I rolled my eyes when our ground operator, Journey Mexico, included an excursion to a winery near San Miguel de Allende in our itinerary. Unlike Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe or the Valle de Parras in Coahuila, the state of Guanajuato doesn’t have much of a fine winemaking tradition. I suspected the wineries near San Miguel existed to help slake tourists’ bottomless thirst for alcohol, not because the region was conducive to high-quality wine.
But traditions have to start sometime. As evidenced by our visit to the Cuna de Tierra winery, Guanajuato’s history of fine winemaking has begun.
As explained by Paco, our engaging guide at the winery, the owners of Cuna de Tierra didn’t start making wine for the money. It was a hobby, a passion, not a business. To this day, the priority of the owners is to produce good wine. And they are succeeding, winning award after award in international competitions.
Paco, who once researched the effects of various woods on wine (baobab works surprisingly well for barrel-aging), led us into the vineyard. The flat, dry expanse reminded me of vineyards I’d seen in Lodi, California. The latitude of the winery is south of the traditional zone for fine wine, but the high elevation gives the vines a large diurnal temperature shift, helpful for maintaining fruit and acidity. It also gets cool enough in winter for the vines to go dormant. From the top of a monolithic tower in the vineyards, Paco also pointed out a shimmering olive grove, from which Cuna de Tierra makes fine oil.
Back at the winery, a collection of cement cubes that would be just as much at home in architecture-forward Mendoza, we headed to the fermentation tanks. The knowledgeable Paco gave us samples of youthful Tempranillo, Sémillon, Malbec, Marselan, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cuna de Tierra’s first vintage of Caladoc, a hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It was fascinating to taste them so young, while they were still developing, and to try to determine which would make good varietal wines and which would be best blended together.
We sampled finished wines over lunch in the small restaurant, a meal that ranked among the best I’ve had anywhere in some time. I took a bite of some fresh sourdough and remarked, “I feel like I’m in San Francisco!” And indeed, the talented young chef, Alex, uses Tartine’s recipe. We started with a beautifully composed salad of garden tomatoes, local mozzarella, candy-striped beets, pumpkin purée, fennel fronds and flowers. A glass of surprisingly ethereal Sémillon worked beautifully with the dish.
The next course of spaghettoni with pesto and shrimp could have been prepared no better in Genoa. The pasta was perfection, served al dente and coated with fresh, silky sauce. It came with a glass of 2018 Torre de Tierra, a blend of Tempranillo with a little Cabernet Sauvignon. I loved its ripe cherry fruit, zippy acidity and sweetly woodsy tannins. I wouldn’t have guessed a red would work well with this pasta, but I would have guessed wrong.
Some flawless local rib-eye had a thin, caramelized crust on the outside but was rare in the middle. Accompanying the salty beef was sweet plantain purée and a deep 45-ingredient mole, the three of which tasted sensational together. The pairing of 2017 Cuna de Tierra Vino Tinto, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, was a joy. The dark fruit and spiciness mirrored the mole, and a sultry tobacco note highlighted the beef. Such a rich, lively and elegant wine would be an asset to any steakhouse’s cellar.
A glass of fortified Lloro de Tierra, a Tawny Port-like wine, came with a “False Cappuccino” dessert of hazelnut cake, subtle cardamom gelato and smoked milk foam. The well-balanced wine’s bouncy acidity kept it from being heavy, and its caramel and baking-spice notes complemented the nuttiness of the dessert.
I stood up from the table shaking my head, stunned by the world-class wines and Michelin star-quality food. For the oenophile visiting San Miguel de Allende, Cuna de Tierra should be a priority. But even if Cuna de Tierra were in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, it would still be a standout.
Reservations are required for a winery tour and lunch. Cuna de Tierra also has a storefront in the center of San Miguel de Allende at Correo 12, where it’s possible to purchase bottles and arrange visits to the winery.