The village of Francisco Zarco, the largest settlement in the Valle de Guadalupe, sits at the junction of Federal Highway 3 and the paved road leading to La Misión. It's a hive of activity at certain times of day; outdoor chicken grills line the main boulevard, and people drive up and down from shop to shop. The road is lined with topes (speed bumps as only Mexico can imagine them) to keep pedestrians safe; there's nearly always a minor traffic jam.
In the village, at the end of a dusty road leading north from the
busy main boulevard, lies Viñedos Malagón, The tasting room is simple: a
six-foot bar perched in front of the window of an adjunct room, light
streaming through the outdoor dust. We called out to see if anyone was
around in the late afternoon, and la señora Malagón came running in.
have a sunburn!" she cried, looking at me. "No, I'm just always
red-faced," I replied. "Well, we're going to call you El Grenache from
now on!" she cackled, pouring a dose from my newly eponymous bottle into
my tasting glass.
The Malagón wines are a good example of Valle
de Guadalupe wine: hot-weather grapes with a fruity start and an
unusually alcoholic finish. The best wine besides the reserve is the
Equua, a blend of mostly Grenache and just enough Petite Syrah to give
it some body. We tasted everything, chatted amiably, snacked on knockoff
Chex mix, and prepared to leave, but she forestalled us.
have to try the limoncello," she said. "It's from our own lemons." I
groaned inwardly; limoncelli are always revoltingly sweet, like sucking
on an alcoholic lemon candy, and I can never manage more than a few
milliliters before I'm contemplating how to get rid of the rest of the
As a result, I've been making my own limoncello since I
was old enough to pour a bottle of grain alcohol. I helped my
grandmother and her next-door neighbor make it, and when I was old
enough to buy my own materials, I started making my own. My own house
limoncello is far fruitier and far less sweet than the commercial U.S.
Malagón's limoncello is the closest facsimile I've ever
had to my own; plenty of body and a beautiful bright yellow color, but
dry enough that you can drink it without refrigerating the life out of
it. It tasted purely of lemons, as the sugar and alcohol were balanced
well; not Meyer lemons, like my revised recipe, but standard Eureka
lemons, from the trees that dot the landscape from here to Punta
Señora Malagón smiled knowingly as I took that first
sip, then another, far more enthusiastic sip. Add limoncello to the list
of truly amazing products that come out of the Valley of Miracles east
of Ensenada. The best part is that it comes in 375 mL bottles, so you
can bring limoncello back along with your bottle of wine and be within
winking distance of the 1-liter import limit.
Viñedos Malagón, Calle Sexta #75, Francisco Zarco, Ensenada Municipality; 011-52 (646) 155-21-02; vinedosmalagon.com.
From the junction in Francisco Zarco, turn west (past the Pemex
station) and turn right at the liquor store–there's a faded sign on the
wall where you should turn–then follow signs to the winery on the right.