by Carla White
We were hoping to have lunch at Miguel Angel Guerrero’s amazing new restaurant El Almazara right in the heart of the wine valley…but as Americans are wont to be, we were too early. With an hour to while away, we decided to poke around the Valle de Guadalupe, one of our favorite past-times. We drove through the dusty but bustling little burg of Francisco Zarco, and then thought that maybe we’d go see what was new and exciting over in nearby El Porvenir. We hadn’t planned on stopping, but there it was and it looked so inviting: the JC Bravo tasting room right at the corner of Emiliano Zapata in the heart of town.
JC (Juan Carlos) Bravo’s story is one of legend in the wine valley: It began with some old vines and grapes that, some years ago, really didn’t seem all that valuable. JC, a high school teacher by profession, supplied others with his fruit as a side business. When the sleepy wine Ensenada wine industry began to awaken, JC had the idea that perhaps he could make a bit more money by creating his own wine. The question was, how?
That’s when Hugo D’Acosta– the region’s unofficial guru of all things wine – stepped into the picture. He was aware of JC’s grapes and their quality, and he decided to become Juan Carlos’ mentor. D’Acosta had just started La Escuelita, the little wine school in El Porvenir which has subsequently ‘graduated’ many of Ensenada’s top vintners. He encouraged JC to attend the school, and with tutelage and hands-on instruction, JC learned how to use his land and transform his grapes through aging and fermentation into some of the valley’s most interesting wines.
In 2001, JC Bravo released his first wine, a 100 percent Carignan, a varietal originated in the Rhone Valley of France. This is the winery’s signature wine, and with its burst of berry and spices, it is one that is a great accompaniment to cheeses, meats and heartier fare. He also makes a Palomino that when chilled, fills the mouth with a mellow citrus taste…a perfect summer choice!
JC works with his brother in the wine-making venture, and the Bravos have also begun making cheeses, olive oils and marmalades – a most delicious orange concoction that brings to mind (don’t ask why) warm winds and fruit orchards in Spain.
We never did get to El Almazara, spending time in the tasting room and chatting with a group of Harley Davidson riders who were touring the wine country. When we finally left, we told Martin and Juan Carlos that we would be back soon…and gave them a goodbye ‘Bravo!’ for the road.
Want to get a taste of Mexico’s wine country? Go wine tasting! For more information about Baja’s wine country, visit Baja.com.