Letter to a Young Guadalupe Valley

Letter to a Young Guadalupe Valley

Your future shines brightly.

I smelled it. I saw it. I tasted it; Monte Xanic’s syrah, Decantos’ tempranillo, Montefiori’s sangiovese, and Adobe Guadalupe’s stunning nebbiolo.  You are making the right investments at the right time and your fans, myself very much included, want to taste more. There you sit, serenely yet boldly, just an hour southeast of the craft beer and flip-flop capitol of the world. Your vines are maturing, your spirits are high, your culture bubbling. Things are heating up quickly, yet patience is required. There will be skinned knees, black eyes, and a few broken bones before it’s all said and done. But we all want to be there through it all. Your day is coming.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before but allow me to say it again.  Some grapes just don’t work well there. I admire the fact that you and your fellow winegrowers are diligently experimenting with dozens of different grapes in the vineyards and in the winery. But at a certain point you have to come to grips with the fact that some grapes yield better results than others-significantly better. Results that are disastrous every year, get rid of them. Keep it simple.

I ask you.  What is Guadalupe Valley wine? Do you want to recreate Bordeaux? Aspire to Piedmont? Channel Napa Valley?  Make wines that taste just like Ribera del Duero produced them itself? Stop already. Your nebbiolo, while fruit driven, round and robust doesn’t taste like barolo, or barbaresco. Your chardonnay, while fully charged and sure of spine, isn’t Montrachet and your syrah, as amazingly peppery and plummy as it is, is not Cote Rotie.  Your sauvignon blanc, proudly boasting steely resolve, tastes neither of Marlborough nor Sancerre, and no, your sangiovese taste nothing like that from Montalcino. Your wines are not better or worse, they are simply different and can rise to or exceed the same qualitative levels as their counterparts around the world. But relish in the fact that stylistically they will always be different.  This is the true value of what you have. Continue to use all of these wines as muses to coax the best from your back yard so that at some point Guadalupe wines become the reference point not the also-ran. It worked for your cousin to the north in Napa many decades ago and it will work for you.

Your wines are the talk of the town in Mexico City and dot the finest luxury resorts from Ensenada to Playa del Carmen. You are currently a giant fish swimming about in a rather small pond.  Is that enough? It’s going to get tight in there. You have time to decide. Do you want your wine in San Francisco’s hot spots, Milan’s ristoranti, Paris’ bistros, and South Paulo’s boites?  If so, then make a decision. On what will you and your fellow Valle de Guadalupe colleagues stake your claim and open the door?  Ask your cohorts in Mendoza and Marlborough, they may be able to help. They asked themselves the same question two decades ago and I believe they got it right.

The future is bright. But there will be black eyes, skinned knees, and broken bones. All the greats have stumbled. Keep stumbling as the stars are aligned in your favor.

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