Fernando Gaxiola is something of a renaissance man. After earning a degree in engineering from Tec de Monterrey and an MBA from Thunderbird School of Management, he spent years consulting around the globe. In 2011, Gaxiola set out on a new venture; moving to the San Diego/Tijuana area to connect with the local culinary and artistic community. 2013 marked the launch of his company, Baja Wine & Food, which promotes the best boutique wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe region, distributing their wines internationally and promoting events and tourism stretching from the US to Baja California.
You are the Owner & Founder of Baja Wine & Food, offering marketing, public relations and promotion for food and wine in the Baja region. Where did your passion for creating this organization come from?
I was raised in the Northern Baja region and my passion is very connected with the sense of belonging to this place. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family with great taste of food. I was raised in a farm-like hacienda in the middle of an urban city. My passion to create Baja Wine + Food was derived from my love for the region I grew up in and my passion for food and wine. I just had to invent a job in which I could literally retire from working and dedicate the rest of my life to my passion. Isn’t that what we all strive for?
The main region for wine production in Baja California is Valle de Guadalupe. What other regions in Baja California produce great quality wine?
The Northern Baja California region produces approximate 85% of the wine in Mexico. Other states such as Coahuila, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Chihuahua also produce wine. All together, they account for the other 15%. The highest quality wine without a doubt comes from Baja California, a terroir that has perfect conditions for growing grapes. Valle de Guadalupe is one of several grape-growing valleys in the Baja California region like: Valle de Santo Tomás, Valle de San Vicente, Valle de Ojos Negros and Valle de las Palmas to name a few.
What are some Mexican wine regions that are up-and-coming and currently in your radar?
The state of Chihuahua is going to emerge as a decent wine region in Mexico. However, most of the growth is happening in Baja California, especially in Valle de Ojos Negros.
In your opinion, what are some taste characteristics of Baja Californian wines that sets them apart from the rest?
Baja wines are essentially fruit-forward wines, where fruit flavors prevail over other characteristics in the wine. Climate and soul contribute to the distinct flavors.
A few characteristics of our region are ideal for growing high-quality grapes. We have warm climate and calcareous soil – it’s made up of limestone derived from marine sediments. We’re in close proximity to the ocean which contribute to cool breeze, fog and low temperatures at night. These conditions allow the grapes to ripen faster to produce low acidity fruit-forward wines.
Sandy soils produce very elegant and aromatic wines which can be found in the center of the valley. Clay soil, found in the foothills, produce muscular wines with high extract and color.
Most of the wineries in the region are family-owned boutique wineries focused on quality instead of quantity. Wines are hand-crafted and made in small batches, with high-concentration. Is a labor of passion and love, which you can taste in every Baja wine.
What is your current personal favorite food-and-wine pairing?
My all-time favorite food and wine pairing is sparkling wine (Baja blanc de blancs, blanc de noir and rosé) with super-fresh shellfish such as oysters, clams and scallops. My current favorite is Torres Alegre Cru Garage Zinfandel 2006 with black mole.
What has been the most surprising/interesting/memorable bottle of wine you have had the pleasure of tasting?
La Llave del Tiempo 1994 by Torres Alegre. A 100% Sauvignon Blanc aged in new french oak for 11 years and aged in the bottle for 11 years. I had the privileged to share this experience with close friends. We invited a winemaker and Ph.D. in Oenology, Victor Torres Alegre, to conduct a guided tasting. The bottle sells for $1000 USD. They only produced 214 of them. At the end of the tasting, after 2 hours, the wine evolved so incredibly well that in a blind tasting I would probably have said it was cognac. Amazing!
What is your approach when selecting a wine for your portfolio?
I have four simple considerations.
Vineyard – I take into account the specific terroir and soil composition, ages of the vines, water quality, and whether or not there is a professional vineyard manager (agronomist), estate grown grapes and sustainable practices.
Oenologist – I buy wines from formally-trained winemakers with a deep understanding of the chemistry and science behind making wine. These women and men are highly experienced with modern processes and methods.
Winery – I make sure I’m buying from a facility designed to produce high-quality wine and equipped with advanced technology and equipment (cold room, hand-sorted tables, free flow, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks, underground barrel room and most important: Clean.)
People – I really have to like the people and the stories behind making the wine.
Finally, what are your future career aspirations?
I have so many I don’t know where to start. All of them are related to growing the business and continuing to build our brand. In the wine import/distribution business, I have goals to increase the percentage of wine allocated by the wineries to the US market and to increase sales in 8 major markets in the US. In the travel business, the goals are to plan & execute 30 trips per month to the wine region. In the marketing/PR business, I’m working to position Valle de Guadalupe as one of the top wine destinations in the world and achieve global recognition by building a solid brand that exemplifies high-quality and distinctive wines. In the event planning business, to plan and execute 20 events per month.
Baja Wine & Food have a great number of events throughout the year. Although most traveling experiences are private, the team has designed several customized experiences for the rest of the year that are available for the public. During the month of February Baja Wine & Food will be launching Enigma a private event venue in Barrio Logan, where regional chefs and Baja wines will be featured in multiple events (i.e. wine tastings with the winemaker, blind tastings, dinners, cocktail receptions, vertical tastings, concerts, movie nights, art exhibitions, etc.). Collaborations include Vanguard Culture, The Kitchen Project, Chef Rick Bayless, The Gut Check, Chef Steve Brown, The Wine Pub, Chef’s Roll, The San Diego Bay Wine + Food Fest, SommCon, etc. UPCOMING DATES
Feb 16 Ceviche House at Enigma
Feb 17-19 The Gut Check Experience in Valle de Guadalupe
Feb 21 Launch of the Dine with the Winemaker Series at Azuki Sushi
Feb 22 The Kitchen Project at Enigma
Feb 24 Cosecha Pop-Up Dinner at Enigma
Feb 25-26 The Wine Pub Experience in Valle de Guadalupe
For full schedule of upcoming events and to purchase event tickers visit bajawinefood.