Stately eucalypts trees sway in the afternoon breeze, lining the dirt road to the foot of the mountains. Great white boulder are embedded deep in the soil of these hills. Pulling up to the newly completed tasting room, the birds’ songs greet us. A panorama of lush green vines extend all the way to the south across the valley and the tasting room, a two stories glass affair, capture the breathtaking vista from Sierra Blanca to the mouth of the valley in the west.
Gloria greets us and offers the menu of the wine packages available; starting from the easy to drink wines to the reserves. She has been with Paoloni for years and offers many details about what makes Paoloni wines special. Before we even begin the tasting, we know that this winemaker is serious about the presentation of his wines in the beautiful imported glasses from Italy. “Esperienze” glasses are hand-blown crystal which enhances the process of oxygenation. The very unique grooves near the stem captures the whole range of colors and reflections of the wine. The first tasting is the 2015 100% Sangiovese Grosso called Brunello. It is an example of how the glass shows off the layers of redbrick colors, without tipping the glass. This Italian grape is known for its unique color. Brunello delights the nose with a complex aroma having notes of cinnamon, cherry and vanilla. Gloria says, “This is a very unique varietal in Baja California.” Gloria continues, “The vines were first planted 1997, so they are known as old vines.” Old vines are held in high regard for all winemakers, as they produce the richest wines in aroma and intense body.
Paolo Paoloni, Director and winemaker, stops by for a brief visit. A tall easy going man with a ready smile and easy wit, he shares a little of his history as the 2015 Selezionato is poured. We enjoy this blend of Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Aglianico with 12 months in new French oak for its intense red color and black fruit aromas. Paolo shares some of his story. When he left Italy, he had his eyes set on Baja California. As a second generation winemaker he knew what kind of special location would be needed for his future vineyard. He was wise to the location being at the foot of the mountains, knowing that water was the main issue for the Guadalupe wine growers. Being at the foot of the hill, the rain, when it does comes, flows underground into the seven wells on the property. This relieves worry, somewhat, about the water situation, but also frees the grapes from soaking up salty minerals which are found in the lower laying regions. This mineral content is a signature found in some of Baja California wines.
Paulo continues, “My father was an Italian winemaker and it was natural to follow in his footsteps. Paolo said, “I first came to Agua Caliente in 1985 and stayed there for two years, I worked very hard. I found I liked very much the Mexican lifestyle. Later I found this land in 1997. I went back to Italy and bought the grapes to plant here. Today, I want to produce the best of the Italian grapes have to offer. You see the vines are very lush after the late rains in May. Soon it will turn hot. The grapes need heat and it makes them very happy.” He continues. “Today we have the capabilities of producing 10,000 cases. This is the amount that I know I can be fully present for in production. Being family owned, makes a big difference in the experience as well as the quality of the wine. When production increases over 10,000 cases it requires more people and a different method. I would have less contact with the overall production. I am most interested in the highest quality of the Italian grapes that can be created in Baja, rather than quantity” Paolo takes his leave working at putting the finishing touches on the second floor of the tasting room.
Gloria finishes the tasting of the 2015 Selezionato blend with some insight. “Paolo wanted to try and introduce the Nebbiolo with the best of the Italian grapes and is pleased with the results. Nebbiolo is fast becoming Baja’s favorite grape in the Guadalupe. The color is very intense and the aroma of dark ripe fruits captures the attention. The amazing long finish calls for pairing and Gloria exclaims, “Oh, just think of it paired with the Mexican Mole!” But, of course, Paolo’s favorite food is Italian and he can be found frequenting Toni’s Italian restaurant in Ensenada where his wine is a perfect pairing.
Having heard so many good things about Baja’s Nebbiolo, we look forward to Paolo’s 2015 100% Nebbiolo de Guadalupe. It has been held 15 months in new French oak. The wine swirls in the fine crystal glass and shows off the deep purple plum color. The bouquet starts slowly and then begins to open with hints of smoke, black berries and licorice. Then with quite a surprise it actually seems to roar to a full opening. On the palate there is the rich ripe fruit with a few happy notes finishing the experience.
We linger over this last tasting. We feel part of the quiet pastoral view. This land, sky and vine are all part of the experience of wine tasting and should not be rushed. Visiting the Guadalupe Valley is always enhanced when avoiding weekends. Week days allows our senses to open like a fine wine, drinking in serene moments and tasting the full winemaking experience in our crystal glass.