Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wining and Dining at Baja’s AlXimia and La Terrasse San Roman

Wine Glasses AlXimia and La Terrasse San Roman Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico

I was first introduced to AlXimia wines through the Latin Food Fest in San Diego.  At the time I was able to interview Manuel Alvarez, who is in charge of AlXimia’s sales and marketing and is brother to Alvaro Alvarez, the founder and winemaker.  During our meeting Manuel described the winery as looking like a spaceship and meant to be a cathedral to wine.  On a recent trip to Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe in Baja I had the chance to see the winery for myself, taste some of AlXimia’s wine that aren’t yet available in the United States, and dine at AlXimia’s new restaurant, La Terrasse San Roman.

AlXimia and La Terrasse San Roman Building Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Is that a spaceship . . . of wine?
When we first arrived at AlXimia we were greeted by Manuel and Alvaro and we started our visit with a tour of the winery led by Manuel.  Manuel described the building of the winery, explaining how the arched shape of the roof catches the rain and funnels it into underground tanks, holding up to 50,000 liters.  Part of the outside wall has been left unfinished so visitors can see how the interior of the wall looks like Lincoln logs, made with the dirt dug from the site and stuffed into tubes.  This building method, called superadobe, keeps the hot temperatures out, and the shape of the structure allows for airflow.  There is only one climate controlled room in the winery, which is the room where the delivered grapes are received, because the grapes must be cooled quickly.

AlXimia Interior Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
AlXimia's cathedral to wine.
We next followed the path of the wine.  After the intake room the grapes are transferred to the destemmer.  The grapes are slightly pressed before fermenting.  Using gravity, the grapes fall into fermentation tanks on the floor below through larges holes in the floor directly above the fermentation tank openings.  The fermentation tanks are angled rather than the standard cylindrical shape, which allows for better extraction from the grape skins, from which the wine receives its color and tannins.  The tanks are made in Spain and AlXimia’s equipment is a mix of Italian and Spanish.

AlXimia Fermentation Tanks Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
AlXimia uses gravity to transfer grapes into fermentation tanks.
AlXimia tries to make similar wines year after year.  However, Alvaro will not sacrifice the integrity of the wine by using chemicals to alter the wine.  Our tour ended in the floor below the fermentation tanks, where the wine is barreled and aged before bottling.

AlXimia Logo Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
AlXimia's logo in the barrel room.
After our tour of the winery, we sat down to lunch at the outdoor restaurant of La Terrasse San Roman, headed by Chef Martin San Roman.  Diners sit on the outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard.  Food is prepared in an open-air kitchen with wood prep counters and a grill.  Meals are served at rustic wood tables.  Even the menus are a crafty touch, made of slabs of wood with menu items burned into the wood.  Since AlXimia’s wines are meant to pair well with food, tasting AlXimia’s wines is best done while eating La Terrasse San Roman’s food.

La Terrasse San Roman Outdoor Kitchen Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Food being prepared in the great outdoors.
La Terrasse San Roman Menu Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
I love these unique menus.
Our meal started with Helios, a Blanc de Noir made with Grenache.  While Helios is made as a white, it is not really a white wine.  Helios maintains some flavors of a red wine and can be paired with meat.  Helios is named for the Greek god of the sun and has the elements of air and fire (light, flavor, and passion).  Helios is cold fermented and is aged in stainless steel rather than oak barrels.  We enjoyed Helios with our appetizers. 

AlXimia Helios Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
We started with a number of appetizers to try.  The tuna tartar was made with apples for an extra sweetness and crunch and was served alongside a crunchy tostada topped with melted brie cheese and ratatouille.  We also had a fresh roasted beet carpaccio topped with rocket, parmesan, and capers. The most surprising dish of the day was chorizo with grilled cactus, onions, and tomatoes finished with the tart taste of lemon.  I can’t recall ever having cactus before and it was nothing like I imagined.  I expected the inside to be thick and sticky, but instead it was crunchy and absorbed the taste of lemon wonderfully.

La Terrasse San Roman Chorizo, Cactus, Tomato and Onions Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Chorizo, cactus, tomatoes, and onions.
Our next wine was Senda, which means path and exhibits the element of earth.  Senda is a blend of Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo.  Senda has an earthy, mineral taste, a higher amount of Petite Verdot than the other wines, and a nice structure with less aftertaste. Senda has floral notes of lavender and jasmine.

AlXimia Senda and La Terrasse San Roman Tuna Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Senda and tuna.
My glass of Senda stood up well to our main courses.  We were served a flavorful shredded smoked pork accentuated with a fantastic slightly sweet hibiscus and wine sauce.  We also had perfectly cooked tuna served with lemon aioli.

La Terrasse San Roman Smoked Pork Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Smoked pork with hibiscus and wine sauce.
For dessert we were served Gaia, named for the Greek goddess of earth, made with three parts Cabernet Sauvignon, two parts Tempranillo, and one part Syrah.  Gaia has a minerally taste and is almost a little salty.  Gaia paired well with our tender and delicate macarons and flaky apple filled fried crepes. 

La Terrasse San Roman Macaron and Apple-Filled Crepe Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Macaron and apple-filled crepe.
The Valle de Guadalupe is filled with great wineries elevating the Baja wine scene.  I hope to experience many more in the near future.  But I have now been able to taste AlXimia’s wines twice and there is no question that AlXimia’s wines are worth multiple tastes, the eco-friendly winery worth multiple visits, and La Terrasse San Roman worth multiple dines.

AlXimia Winemaker Alvaro Alvarez Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Winemaker Alvaro Alvarez describing his wines for us.
Thank you to AlXimia and La Terrasse San Roman for hosting our visit and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.