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Monday, 10 December 2018

From aboard National Geographic Venture: Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico's Napa Valley

#expeditioncruising .

Itinerary: From Southern California to Baja: Sailing the Pacific Coast

Day 3: Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico's Napa Valley

Mariachi minstrels keep us warmed up between courses. (Adam Maire)

If someone were to ask you what you knew about Mexican wine, what would you say? I know my answer would be “I give up!” Sure, we all know about Mexico's most famous drink, Tequila, but what about Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Grenache or Syrah?

135 nautical miles south from Los Angeles is Ensenada, the first settlement in the region, founded by the Spanish in 1542 as San Mateo. Some 30 miles from the port is the region now dubbed 'Mexico's Napa Valley' by some clever spruiker and is full of vineyards in a dry terroir that gets bloody hot in summer.

Some of Monte Xanic's award-winning wines (RE)

We head to Monte Xanic, one of the first of the 100-plus wineries now in the valley, but still just 30 years old. They've won lots of awards and take their winemaking very seriously, exporting 60,000 cases of fancy wines annually. We take a tour of their winemaking facilities and cellar and, of course, give their products a thorough going-over. The Chenin is delightfully crisp and subtly fruity with not too much acid. Colombard is added at just 2 per cent. The reds are worthy of note too, and once winemakers from Europe started arriving, the native varieties from France, Italy and Spain have been arriving ever since.

One of the region's pre-eminent winemakers, José Luis Durand, told the NY Times: “That eclecticism is part of our wine’s character. It expresses the freedom that our culture affords us.”

Wine and food at Monte Xanic (RE)

All that wine snobbery is fine, but as the morning wore into afternoon, tummies began to rumble and we made our way to the little dam where a large awning was set up for our lunch. Minstrels worked their guitars and migratory waterbirds fluttered and splashed in the pond, much to the delight of the birders.

The courses slowly made their way out and the wines flowed. Predictably there were a few sleepyheads on the coach back to the port and a scant showing at dinner, but a great day nonetheless and a surprising diversion from our normal expeditionary fare.

Our journey continues south to Isla San Martin.

For more information on Lindblad – National Geographic journeys, see www.expeditions.com