Baja Wines

Featuring L.A. Cetto
BY: HELGA BOGUE

L.A. Cetto is one of the oldest wineries in the Guadalupe Valley founded in 1928. Today they are the largest producers of Baja California wines. The vineyard spreads out across the valley in many different locations interspersed with beautiful old oak trees.

The Guadalupe Valley was once home to the Kumiai Indians, and rumor has it there is still a small settlement in the area. As history goes, the missionaries arrived next, building their missions and planting grapes for making wine to be used for church services.

In 1924, an Italian immigrant named Luis Angelo Cetto arrived in the valley. He learned the art of making wine in Italy, and his desire and dream was to plant grapes in Baja to make world-class wines in the style of his heritage.

Unfamiliar with the climate patterns and soil, he had many obstacles to overcome in order to begin to produce a grape quality that would be acceptable for the consumer. In 1930, he released his first wines, which turned out to be fortified like a sherry or port, and he realized he had a great deal of work to do if he wanted more quality out of the grapes.

When prohibition was declared in the U.S., people would flock out of California and head south to Baja where the alcohol flowed freely. This was a time when Hollywood became enchanted with Baja California, and many celebrities spent a great deal of time here. Luis felt like the market was coming to him at that time and he increased production and improved the quality of the wines he was producing as he tapped into the skills he knew he had back in Italy.

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In 1963 Luis retired, and his son Augustin led the winery in a whole new direction. He purchased modern equipment that would upgrade production, he studied the abundant microclimates in Baja and expanded the varietals planted. Then in 1975, he released the first L.A. Cetto label in honor of his father Luis Angelo.

L.A. Cetto quickly became the most well-known Mexican wine under Augustin’s direction. He eventually had a son, Alberto, who grew up in the vineyards and became the third generation of Cetto winemakers.

Through Alberto’s direction, the wines became more popular, and are sold in over 30 countries around the world.

Charlie and I have driven through the rolling hills in the spring, and it’s evident that L.A. Cetto farms a great many vineyards in different locations throughout the valley.  We’ve tasted many of their wines over the past few years and definitely have some favorites.

The Viognier, which is a French white grape, is a lovely alternative to a Chardonnay. It has a touch of jasmine with luscious green apple and kiwi notes and spends about 6 weeks in stainless steel fermentation. It’s light and lovely and would pair well with stir fry or sushi, or a lovely soft cheese. The reserve Chardonnay, which is aged in French oak, is absolutely soft on the palate. There is a hint of coconut and ripe banana on the finish and would pair beautifully with some shellfish.

Their Reserve Cabernet is also aged in French oak. It has a rich dark plum bouquet with a dark chocolate finish. This is definitely a terrific steak wine! They also have a classic Cabernet which is fruitier and not as complex as the reserve, something that would be a great compliment to pizza or pasta.

They now produce sparkling wines, a variety of whites and many reds, including a delicious Nebbiolo.

I’m certain that Don Luis Angelo Cetto never realized when he first arrived in Baja California that he and his family would create and introduce the world to some of Mexico’s finest wines from the Guadalupe Valley and, in the process, put Baja California on the map as a wine tasting destination.

L.A. Cetto wines are available at all markets as well as Costco and Baja Wines.

Helga lives with her husband Charlie in San Jose del Cabo and is a former restaurateur and wine buyer from the San Francisco Bay Area of California.