Through the pueblo of El Porvenir, a long dirt road takes off into the northern valley towards the foothills. It is well maintained, but travelers can expect some washboard conditions. It is late September in the Guadalupe Valley, a half-moon hangs in the pale blue sky. The harvest is nearing its end and the vines are turning golden. The ground surrounding the spacious parking is a damp purple color, for no part of the grape is wasted. After the pressing, the seeds and skins of the grapes are spread out to help reduce the dust. Walking into the outdoor patio the details catch the eye, brick and adobe construction, the kitchen with delicious grilling aromas tantalize and wooden slates overhead create shade. The first steps into the main building promises that this will be a very unique experience and rumor has it that the mystical Mayans have a presence here.
Luis, our English speaking guide, greets us. There is a lovely gift shop that shines with perfect lighting, displaying the abundant wines for sale. Luis immediately takes charge and we are glad that he is with us as we descend into the underground cava. The tour precedes the wine tasting, giving copious amounts of detail and insight into why Barón Balch’é is well known for world class wines. The first vast underground room contains giant stainless steel fermentation tanks. As the tons of grapes come in from overhead, they are fed by gravity into the tops of the mammoth tanks. The deeper we are led the air cools and become moist. Earth itself is the natural cooling system. Moisture is necessary in keeping the barrels from drying and leaching out the wine within. There is a stillness, as if we are at the center of the Earth surrounded by sleeping giants.
We are guided to yet another secret room with twinkling lights overhead, where private parties and weddings take place. Through a cut in the thick wall we discover the adobe cave of the Mayan. Owner, Juan Luis, so revered by the ancient history of Mexico, he chose to honor the ancient and mysterious culture with his wines. Subtle lighting shines down on the unique Mayan calendar of symbols. The calendar is not the traditional one seen in most tourist shops. This represents meaningful icons and the Mayan numbering system. The number system was a series of dots and lines. One dot signified a unit of 1; a vertical line was a quantity of 5. The premium wine is labeled in this way. Luis starts the story with, “Wine is the liquor of Mexican royalty.” Barón Balch’é came to be named in this way. Barón meaning nobility and Balch’é is a Mayan tree, from which the bark was used to make an intoxicating drink. A representation of this tree can be seen in the gift shop as you first come in.
Leaving the room of the Mayan, there is a feeling of having ventured into a fanciful Raiders of the Lost Arch. But in this case, the Holy Grail is the complete lineup of the Barón Balch’é wines. Luis explains he prefers a more casual approach to guiding us through the adventures of the tastings. He gives a passionate overview as he explains the three different lines being offered. First he paints a picture of how wine is a sensual pleasure, beginning with the Rincon del Baron blends. Pleasure naturally moves into romance with the Baron Balche’ 100% grapes of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. We are beckoned into the “erotic” realm of the Blaché Premiums, held 36 months in French oak. Like a wonderful romance these wines will change your experience of Baja California wines. Gold medals awarded to these wines spill from the treasury chest of world class competition. Dark, mysterious, exceptional and elegant. Each 100% grape is distinctive and perfectly balanced. Luis guides people from all over the world and shares an experience talking with the French visitors, “Wine is a common drink for them,” he says, “but they find themselves opening to the passion while tasting our wines.”
We start the tasting of the pleasure-wines with Double Blanc a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Palomino and Viogner. The Palomino is an old grape of Mexico, combined with a touch of the French grape Viogner. It is like going on a journey that ends with a kiss of the Pacific. Luis laughs, “People come in saying they really don’t like white wine, but they leave with their minds opened, because good wine can change what we personally like.” We move on to Mezcala de Tintos 2015, a lovely blend of 4 reds with 20 months in French oak. It is soft and deep. Luis says this is a wine that bridges the whites to the reds. It can be appreciated by both white and red wine lovers. The last of the pleasure-wines is the SiiS Clarette, Siis a Mayan word for fresh. Siis a blend of Carignan, Tempranillo, Grenache and Sauvignon Banc and has 4 months in French oak. The color is unforgettable; like a flashing Mexican fire opal. The first sip sends happiness through the senses. It is light and soft and semi-sweet. Luis calls this a fun “chill out wine.” One that you would love to share with neighbors on a backyard get-together. All the while we are tasting, Luis share his knowledge on how best to meet, handle and drink the wine. “Never refrigerate your white wine until a few hours before you want to drink it…hold your glass by the stem only...when opening red wine and pulling the cork, be sure to not let it “pop” from the bottle, but listen for a little kiss sound.”
We venture into the romance of fine wine with Auir, Mayan gold, 100% Chardonnay that has been held in American oak for 20 months. It is a complex white wine that will seduce people who generally do not like chardonnay. Buttery with a touch of wood and vanilla in the mouth, displays long curvy legs and a finish that last like a robust red. The Reserva Especial, 2014 with the original label of the first bottling. It is a Cabernet Franc, Merlot with a splash of Syrah. Here the romance deepens into intense ruby color. It calls you to dive into a dark cave and leaves a touch of antiquity and natural earth notes that linger. If you are brave enough to venture into the erotic line of Blaché Premium, order the Blaché Uno, 100% Grenache, 2007. It has been in French oak for 36 months. Don’t be intimidated, surrender to the ruby red velvet in the mouth. It waits to embrace you in a deeply mysterious experience, having a new meaning for complex. This is the Barón Blach’é experience, there is not another journey like it anywhere.