In the small pueblo of El Porvenir one of the first wineries in the Guadalupe Valley was founded in 1940. The Wine Factory is still in operation today. A new complex houses the production while the original timeworn industrial buildings have been turn into an art gallery. A cluster of old growth Colter pines, rare in the valley, afford shade and a lovely setting for wine tasting. There is an ancient wind that blows its music through the pine needles and the soft cooing of doves float from the rafters in the weathered buildings.
One can almost feel the history still living in the walls. Inside the cavernous gallery, examples of the original pressing machinery has been left in place and on the second story overhead, huge vats of fermenting juice are waiting to be gravity fed into barrels below. Wandering through the art exhibit you might have an assortment of reactions as the large canvases impact the senses with unchecked creativity in bold colors and dramatic expression. Take a peek through the portholes in the walls and find surprising art, room-size, with black lighting, and a mono chromatic set with paper mache hands reaching through the walls. The master is artist, Vicente Zatarra, who has captured the swirling layers of Jasper in contemporary stone sculptures.
There is an outdoor restaurant, Peninsula, serving “slow food” with a focus on seafood. The chefs’ humor serve to suggest to patrons to be prepared to enjoy their time, while waiting for their order, as it is made at the moment it is ordered. The tasting room is a few steps away housed in another section of the old buildings. It has the feeling of an old house and the art in this room is humorous and creative, utilizing found objects as wall adornments. Gustavo Meillón greets me. He has many years working with several wineries, before becoming the manager for this project. He is very gracious and is well spoken in English. Gustavo explains that the Wine Factory has gone through many stages in wine production up to this present day. What makes the Wine Factory different from any other winery in the Guadalupe Valley is they will make wines for clients wishing their own personal label.
We take a seat at a rustic table and Gustavo pours the first tasting of the Bajalupano wines; a 2017 100% Chardonnay with 3 months in French oak. It is a lovely pale yellow with fresh citrus. The label on all the wines are the same but with different colored abstracts of the “Eyes of the Virgin.” Gustavo is a good conversationalist and knows his wines. Next up is a 2017 100% Grenache that has not passed through the barrel. It is a soft gemstone orange, like a Mexican Fire Opal. It is fresh and friendly and comes from old vines that create a high quality grape.
Gustavo admits, “We are producing for a new generation of wine drinkers here in Baja. These wines are less complex, and we consider them drinking wines.” What this means is that the palate of new wine drinkers has not been developed, so that a premium wine with 10 years in the bottle would not be the way to be introduced the grape. If truth be told, they wouldn’t be able to appreciate the quality of a fine Reserve. Gustavo now pours a 2015 blend of Syrah, Merlot and Tempranillo with 14 months in French oak. It is delightfully smooth with a spicy finish. It is “fruit forward” meaning that the grape is not overpowered by the wood of the barrel. Gustavo says, “There is an occasion for each wine. All are consider good from this perspective, each effort is of value.”
A group of well-dressed professionals are leaving after a wine tasting. They are here talking about a money raising venue that will send students on to higher education. They have chosen The Wine Factory to hold their annual fundraiser as this winery has many aspects in which students might want to major. They will be expecting nearly 400 in attendance. As Gustavo pours the next wine, he smiles and says, “This is produced with passion and love.” It is a blend of Syrah, Tempranillo and Malbec, 2015. We talk about how coming to the valley is more than just wine tasting. It is learning about a lifestyle that can be felt and tasted by the visitor. Peace settles in after a stressful workweek with the first breath of fresh air. It is not just the delicious glass of wine, but the whole history of the love and passion and patience coming to fruition in this moment. Most boutique winemakers say they are not doing what they are doing to make money, rather they are here sustaining a way of life, living in the cycles of nature and the true wealth is found in the happiness when sharing their harvest in a glass.
In a short tour of the production area, Gustavo pointed out, “We are open for customers that want to produce their own label and we offer equipment and all that is necessary to produce quality wine. People do not need to be here all the time, but most of our clients like to come down for the crushing of the grapes.” The Factory handles the onsite details, like the selection of the grapes, handling the lab work for sugar content and all the way to the barrel and beyond. Gustavo adds, “We oversee the production for the client and we can manage everything by email or any other way of communication. We are always open to provide information and participation at any stage of production. There is a minimum purchase of two tons of grapes, which equals about 130 cases.” At any one time, the Factory has a million liters of wine in production for themselves and others.
It is exciting to consider having your own private label, however it does take patience, sometimes several years. But the first time you pop the cork on one of your own Baja California wines, you will fully understand the true passion of the winemaker for his craft and why they do what they do.