From El Porvenir a long dirt road heads to the granite strewn foothills. The sky is deep blue with wispy horsetail clouds. Tiny green shoots poke out of the dry gnarled vines in March and in a month the valley will be lush with vineyard green. There are no signs between the main road and the turn off, but you will not miss it on your right as you see the landscaping of organic farmland. This winery loves their animals and all have names. The open fields are lush with vegetable gardens and around the grounds is an expanse of trees and native plants. Bright bougainvillea have been trimmed into neat spots of color. A massive structure of unique materials rises to a second story. Below is a pastry shop and production area. A lovely shaded patio welcomes the traveler to relax and enjoy the breeze, sunshine and a glass of wine. The second story of the building beckons with hidden delights.
Arriving on the second floor by stairs or electric lift, one steps out into a wonderland of foliage. What a surprise to find the roof is now a garden with tables and pathways. We will learn there is another important reason for this visionary tasting area. A statue of the Lady of the Vineyard is featured and is the namesake of this winery, La Virgen de la Carrodilla, an Argentinian symbol of the virgin that watches over their vineyards. Chocolat, the rancho’s 12 year old chocolate lab, lays in the sunshine. Stepping into the enclosed tasting area we are met by the friendly staff and given a refreshing organic lavender water. Finca la Carrodilla is one of the wineries in the valley built with the pure commitment to organics in all phases of their production and farming.
Today René will be the knowledgeable wine tasting guide and his entertaining style keeps the stories coming. First, he says that they prefer the word agroecological rather than the use of the word organic. The reason being that agroecology is a term that includes the idea of sustainable and ecological agriculture that does not damage the resources. It focuses on sustaining a healthy environment and includes the living and nonliving and how they interact. While this seems like a new thought, it was the way of the earliest agricultural communities around the world. People lived in harmony with the ecosystem.
Rene boasts that very soon, Finca de Carrodilla will bottle its first 100% organic wine, which is hard-won in the Guadalupe Valley as they can only be labeled organic if the vineyard is not bordered by any housing, farming or industry using pesticides or chemicals. As he pours the first tasting of 100% Syrah 2016, Rene points out the beautiful label depicting Venus and the Sunrise. It is so flavorful we want to linger with it as the cheese and bread plate is set in front of us. The cheeses are made from the milk of their grass-fed Holsteins, Moca and Cejacr. The thin slices each have unique flavors of rosemary, cranberry, coconut and basil. Homemade bread from the pastry shop is soft and warm and is delicious when spread with the special basil and herb salsa creating a luscious new flavor, which sadly they do not yet sell. There is a flash back from the old days about how the now famous Knott's Berry Farm first got started by selling their fresh farm products.
Rene laughs and pours what he calls “La Cordilla’s $16, Two Buck Chuck.” It is a wonderful blend called Canto de Luna - a song from the moon. On the label a woman’s hand touches into the water creating a lyrical image. He calls the wine “wild and edgy,” yet it is a perfect summer red that is a good introduction for Baja California red wines. The 2017 Carrodilla Chenin Blanc, honors the lady of the vineyard. A lovely platinum color with an aroma of tropical fruits and a taste of fresh citrus, slightly dry. But wait for the Sirius, a 2016 Carrodilla Syrah that will really make you sit up and take notice of the caramel, cinnamon with a note of lusty spices.
The tour takes us out into the production area on the second floor where the grapes are first brought in for destemming. They are crushed and gravity fed through manholes in the floor, flowing into gigantic stainless-steel tanks imported from Argentina. Each step of moving the grape juice from fermentation to the barrels is done without the aid of electricity or machinery. The building was built above ground with this system in mind and so when we proceed to the barrel room on the ground floor, we learn why there is an earthen garden now above us. Most wineries dig into the earth to create the cava, but here the building itself poises as the cava to keep the perfect temperature for the barrels to rest. The earth in the garden above, along with the moisture channeled through the garden provides the cooling elements needed for the correct temperature for the barrels below. We are invited along a red carpet to a hidden room, it is a presentation for royalty as a huge door slides open. The grand room is revealed for a private wine tasting experience. Hanging above the dark mahogany banquet table with seating up to twelve, hangs the most exquisite crystal chandelier. The shimmering facets complete this magical setting. This room can be reserved, creating a special ambience for the prince or princess in your life.
Finca la Carrodilla is building its reputation on very solid farming principles for the future. Everything they produce, from the delicious wines to the homemade pastry has an important ingredient called love. Commitment to the fine quality and attention to detail is included in all the products they sell. People are invited to call ahead to find out what organic vegetables are being harvest that day. It is a wise traveler that does not rush through the Guadalupe Valley, but lingers to receive all that is available in Finca La Carrodilla’s modern concepts incorporating the early farmers’ earth-based wisdom.