Perhaps I spoke too soon when I wrote about the sustainable growth of the Valle de Guadalupe in last year's Weekender for Los Angeles Magazine. Coming off of the biggest Vendimias, or wine harvest festival season to date which also saw a few hotel openings, the government of Enrique Pelayo Torres, Municipal President of Ensenada and its 26 boroughs (the Valle de Guadalupe is included) wants to move Mexico's premier wine country into warp drive, in a land whose success has come from the spirit, vision, and labor of the regions vintners, and award winning chefs.
Without asking the people that live and work in the Valle de Guadalupe, Torres, like a thief in the night, has attempted to subversively push through an aggressive land reuse program titled the Sectorial Program for the Urban Touristic Development of the Wine Producing Valleys.This pinche cabron from the PRI plans to dedicate 48% of the Valle soil to fancy condos and recreation, like the golf course Torres is already working on, in an all too predictable Mexican pattern of build first and think later that has ruined many great cities in Mexico. If you've enjoyed the unspoiled country that Anthony Bourdain had referred to as “the New Tuscany”, now is the time to act.
What must be infuriating to the mavericks of the Valle de Guadalupe–whose creativity has built up an international reputation for an attractive combination of wine and Baja gastronomy–is that the local government has contributed–zero! The chefs, the winemakers, the artisanal producers of food products have paid for their own flights to promote their stories abroad, have attended events on their own dime, and have flourished under a national government that imposes prohibitive taxes on the region's wines.
The efforts of people like Natalia Badan (Mogor Badan), Hugo D'Acosta(Casa de Piedra, Estacion Porvenir), and the Millers–Don, who recently passed away, and his widow, Tru–have for the most part kept out chain hotels, and other antithetical businesses to the region. An OXXO mini-market was recently erected in San Antonio de las Minas, but that was a necessary evil–many of the local abarrotes, or convenience stores charge high prices, never have anything you need, and haven't dusted their shelves since L.A. Cetto was a boutique winery.
Tru Miller of Adobe Guadalupe spoke with her neighbors about the OXXO and understood their complaints, ” it serves a purpose for the community, so I can't have a problem with that, I'm for the community, too”, she wrote in an email.
Enrique Pelayo Torres on the other hand is blind, deaf, and dumb, or playing dumb–he sees dollar signs for a small group of his cronies. What's different about the Valle de Guadalupe from places like Cancun, Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta has to do with water. The Valle doesn't have very much. You have wineries using drip irrigation and dry farming like J.C. Bravo and now this pendejo Torres wants to water 18 holes of golf course? Where is that going to come from, and why wouldn't you ask the residents whose every waking moment is a study in water conservation?
Torres is highly motivated to sign this deal into effect because his term is just about up, and he'd like to have a security net for him and his fellow pillagers to fall into as he leaves office. Instead of retiring to a modest estate and crushing grapes with his grandchildren, he is bent on crushing the spirit of the Valle de Guadalupe.
El Pueblo Unido in the Valle de Guadalupe
The people who made the Valle de Guadalupe are fighting back, and so far have put a major dent in Torres' shady dealings. On October 9th, about 50 of the wine makers, residents, and other Valle professionals arrived at Torres' doorstep, and they aren't going away. They've begun a Facebook page called Por un Valle de Verdad, or For a True Valle, and have been staging protests, and organizing to petition the government.
Chef Roberto Alcocer, Un Valle de Verdad
“All we are asking is to study the effects of development in the region”, said Chef Roberto Alcocer of Malva restaurant in San Antonio de las Minas. “We don't want to be Napa Valley, we want to be ourselves”, he added. Certainly, Mexico can't continue to this habit of over-developing tourist areas without thinking about the local communities, and culture. A major criticism of Mexican tourism is the lack of planning that always shows–just take a look at the ugly landscape dry vegetation, poor infrastructure, and hastily built condos–many of which are unfinished–on the way from Playas de Tijuana to Ensenada–it's a disaster.
Napa has becomes Disneyland with ridiculous gondola rides to wineries, and over-development which has tainted the allure of California's legendary wine region. It has been the pristine environment and gastronomy that has made the Valle de Guadalupe my favorite wine region, personally.
This weekend, while we'll all be devouring the amazing food and wine of Baja California at the 3rd Annual Baja Culinary Fest, Enrique Pelayo Torres, the grinch of the Valle de Guadalupe, will be pondering his next move to satisfy his appetite for destruction.
Baja native, and writer for the San Diego Red, Genaro Valladolid G. had this to say, ”
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