While Mexico may not be synonymous with wine, the Queretaro area is unique in that its weather is similar to the climes of Italy. Over the last 50 to 60 years, this area has been actively involved in growing grapes and subsequently with producing wine. Along with tourism and agriculture, viticulture and enology form a big part of the local economy. Traveling the cheese and wine route in Queretaro is a favorite pastime on the weekends, especially for residents of Mexico City and Queretaro.
Having visited the cheese factory in Queretaro earlier in the day, Uriel drove us to La Redonda, one of the oldest and most established Mexican wineries in the area. The two most commonly visited ones are La Redonda and Freixenet. But there are several others in the area.
Uriel took us to La Redonda since its a Mexican winery. Its founder, Don Vittorio Bortoluz Perencin, was an Italian agriculturist, viticulture expert and winemaker, who moved from Italy to Mexico to help develop vineyards for a wine production company. After being involved in this industry in Queretaro and Baja California, he decided to settle down in the Queretaro valley and planted his first vineyard in 1975. Since then, La Redonda has grown from producing grapes to winemaking and is a leader in the area.
La Redonda produces a variety of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, and Merlot. Wine tasting and tours are offered daily. The vineyard also participates in at least four major wine festivals in the area and has won many awards for its wines.
We reached La Redonda late afternoon. The tasting room was somewhat crowded but we managed to find a table. Uriel got us a couple of wines to taste and he went over the history of the vineyard and the basics of winemaking. We tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Nosotros Vino Tinto. Then we spent some time outside enjoying the sun and visited the vast vineyards before leaving the area. Freixenet is also popular but it is based out of Spain and is not purely Mexican as La Redonda is.
About a dozen kilometers away from La Redonda, lies the small colonial town of Tequisquiapan or Tequis, as its commonly known. Home to indigenous communities for over 300 years, Tequis now attracts visitors from Mexico City and Queretaro, many of whom own weekend homes here. The National Wine and Cheese Fair happens here. Agriculture, handicrafts, livestock, mining, golf/ spa, hot springs, and bullfighting all form various facets of the local economy.
At the time we visited, the town was hosting the Bull Fair 2019 in mid-March. There was a festive air about the main plaza which had a steady stream of visitors. Food, vendors, and handicrafts were aplenty. The outdoor kiosk was hosting a live band. As the band was getting ready with set-up, we took the opportunity to window shop the stalls lining the sides of the plaza. Uriel took us to the busy local market. There we met a master artisan who creates jewelry, hats, shoes in his small shop. We bought bracelets as souvenirs from him. Basket weaving is very popular here and we saw plenty on display. And bought a set of placemats for our home.
Back at the plaza, we enjoyed the band that was now playing. We admired the front facade of the Church of Santa Maria. The town of Tequis is fascinating with small, one or two-storied homes painted with vivid colors with plentiful bougainvillea and other flowers adorning their walls and balconies. The wrought ironworks were another feature of many homes. The streets were narrow and cobblestoned. Many murals dedicated to bulls were scattered across town. There is a marker in one part of town that describes Tequis to be the “geographical center of the country”. This was based on a decree by then Mexican president Venustiano Carranza. As most of the crowd packed the plaza, we escaped to enjoy the picturesque town. Before leaving Tequis, we stopped at a local candy shop to grab some dulces leches. These small bars were sold in different varieties, we chose a couple to taste.
We were leaving Queretaro that evening and spending the night at San Miguel de Allende. As our car took us away from Tequis and the cheese and wine route, I reflected on the day. It had been a busy but educative and entertaining one. We spent a whole day mingling with locals, be it in Bernal or Tequis. From cheese and winemaking to handicrafts and candies, we got to savor a slice of laid-back Mexico and it only left us wanting for more.