Alximia Winery of Baja California #HispanicHeritageMonth

8 Oct

If you grew up in Southern California, chances are you spent at least one spring break weekend terrorizing the Baja California town of Ensenada with your frat brothers (or sorority sisters). What you may not have realized then is that Ensenada is an intellectual center and home to the Autonomous University of Baja California, Mexico, where winemaker Alvaro Alvarez studied physics.

Alvarez went on to pursue a master’s in math at UC Santa Cruz. As if studying permutations and number theory weren’t enough, he decided to do a little microbrewing on the side. Fast-forward to today, and Alvarez and his astronomer father are at the helm of Alximia (pronounced al-SHEE-mee-uh) Vino Elemental in Baja California’s Guadalupe Valley.

‘Alximia’ is inspired by the Spanish word for alchemy, and if you visit Alximia, you’ll swear some otherworldly force transported the spaceship-like winery from a galaxy far away and planted it among the vineyards.

Image courtesy of AlXimia Vino Elemental

Image courtesy of AlXimia Vino Elemental

As if by magic, Alximia came to my neck of the woods in the form of Manuel Alvarez, Alvaro’s younger brother and the man who does the marketing for the family winery here in the U.S. Manuel was kind enough to arrange a private tasting of five of Alximia’s wines.

Manuel Alvarez and his family's wines.

Manuel Alvarez and his family’s wines.

We got all Salma Hayak and chose Lebanese food to pair with Mexican wines. As evidenced by Salma, the Mexican-Lebanese combo works. All of the wines I tasted were made with red varietals, which pair beautifully with traditional Lebanese dishes including lamb kabobs, eggplant and tomato spreads, and yes, hummus.

And because the wines are literally the product of a rocket scientist, it only makes sense that each is named after an element. By design, the food pairings for each wine relate to their respective element:

Alximia wines

Aura (now Aqua): Made from a blend of Petit Verdot, Zinfandel and Grenache, this wine is aged 12 months in French oak. And because the element is water, Manuel suggests pairing it with seafood.

Libis: The element is air. A blend of Petit Verdot, Zinfandel and Syrah, this wine pairs well with airborne comestibles such as chicken and duck.

Gaia: Named for the Earth goddess, this special edition wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah. I loved the violet aromas. This earthy wine pairs well with beef, pork and lamb.

Pira: Pira represents fire, and it’s 100 percent Barbera. Manuel recommends pairing it with meat that has been barbecued over an open flame.

Magma: You science geeks will know that magma is the blend of molten rocks and solids beneath the Earth’s surface. The wine is a less searing blend of Carignan and Grenache. With jammy plum aromas and a hint of chocolate, you can enjoy it with gamier meat such as venison and goat.


Stateside, you can find Alximia Vino Elemental at Whole Foods Market. If you’d rather have the full experience, visit the winery as part of a Guadalupe Valley wine road trip. Pocket protectors optional.

Raise a glass of #vino to #HispanicHeritageMonth

2 Oct

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month darlings, and to celebrate the occasion, I invite you to experience a taste of the Hispanic influence on the wine industry. This post originally appeared three years ago when I attended my second East LA Meets Napa event, a charity-oriented celebration of the Latino community’s contributions to food and wine in Los Angeles.

So pour yourself a hearty glass of Mexican Cabernet Sauvignon from Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley, and stay tuned for more stories about Hispanics and vino in the next couple of weeks.

Wines from Mexican-American winemakers were featured at this year's East LA Meets Napa food and wine celebration.

Wines from Mexican-American winemakers were featured at this year’s East LA Meets Napa food and wine celebration.

On a balmy evening I strolled through L.A.’s Union Station to the charanga beat of José Rizo’s all-star jazz band, Monograma, a wine glass in one hand, a plate of food from the area’s finest Latin American restaurants in the other. This, chicas y chicos, is living.

Vanessa Robledo, president and managing partner of Black Coyote Wines, at this year's East LA Meets Napa.

Vanessa Robledo, president and managing partner of Black Coyote Wines, at this year’s East LA Meets Napa.

About 30 wineries were represented at this year’s East L.A. Meets Napa, some of them Latina-owned and operated. Ladies, if you’ve ever dreamed of getting into the wine business, there’s no better place to get a little inspiración. Vanessa Robledo started working in her family’s vineyard when she was 8 years old. Today, she’s president and managing partner of Black Coyote Wines.

Gustavo Brambila was on hand to talk about his wines at this year's event.

Gustavo Brambila was on hand to talk about his wines at this year’s event.

Speaking of inspiration, Gustavo Brambila of GustavoThrace attended this year’s event. Brambila is one of the first Latinos to earn a degree from the prestigious viticulture and enology program at UC Davis. In 1976, the winery where he worked put California wines on the map when its Chardonnay scored higher than a French wine at an international competition in Paris. Brambila was not directly involved in the competition, but actor Freddy Rodriguez played him in the 2008 film, Bottle Shock, based on the historic event.



To come full circle, this year’s tasting held one more reason to be proud of things hecho en México. A certain winery from Coahuila, Mexico made the journey to L.A. Established in 1597, Casa Madero is the oldest winery in the Americas. Still going strong after 415 years, the winery gives Mexico a significant place in the history of wine.

So raise a glass to Hispanic Heritage Month and to the contributions that Latinos and Latinas through the centuries have made to the wine industry, enhancing our ability to get more SABOR out of life. ¡Salud!

#Vino 101: four of Spain’s most popular #wine grapes

24 Sep

The coolest substitute teachers I can recall were the ones who showed movies during class time. Little did I realize they were doing this to preserve their sanity more than to entertain us. So today I give you a fun little  vino video that will introduce you to four of España’s most popular wine grapes–albariño, verdejo, tempranillo, garnacha. You’ll also get some food pairing suggestions. And all this in under three minutes!

As you may have guessed, part of the reason I’m sharing a video in this week’s post is to prevent a meltdown as I prepare for a midterm exam in my Financial Management class (cue horror-movie shriek sound). So sit back, pour yourself a refreshing glass of Albariño, and enjoy the video. Oh, and wish me luck on my exam!

P.S. Muchas gracias to the fine folks at Wines from Spain for making my life a little easier today. ¡Salud!

WIne of Spain Bull

#tbt Los Angeles and the history of California #wine

17 Sep

Happy Throwback Thursday, darlings! This little-known snippet of Los Angeles history is for all of you California wine lovers out there. I first posted this piece three years ago, and I was beyond thrilled to get a comment from a relative of Jean-Louis Vignes, as well as from a gent who had just finished a book about L.A.’s place in the history of California’s wine industry. Speaking of throwbacks, raise a glass and join me in an off-key rendition of “I Love L.A.” (with apologies to Randy Newman). 

For better or for worse, Los Angeles has spawned the Barbie doll, the film industry, the Cobb Salad, and yours truly. As L.A. celebrates its 231st birthday today, it’s worth noting that Los Angeles, not Napa or Sonoma, gave birth to the California wine industry.


Angelenos who have taken high school French will know that ‘vignes’ is the French word for vines. As Señorita Vino recently learned, Jean-Louis Vignes was the aptly named French immigrant who planted European grape varieties a stone’s throw from downtown Los Angeles in 1831. He called his vineyard El Aliso, and present-day Aliso and Vignes streets are named for Vignes’ contribution to Los Angeles history.

LA's first vineyards were planted a stone's throw from Union Station.

LA’s first vineyards were planted a stone’s throw from Union Station.

While Vignes was the first in California to plant a commercial vineyard, the Spanish missionaries were the first to grow grapes in California. Father Junipero Serra is credited by some sources as having planted the first vineyard in California at Mission San Diego de Alcalá around 1770. These grapes were of the Mission variety and used to make sacramental wine.

Not satisfied with the quality of wine made from Mission grapes, Vignes, a native of Bordeaux, France, imported two of his native region’s more prominent grape varieties, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. A barrel maker by trade, Vignes aged his wines in barrels made from trees grown in L.A.’s San Bernardino Mountains.

BARRELS By 1849, the Gold Rush had caused a population boom in Northern California, and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys became the hub of California winemaking. Which brings us (at warp speed) to today.

A toast 24 floors above L.A.'s 110 Freeway, two miles south of where Vignes planted his first vines.

A toast 24 floors above L.A.’s 110 Freeway, two miles south of where Vignes planted his first vines.

Join me in raising a glass to celebrate 231 years since the founding of the City of Angels, birthplace of the tortilla chip, the French Dip, and California’s wine industry. ¡Salud!

A little #vino with your tall skinny latte? Starbucks expands #wine offerings.

11 Sep

Wow, what a whirlwind summer it’s been, chicas y chicos! This MBA program is not for the faint of heart, which is why my little under-the-stairs wine closet is starting to look a little lean (hey, don’t judge me–all’s fair in love and graduate school).

So here’s a hot-off-the press (so to speak) tidbit – remember when we first heard that Starbucks was going to start serving wine? Well, it looks as if they’re “going grande,” according to a story posted on the Wine Spectator site two days ago. Check out this nifty pic that Starbucks provided to get the salivary juices flowing:

Image courtesy of Starbucks

Image courtesy of Starbucks

Yes, darlings, that is a Riedel glass, and those are spicy pepitas (¡ándale, Starbucks!).

And now it’s time for a two-part pop quiz. Ready? It’s easy, I promise. Part one: Do you consider yourself a Starbucks customer? Part two: Do you like wine? I know what you said for part two, but if you answered yes for part one, congratulations–Starbucks was looking at YOU, dear reader, when they decided to go big or go home with the vino. A study showed that a whopping 70 percent of Starbucks customers are wine drinkers, so hey, why not serve wine too?

Wine selection will vary by region, but Starbucks says that customers can expect “a combination of local and regional favorites that rotate over time.” Your inner gaucho (or gaucha?) will be muy feliz to know that Malbec is in rotation.

The java giant first launched its “Evenings” menu (vino, beer and small plates) in a Seattle Starbucks five years ago. Now, the company plans to roll out “Evenings” at more than 2,000 of its 12,000 stores in the U.S. through 2019.

Among the tapas-style munchies you can expect, according to the “10 Facts about Starbucks Evenings Stores” from the company’s online newsroom, are truffle mac n’ cheese, chicken sausage, bacon-wrapped dates in a balsamic glaze, and mushroom flatbread. The company says it worked with an in-house sommelier to select the wine list.

Image courtesy of Starbucks

Image courtesy of Starbucks

Señorita Vino is still forming an opinion about a coffeehouse selling wine (turn the tables around–what if wineries started selling coffee?), but I want to hear what you think. Should Starbucks stick to what it does best (global purveyor of caffeine jolts) or is it cool that a mocha monolith is dipping its toe in the wine vat?

Let the dialogue begin!

¡Feliz #NationalTequilaDay!

24 Jul

It was a steamy September night in 1988, and I was fresh off the plane from a formative,  college summer-abroad odyssey in Switzerland. The evening found me at a Mexican restaurant in Orange County, cross-eyed and basking in the after-effects of a bathtub-sized Cadillac margarita, spilling all of the summer’s indiscretions. To my then-boyfriend. Who sat there and fumed. Natch.


Okay, so he was a weenie anyway, but ever since then I stick to wine in order to (ahem) keep my tequila-inspired indiscretions to myself. Whoops! Uh, not that I have any today! Indiscretions, I mean (she said in case her husband, Señor Jim happened to be reading this post, which he always does because he’s the mucho-amazing-est husband in the world).

You’re probably thinking, “Whoa. Guess who just stepped in it.” And I have this to say: I did indeed step in it! I stepped into National Tequila Day! And I come bearing gifts.

First, my favorite interpretive dance to the song, Tequila, courtesy of Pee-Wee Herman. Click on the image to watch:


Second, a full-on “Chica Power” article I wrote earlier this year about the world’s first female master tequila distiller, the salt-rimmed glass ceiling-shattering Maria Teresa Lara.

Meet the world's first female

Meet the world’s first female “Maestra Tequilera,” Maria Teresa Lara.

Next, a tequila recipe for tonight’s National Tequila Day fiesta. WARNING: Do not try this drink if you’ve been naughty in the past 48 hours. ¡Salud!


Photo credit: CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa

Sangrita – Serves: 4

This recipe is courtesy of the JW Marriott Cancun. Another Marriott  property in Puerto Vallarta, by the way, has an in-house “tequila sommelier” who presents tequila tastings using tequila made from agaves grown on the property.

1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ounces freshly squeezed tomato juice
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
dash worcestershire sauce
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of Tabasco, or to taste

To prepare, mix all of the ingredients together in a container and let stand a few minutes; cooling is recommended.

Can red #wine make swimsuit season easier to swallow?

14 Jul

Can I get an amen if you love swimsuit season?

[Cue the sound of crickets chirping]

That’s what I thought. Well, if it’s any comfort to you, Señorita Vino would rather get a root canal than go swimsuit shopping this summer season. Wine shopping, on the other hand, is another story. The great news is that buying wine is a hell of a lot less depressing that shopping for a bikini, in fact, a university study from a couple of years ago revealed that drinking red wine may help whittle the waistline. Don’t believe me? Check out this oldie-but-goodie post and weigh in, so to speak. ¡Salud!

Just when you thought it was safe to get on the treadmill, a study by Purdue University has concluded that a compound found in red wine can block the development of fat cells. This is great news for people like me, whose fat cells haven’t seen the inside of a gym in about two weeks. Not only that, but red wine as a weight loss tool beats the South Beach Diet, hands down.


In all seriousness, we’ve known about the health benefits of red wine since the 1980s, when someone thought to connect red wine consumption with the reason French people have healthier corazones than we do, despite devouring triple-creme Brie and buttery croissants with a certain je ne sais quoi that looks a lot like goose liver fat.

The French Paradox: Lab rats who drank whole milk got fatter than those who ate cheese. I do not lie - watch the 60 Minutes piece on YouTube.

The French Paradox: Lab rats who drank whole milk got fatter than those who ate cheese. I do not lie – watch the 60 Minutes piece on YouTube.

But don’t take it from me. Go to YouTube and search for “French Paradox” to learn how drinking red wine can lead to a healthier heart.

Lest I digress and break into the Camembert, the Purdue researchers identified the fat-busting compound as piceatannol (say that 10 times fast), which, no surprise, is similar in structure to resveratrol, the red wine component that is believed to stave off cancer and heart disease.

Glorious. Rich. Creamy. Stinky. Delectable. Delicioso.

Glorious. Rich. Creamy. Stinky. Delectable. Delicioso.

Although Señorita Vino is a bit of a science geek, I promise not to get too technical here. In short, piceatannol prevents immature fat cells from growing. I’ll drink to that.


Now here’s El Disclaimer: I am not in any way advocating excessive red wine consumption as a weight loss program, so put down that bottle of Malbec. Gently. You might need it later. Common sense (and my husband) says that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. As a matter of fact, piceatannol is found not only in red wine but in blueberries, grapes and passion fruit, proving once again that you really do need to eat your fruits and veggies.

But if a little sip here and there of my favorite Shiraz is sending the fat cells in my thighs into suspended animation, I say pass the queso, por favor!


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