By Jolee Pink
Drive up a long bumpy dirt road in the middle of the Valle de Guadalupe to be rewarded by the stunning, modern Decantos Winery built into the hillside. Its elevated position offers incredible panoramic views of the Valle. Run by the Granados family, what further sets Decantos apart is the innovative use of gravity versus mechanical pumps to transfer wine during the entire production process from grape to bottle.
Brothers Alejandro and Alonso are the face of the winery. The jovial Alejandro oversees operations, works on sales, greets customers, promotes community relations and more. Alonso is the winemaker and brilliant designer of this sophisticated multi-level winery with an on-site gourmet restaurant. He caught the wine bug by happenstance. While in law school, he paid a visit home to discover that his father had purchased a ranch with vineyards and hired an enologist to produce wine. Alonso explains, “The wine was awful but it tasted fine because it was the family wine. In the last year of law school, I came back with a strange feeling that I wanted to leave my career and become a winemaker. I made a deal with my dad to finish law school and if I still wanted to pursue it, he would fully support my efforts.”
After completing his law degree, Alonso went to La Rioja, Spain to study the art of winemaking for six years. He views the change as the best thing that he ever did and jokes, “Being a lawyer anyone can stab you in the back. Being a winemaker you make friends.” Alonso returned with advanced knowledge of production methods. His first harvest was in 2013 without the protection of any building structure. He kept going with winemaking and construction until Decantos officially opened its doors in August of 2015.
By combining traditional and modern methods, Alonso is able to take advantage of gravity to make wine with superior color, aroma and flavor. He adds, “Wine is decanted tank to tank. By decanting, the wine is more fruity, full-bodied and the complexity remains in tact. There’s less oxidation and the process is less laborious than using pumps. It’s more gentle to the wine. Also, the wines contain a lot fewer seeds that can make them bitter.”
Decantos produces three categories of single varietal wines as well as one blend:
- Young-Maceracion Carbonica, Carignan and Chardonnay
- Reserves- Amarone, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo
- Premiums-981 Red (blend of Nebbiolo, Syrah and Tempranillo) or 981 White (Chardonnay)
The Amarone stands out with tasting notes of rich blackberry, dry fruit and tobacco. Barbara grapes and an Italian dehydration winemaking method are used to produce this wine. Fermentation starts when the grapes are practically raisins. The result is a dessert wine that contains over 16% alcohol without the sugar. For the premium line, the exquisite laser-cut labels used transform the bottles into works of art. The 981 Red is complex with strong caramel, coffee and hazelnut characteristics.
Total production last year was 4,000 cases and 10,000 cases this year. Plans are to expand to 15,000 cases. Decantos wine is sold exclusively at the. It isn’t exported to the US or even available in local restaurants. As if this isn’t enough reason to visit, next month a fun new program launches called “Be a Winemaker for a Day” where clients can mix and match varietals to make their own blend then take away a bottle.