There is an interesting story about the name of this winery. It looks like the English word, to find relief. And in some manner, it actually provides the experience of getting away from it all for a day of sun-filled afternoon, fine wine, and food. However, the English pronunciation is incorrect. You have to roll the lovely Spanish “r” and softly touch the vowels with the “v” almost a “b” sound. The Martinez family have a more poetic meaning behind the name. The Spanish for Relieve also describes a relief map. For this family of architects, it has everything to do with the texture and beauty of the rolling hills. In Spanish it offers the essence of their lush valley, like an earthen bowl, with everything nestled inside. To find your way here, it is easiest to come the scenic route on the free road through La Misión. Before actually entering the Guadalupe Valley, watch on the right for a dirt road down a rather steep hill. A-frames casitas dot the hillside. Quickly the dirt turns into a concrete two lane road. To the right you will see the impressive rock entrance and the sparkling water pond.
Upon entering you have a choice to visit Mixtura Restaurant to the left where you can also do Relieve Vinecola wine tasting or to the right to the stunning new tasting room. Today we will start at Mixtura and drive down the dirt road through the vineyard. The breeze from the Pacific ruffles a lacy tree in bloom that affords a worker from the vineyard a shaded noontime siesta. We are immediately welcomed and choose a table. The music is lively and because we are here on Thursday, we have the whole place to ourselves. What a delight this little hideaway is. Chef Viviana is also a Sommelier with quite a story about how she made her way back to the family’s vineyard. She followed in the footsteps of both her parents into the world of architecture and tells that long ago they were making wine only for their personal pleasure. Soon they had too much and began gifting it and one day they sold their first bottle. Many of their vines are over 14 years old and they continue to expand their production, now that the new tasting and production room are complete. Vivian finally gave into her family’s pleas to return home, even though she had made a professional name for herself on mainland Mexico. “I was very tired of the corporate structure and how rigid it was. And my parents kept asking me to return home.” Finally, she gave in to their pleas on one condition. That the Mixtura would be her domain, choosing to establish her restaurant set-off from the tasting room. She spoke warmly of how she loves to be surrounded by the hills, vines, and the beautiful sunsets.
Viviana serves a crisp refreshing Chardonnay to accompany oysters lightly basking in a secret butter seasoning right from the open grill. Delicious. As we chat, we learn from Viviana that the manmade pool is more than just beautiful. It is a smart water storage that will catch the rain. “We care very much about the quality of our grapes. The land and the soil are very good here and we tend the vines all year. You can see how advanced and lush they are for early spring. It shows the love the family puts into this project.” While munching on a huge ear of corn still attached to its long stem, the butter runs off onto the plate and down the chin. There is no graceful way to eat it, which makes it even more fun and it is a meal in itself. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich accompaniment. “We like to think we are down to earth here and we create with nature in an honest way.”
It isn’t easy to leave the refreshing setting and we can image it on a full moon night with music playing out into the vineyard. Back up the road to the tasting room the impressive building is all angles and open glass panels. With all the architects in this family, be prepare to be amazed at the open spaces and use of unique materials. Hanging over the long-polished wood bar is a wonder in lighting. Cleaned of outer bark, the twisted grape vine wood hangs from the ceiling and is festooned with large globes of light. There is plenty of open space for socializing and a wide patio for outdoor seating. David greets us and offers the full wine tasting package which includes the Reserve wines. Before we start, he mentions that Viviana’s brother, Wenceslao, is the wine maker and the only family member that isn’t an architect; he is an engineer. We start with a 2018 Chardonnay with a 20% Chenin Blanc. This has been held in a concrete tank for aging. David tells why they have chosen this method of fermentation. Oak barrels “sweat” off wine and need to be constantly replenished. Some winemakers feel stainless steel tanks are too sterile, sometimes producing “sharp, linear wines” that couldn’t breathe. The concrete tank is the best of both worlds. They are porous, with thousands of tiny pockets that trap air and allow the wine limited contact with oxygen. Concrete tanks don’t impart any additional flavor, yet “maintain freshness and purity of the grape’s character.” This “new” trend actually dates all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman times. Likely another reason for the concrete tank trend is today the consumers seem to be seeking wines without as much influence from the oak barrel.
David then pours a 2017 Pinot Noir and Malbec rosé. This is a very unique blend for a rosé. Most rosés are made from the Grenache grape. The two red grapes combine in a color of shimmering copper-colored gems and opens up lively and dry. The 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with 1 year in American and French oak is a friendly open wine with a hint of licorice and berry; easy to drink and the 2016 Merlot is a treat and one of my personal favorites. On the label is a thoughtfully designed graph which shows the consumer the characters of the wine: fruity, body, acidity, and spices. 2015 Ovis is a very elegant reserve that has a subtle complexity with overtones of cherry, chocolate, and balanced tannins. The requirement for a reserve wine is that it have the capability of being held 10 to 12 years in the bottle. Ovis is the scientific name for the Big Horn Sheep of Baja California. Next comes a 2015 Nebbiolo. David shares, “What I do is swirl the wine, close my eyes and ask what does the wine want to tell me. I’ll wait. Then I taste and the wine sometimes gives me the story. This is one of the things I really like about wine and it is a very different experience than drinking beer or tequila which tend to get you high. Wine brings you into yourself.” David finishes with the 2015 Ciclo, a 100% Nebbiolo. Rich and elegant as only older Nebbiolo vines can produce. It brings a memory of entering a dark warm forest with sunlit pools of shimmering garnet. The Martinez family has created a destination where there is no need to rush away. Stay for the day and watch the sun go down.