by Joana Swift
In general, when you mention fragrant grape vines and olive groves people would usually conjure up images of some province in Italy or Greece. This is because the Mediterranean climate in these places provide the requirements for the growing of grapes and olives. However, not a lot of people know that Mediterranean climate is not limited to the surrounding countries of the Mediterranean Sea. There are a few fortunate places in almost every continent that experience the kind of climate that Mediterranean countries have.
Mediterranean climate is characterized by its dry summers and mild winters and is generally experienced in regions in and around the Mediterranean Sea. Imagine then my surprise when I went for the very first time to Baja California in Mexico and found out that most parts of it do experience a climate fit for a place in the Mediterranean.
Baja California seems so remote from Italy or Greece being in two very far continents. I always imagined Mexico as a place very fit for all sorts of cacti and palm trees because of its vast deserts, sand dunes and beaches. I had no idea that some parts of Baja California provided the suitable conditions for growing grapes and olives.
While staying in Baja, a friend invited me to drop over a winery to catch up on our chit chat while sharing a bottle of wine. I was a little confused by his invitation, expecting he meant we go to a place that serves tequila or margarita, drinks Baja California is known for, rather than red wine which I thought was not native to Mexico. Apparently, I was very wrong. The winery that he asked me to meet him was a beautiful building featuring old world Mexican and Spanish architecture. There were iron archways covered in flowering vines that protected the customers walking through the beautiful terracotta-tiled pathway that led to the entrance of the wine tasting area.
At the time, I was wearing a rather crumpled looking sun dress and a pair of beat-up sandals and I found myself horribly dressed in unappropriated clothing for such a romantic and luxurious place. Thankfully, it was a Wednesday and there were not a lot of people at the winery at that moment who could see my out-of-place outfit. The winery staff I found very polite and warm, and they all spoke perfect English with a charming Mexican accent which I found very convenient since I need not do sign language or use the very few Spanish phrases that I know.
The interior of the winery was bathed in a warm glow and the mirrors and glass placed strategically all over the place created the illusion of a much larger space than it actually was. A dapper looking gentleman led my friend and I to a short tour of their wine cellar and tried to explain the different kinds of wine that they make and sell. Being no wine connoisseur, I was pleasantly shocked to find that I actually understood what he was saying and found the tour quite interesting. After which, I was really excited to try a few glasses of wine in the tasting room.
The winery’s tasting room had plenty of little tables but we were lead to a table located at a terrace I did not notice before. And how to describe what I saw? The terrace looked out to a large estate where the grapes for the wines were planted. From afar, I can see little people who were minutely inspecting clusters of grapes and picking out some which they then place in large baskets hanging over their arms. The grapes gave off such a wonderful fragrance and combined with the warmth of the late afternoon and the warmly lit terrace, it created a very romantic and relaxing atmosphere.
We had so much fun sipping delicious red wine made from grapes planted right there in that winery in Baja California and catching up on things that we didn’t notice the time go by. After almost three hours of drinking, eating and talking, I left the winery feeling drunk with delight at discovering a small nugget of Baja California’s hidden surprises.