Back in 1987 five friends got together with a vision to create a winery in Mexico that would be at a luxury level, yet be inherently Mexican. Hans, Richard, Eric Manuel and Tomas found a plot of land approximately 300 miles south of San Diego and 30 miles inland from the Pacific at an elevation of 900 to 1,200 feet. There they established Monte Xanic. Their desire to be a benchmark for Mexican wines through process and innovation are being realized today as Valle de Guadalupe garners more critical acclaim.
My father in-law used to travel to Mexico quite a bit on business. He brought this back years ago and told me it was the best wine he'd had from Mexico. It sat tucked away in his cellar for years waiting to be discovered. Today was the day. I wanted to open something else that I was familiar with but curiosity won out.
The 1998 Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon is actually a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. Chances are this wine isn't going to light up the auction houses, but if you can find it online or locally, it's a pleasant wine to explore to learn about Valle Guadalupe. Monte Xanic has established itself as a benchmark for wines coming out of the region.
I have to say I'm surprised at this wine. I was expecting a wine that was long gone but this one is well made with good structure. At 14.5% alcohol it seems the grapes had an ideal level of ripening without too much sugar or extraction. It comes across as something between a 1998 California Cab Sauv and a 1998 Saint-Julien. Varietally correct notes started to come out after about 20 minutes in the glass. The color looks bright albeit faded into a classic garnet with orange-salmon around the rim. Primary aged Cab notes of dried roadside cherries and Steve Madden leather boots were apparent but the wine really started to get interesting with secondary notes of clove, stewed rhubarb, pencil shavings and my grandma's toffee.
As you might expect, the one thing the wine falls a bit short on is natural acidity but it was probably acidified (like most wines) in the winery to make up for what mother nature doesn't provide. 18 months of French Oak appear to be well integrated into the wine. The one check against the wine was the finish, which was a bit vegetal fell right off the table about 10 seconds. Drying tannins show up and are still present after 13 years.
Ultimately, you want to enjoy a wine and have it make you think of the place it came from. Monte Xanic's 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon with a dish featuring mole sauce might just transport you to Mexico where you can imagine a cool breeze coming off the Pacific as you share good conversation with friends in the warm Mexican sun. Overall, it's an impressive effort considering not many people had the vision for Mexican wine back when it was made.