted environment, but the hot days and cold nights reflect the temperatures of some of Spain’s famous wine regions and the microclimates create ideal conditions for wine growers. . Visits to La Redonda are free, there are cheese tastings and bites, a trip to the winery and also the opportunity to tour its small and neat arboretum of native plants.
Not far away, the Finca Sala Vivé in Freixenet is the largest winery and also one of the oldest on the road. Signing up for a tour, I follow a guide who takes us through the vineyards and then about 30 meters underground through a tunnel of high brick-clad arches to the immense rooms where the wine is stored. Freixenet is a Spanish wine company that opened in 1979. According to our guide, they produce more than 2.5 million bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo and Chardonnay a year, but the its main product is sparkling wines, sparkling wine made from Macabeo grapes that are also known in Spain as Macabeo and are mixed with Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes to cava or Spanish sparkling wines. Freixenet is a wine that is instantly recognized in the United States for its striking black label and golden or silver lettering. It is the busiest winery I visit during the trip and its promotional material says more than 250,000 visits each year.
At De Cote Casa Vitivinicola, I have the opportunity to choose between walking or boarding a train for a tour of the vineyards that ends in a tasting room inside the modernist and spacious building where the wine is produced. I opt for the latter and the light breeze from the moving vehicle is a relief from the hot, scorching sun. I live in southwest Michigan, another wine region made up of wooded hills and tempered by the winds of Lake Michigan and I marvel at the difference in this landscape and yet produce such excellent grapes.
If my quick mental conversion is correct, Viñedos Los Rosales at 1,915 meters above sea level is over a mile high, making it perfect for growing Tintorera, a Spanish grape that crosses between Petit Bouschet and Grenache and French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat, Merlot, Malbec and Chardonnay, which the winery first planted almost a decade ago. The setting is not as elaborate as the Finca Sala Vivé in Freixenetor, the modernist magnificence found in De Cote Casa Vintivinicola, but the tour is well done and the wines I taste at the end, along with an assortment of regional cheeses, are tasty.
It’s been a decade since I visited Viñedos Aztecas, an old ranch that at the time was making the transition to a winery. This transformation is almost complete. But the charm of this place, with its stucco buildings, the sand surrounded by pink arches with seats to contemplate the charrerías or small rollers, its stables with horses and a cowboy-style bar with many charro touches: barrels used for tables, walls decorated with hats, rolled ropes and harnesses: remains. There is a full-service restaurant and al fresco dining by a large pond. The menu ranges from artisanal thin-crust pizzas to traditional Mexican food like cochinita pibil (pork wrapped in banana leaves and slowly cooked in a well full of burning wood embers), local cheeses and carnitas. The house wines are mostly red (Pretexto, Cahuayo and Tordillo), as well as Apertura (vermouth) and Rosillo or rosé. In addition to tours, they offer winemaking workshops that could be fun if I stayed. If you want, you can also have a custom barrel with your name on it. But again, that won’t do me much good at home, except as an incentive not to wait ten years before coming back.