miércoles, 17 de septiembre de 2014

Winery Tour--Queretaro

For years, Mario has been telling me that I needed to see Queretaro.  That it´s one of the most wonderful cities in all of Mexico.  So colonial, so full of trees and flowers, so full of culture.  And we were almost there this last weekend.

But we went a half hour out of our way and went to Bernal, instead.

Queretaro may indeed be charming.  I sure don´t know.  But I´m pretty smitten with Bernal and the area surrounding it.  And at under 7 hours from Saltillo, we´ll be back for another long weekend.  (That´s Mario-drive-time, of course.  Normal people will not make it from Saltillo to Queretaro that quickly.)

Did you know that . . . Querétaro is one of the most important states in wine production?
(I´m guessing that it´s second--behind Baja California, of course.)
Our point in stationing ourselves in Bernal was to take advantage of the Wine and Cheese Trail.  Places in Bernal do offer guided tours to wineries and cheese makers, but we made our own tour.  On our list, Freixenet Vineyards, Azteca Vineyards, and Redonda Vineyards.  For cheese, we were hoping to find a variety of cheese makers, but El Hostal de los Quesos was well stocked and we couldn´t ask for anything more.

Patio at Freixenet
First on our stop was Viñedos Freixenet.  I´ve had their wine before, and it´s good, but not exceptional.  And stopping by the vineyard, it became clear that while they may be in the wine business (and doing a pretty good job at it) they are also very much in the tourism business, and take full advantage of their proximity to the hordes from Mexico City, looking to get out on the weekends. They offer a variety of tours--basic tours cost $60 a person, tour depth, length, and price expand from there.  Every other weekend, they offer wine pairing classes, which include full meals.

Their buildings and grounds are beautiful, making me almost feel like I was in Napa instead of Queretaro.  Like I said, these guys have wine tourism down pat.   I would have been happy to stay and get to know the place better, but we were on a mission, and had to stock up on more wine.

Azteca Vineyards is just on the other side of the street from Freixenet.  The gate was open, but as we entered, I noticed a sign that said that they only did tours by appointment.  No problem--we were just there to buy wine.  However, it was a sign that things at Azteca were a great deal different from Big Ol´ Freixenet.

Now, on September 15th (the day we were there) Freixenet was opening up an additional parking lot to accomodate all their visitors.  At Azteca, there was one other car besides ours.  They didn´t look open.  We drove around a bit.  Then a car came driving up like he owned the place.  (I think he did.)  We asked if they were open, and he told us to follow him.  We got to the store, where we were told they were not open.  But then boss-man said that we, and the guests he had with him in his car, were welcome to buy what we wanted.  Excellent.

Azteca´s tourism niche is that they also boast stables and a charro (Mexican cowboy) program.  Their grounds were filled with grapevines (of course) and ponds and horses and stables and old-style Mexican buildings--very appropriate to visit on September 15th.  I was in love with the place and wished they were open, so we could have spent more time there.  However, they had a big harvest festival that weekend, so their staff was understandably having a very deserved day off that Monday.  Now we know for next year--Independence Day weekend at Viñedos Azteca!

In short, Azteca seemed a little more serious about their wine and less serious about tourism.

Third and last on our list was Redonda Vineyards.  We had to wind our way through the town of Ezekiel Montes again (not fun), as they are on the other side of it.  They were also closed for tours, but their store was buzzing.  Redonda had plenty of picnic tables on their patio and a variety of play equipment for kids (thank you, thank you, thank you!).  For those hungry, they also sold cheese and cold cut trays, and plenty of families were enjoying a wine-laden picnic right there.

We spent a very relaxing half-hour there.  We would have stayed longer, but rain was falling as we were leaving.  And had we come on a day besides Monday, we probably could have had a tour.

But I´m looking forward to enjoying their wine at my leisure this week!

As for tasting rooms?  Freixenet offers tastings for a price, of course.  The other two did not offer tastings (nor does Casa Madero, here in Parras, so I was not surprised).  Just a word to the wise, if you´re used to California tasting rooms!  Even though I´m used to it, I still get disappointed.

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