Winter in the Guadalupe Valley is beautiful, even though the vines are nearly barren with only a few fall-colored leaves still clinging to the twisted branches. The sky is a perfect blue with dollops of white clouds moving across with the chilly breeze. It is an easy drive to Tres Mujeres, east on Ruta del Vino #3 to Kilometer 87 on the right. A narrow dirt road posts a request to drive 5mph to keep the dust from impacting the grapes. But as luck would have it, this winter has brought with it precious rain and washed everything free of several years of dust.
Ivette Vaillard comes out to greet me. She is dressed is soft layered working clothes with a sun hat pulled low over her eyes. She has been working this land since 1982, but did not open to the public until 2003. Ivette is soft spoken and easy to smile, she admits, “Our first wine was really bad.” But there were many eager hands and youthful visons of how to create good wine. Ivette started learning winemaking at La Escuelita, the wine making school started by D’Acosta, and now has nearly 15 years creating her own unique signature. She loves the land and natural chaparral that surrounds her home and vineyard and for this reason she does not consider an expansion, which damages the environment of the valley. This of course gives the wine lover a true feel for how it was years ago before the valley was “discovered” as a major wine producing area.
Excited voices spill out of the small tasting room, built cava-like into the side of the hill. It has a tiny art gallery feel to it and is an intimate experience in which to enjoy a tasting. There are examples of Ivette’s unique ceramic tile creations, along with other local artists’ contributions; wall hangings made of natural dry leaves create interesting textures and contemporary free form ceramic sculptures. The wine bottles are held in 4 x 8 beams in V patterns. We have decided to take in the warm sunshine and have the tasting outdoors. The afternoon breeze causes the long pines to sway gracefully and the pampered cats and old dog find the warm spots in the sunshine. The cats especially like the hand pressed olive oil, so we have to pay attention to their stealthy advances.
Ivette has fashioned Tres Mujeres to support her personal love of life. If there has been an evolution over all these years, it has been the commitment to stay true to the small artisanal methods of winemaking. She sells locally and she quips, “I do not have to compromise for the market.” She prefers her intimate relationship with the land and the ever changing cycles of the seasons. “Nature rules the production and I like to say that wine is full of stories and we are also selling the story.” Much of what she has accomplished happened from following her instincts, which also includes a steady and patient course of action. The artisanal growers wish to keep the old world ambience and sense of small community. There are those that are ambivalent about the rapid growth, because of the impact this will have in the future. Tres Mujeres has loyal followers for that reason. “Those people who knows us, like us and others will come for the first time and like us because they can feel the quiet simplicity.”
Now in her later years, Ivette has found her way of life. “I stay very practical and grounded in the soil and because I live here, I am present for every detail. I am prepared for most everything that can happen.” However, one never really knows the surprises that nature can throw at you. She tells a recent story about when an unusual rain fell twice during the summer season. Rain on maturing grapes can be a major crisis. Making a decision when to pick the grape is critical. Too early, the sugar content is not sufficient, but waiting can be a disaster as mold in the summer heat can penetrate the grape, ruining the whole crop. “I called my neighbor Natalia at Mogor.” Ivette is laughing, “She is another crazy woman making wine. We would ask each other what to do…harvest before the fruit was ready, or wait and hope.” As it turns out, they chose to wait for the grape to mature properly. The risk paid off, “I have to say that our 2018 Cabernet is one to tell people about.”
Today we will taste the La Mezcla Mestizo, 2014. This is named for the mixture of the old and new world coming together in this wine. It is a blend of Zinfandel, Grenache and Cardington. The Cardington has an interesting story. An old vineyard in France was tearing out its old vines when D’Acosta saw a potential and set up a coop to save the vineyard. The fermented juice of this intense Cardington grape comes by ship through the Panama Canal and completes its process once in Ivette’s production. This blend is a delightful experience for the palate as it is very dramatic, yet is it light and happy. It has 1 year in French oak and 2 years in the bottle.
The 2014 La Mezcla de Rancho, is the blend of Cabernet and old vine Grenache. The beautiful ruby red jewel is a unique expression of the two grapes with a full and pleasant acidic experience to the end. It has 1 year in French oak and 2 years in the bottle before it is released. Both wines are produced organically. Ivette has honed her craft, created a rich natural environment in which to live and do what she most loves doing. In a world run by the clock, Ivette lives with the sun and the moon and the natural cycles. This is reflected in her unique wine and Tres Mujeres invites wine lovers to enjoy this gentle haven where nature is alive and well.
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