On the upper level of this winery building at Finca La Carrodilla is a roof garden that focuses on a shrine to the Virgin of La Carrodilla.
Finca La Carrodilla opened to the public in 2014. Its sister winery is Hacienda La Lomita, owned by the same family and also located in Ejido El Porvenir. In charge at La Carrodilla is Fernando Pérez Castro, who proudly says it is the only winery in the Guadalupe Valley to receive organic certification.
"This is a project that tries to promote life," he said during my tour there. Cows, sheep, chickens and bees occupy the 20-acre property as well as grape vines. An extensive garden (above) supplies chefs as well as boxes of organic produce for residents of Ensenada. A carrot pulled from the ground tasted incredibly sweet. The scent of basil perfumed the breezes.
Shelves in the tasting room show off the wines (above), each type with its own label. A tasting for my group started with the strongly fruity 2014 Chenin Blanc from the first vintage of white wines. Only 800 bottles were made.
Next came Canto de Luna 2014, made from estate-grown Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo grapes. "With a young wine, we are trying to pay respect to what the wine is giving us," Pérez Castro said. I noticed tannins and subtle sweet notes in this one.
The 2012 Shiraz is completely dry yet has something sweet about it. Pérez Castro calls this a "lipstick kind of aroma." I think we make a spectacular kind of Shiraz," he said, "maybe not as strong as the ones we are accustomed to, but elegant, feminine." It got a lot of stars in my notes.
And so did the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, with its beautiful deep color, touch of spiciness and fresh red fruit flavors. "We are very proud of this wine, because we know how difficult it is to make," Pérez Castro said. Cabernet grapes are harvested late in the Guadalupe Valley, giving more chance of exposure to Santa Ana winds and hot days that can turn the grapes into raisins. It is the only La Carrodilla wine that goes into French oak.
The consultant winemaker is Gustavo Gonzalez, known for his work with red wines in the Napa Valley and elsewhere and also winemaker for Hacienda La Lomita.
Although drought is a big concern, it isn't as bad this year as last, when only three inches of rain fell in the Guadalupe Valley. The total so far in 2015 is 12 inches, Pérez Castro said during my visit in mid July.
This photo of the dirt road leading up to the winery (above) shows how dry the land is. At Finca La Carrodilla, irrigation takes place at night, and agricultural engineers are researching the minimum amount of water needed to keep the vines healthy.
What impressed me was not just the promise of the young wines, but the intensity and passion evident as Pérez Castro (above) talked in his conference room, which includes a figure of the Virgin of La Carrodilla.
He's self taught and dedicated, conscientious about every aspect of wine-making, from caring for the land to the reason for what he is doing. "Wine is not a luxury," he said, "but a necessity to share with people."