The sun is blazing and there is only a hint of July thunder clouds. The little pueblo of El Porvenir is becoming the hub of Baja California wines seekers. Turning off the main road onto a well-maintained dirt road, the impressive structure of Las Nubes commands a stately presence at the base of the hills. The lush vineyards spread out around it as if a thick green lawn. Warm earth and vine smells permeate the air. In gaining the top parking area, be prepared for what is the most stunning view of the Guadalupe Valley. There is not another panorama like it anywhere that reveals the natural beauty of the wine country surrounded by hills and the majestic Sierra Blanc.
Victor Segura, winemaker, and Adriana Sanchez, manager of the wine tasting, seat us on the expansive patio with a breeze blowing through the hills from the Pacific, cooling the July heat. Las Nubes labels are a story unto themselves. Several reserve wines have names of cloud formations, Cumulus and Nimbus, while other younger wines honor the Kiliwa language. The Kiliwa, a Native Indian group, have only eight remaining families that speak the language today. Victor is a firm believer in creating very good wine including the young wines which he likes to present to those new to wine tasting. The young wines are presented in one package and meant to be fresh, drinkable and friendly. The second package presents the reserve wines for those who are looking for a serious wine for important events and pairings.
Las Nubes, under Victor’s direction, is mindful of the ecology and sustainable production that includes the sparkling water pond near the patio. The whole roof complex catches the rainwater during the winter and filters it into the pond. As well as all water usage in the wine production and the bodega is reclaimed, treated and fed into the vineyard’s watering system. Victor states, “We do not waste one drop.” It is very important to Victor and his team that they protect the environment. While Adriana pours a 2016 “Kuiiy,” meaning cloud in Kiliwa, Victor shares a story. He and his partners were walking on a hillside shrouded in the coastal fog that can reach inland at times during the year. “It was like walking in the clouds and right then we had the name of the winery.” This Kuiiy white is very unique with a delightful freshness 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chardonnay that does not pass through the barrel. The “Jaak” rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cabernet and Syrah. A floral bouquet with high acidity and a little effervesce to make it perfect for a beach blanket picnic. The young red, a 2016 Selección de Barricas blend with 6 months in the barrel, was fruity and delightfully fresh. Easy to drink for those easing into the red wine tasting adventure.
Victor was in the food industry for 30 years in Monterrey, Nuevo León, having degrees in bio chemistry and enology. Adriana fell into her dream world by applying for her position. She expresses herself with enthusiasm for what she has been learning and it is obvious that she loves what she does, in fact she admits it isn’t even work. “I wake up in the morning and think, Oh boy, I get to go to work today.” Moving on to the reserve wines. Adriana pours the 2011 Cumulas, a rich blend of Grenache, Carignan and Tempranillo. Some of these varietals come from, what is known in the industry as, “dry farming.” The early vineyards were established over 50 years ago. The roots run deep and no longer need to be watered. Today these grapes are highly prized by winemakers. Victor stresses, “We are very proud of the suppliers of these grapes. Today they are treated well and are paid promptly, unlike the life they had in the past.” Cumulas has “great expression” of red fruit with blackberries, currants and a touch of oak. The finish was beautifully long and is considered an elegant wine.
Victor shares his love of the land and that it is home for the animals and the birds. He learned “bird psychology” by watching the birds’ strategy as the grape is just ripe. “We put netting over only the first several rows of vines. The birds sweep in and see the netting and know it is not easy pickings, so they will go on to the next field that hasn’t yet been protected.” He points out to one row of vines, “See there? The first three vines are gone as we didn’t get the netting up in time and the squirrels got there first.” He exclaims, “Even Coyotes love the grapes. When I walk the vineyard I see the signs, but this is their place, these are their hills, they were here first, we work with that.”
2012 Nimbus, is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo. With the aroma and first taste, you know you have found something exceptional. The fruit notes, plum has touches of spices, pepper with very a subtle hint of smoke. This is so luscious, it would be a crime to drink it alone. Victor invites his guests to order a case of their favorite and Las Nubes will ship for them just slightly above bottle price. Las Nubes has been opened for only five years, yet it has rapidly gained popularity. When asked, Victor shared, “We pay attention to detail and I decided to be open seven days a week. Many people thought I was crazy.” He smiles continuing, “Now we are so busy on Saturdays all year long, that we have to ask people to reserve for a visit and tasting, as sometimes we do have to close the gate. We do not advertise, it has been all word of mouth.” Victor is an astute man as he is well aware that growing too fast has its concerns. “This is a time to be very careful and make sure the quality stays primary and all the important details to take care of the visitors are not overlooked.”
Adriana takes us down several flights of stairs for a tour of the production and cava. Here the stonework is beautiful. Adriana is effusive in her appreciation of the use of the natural colored rocks that were literally excavated while creating the hillside terracing. Entering the fermentation room is like stepping out of one world and into one inhabited by mammoth stainless steel tanks on legs. Producing 10,000 cases a year requires these rows of glistening vessels. Moving then into the cava, Adriana exclaims, “This is my favorite place!” There seemed to be an endless sea of slumbering barrels. Knowing that each barrel must be visited many times during the twelve months to taste the progress, is a staggering thought. Adriana takes it in stride and concurs, yet is adamant` about how exciting it is to be part of the team creating these wonderful wines.