La Casa Vieja Misión

Regular price $18.00

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Winemaker: Humberto ‘Tito’ Toscano

Appellation: San Antonio de las Minas, Baja California, México

Grape Varieties: Mision

“The Mission vines are 120+ years old (some have speculated older), while there is a 150+ year old ‘Mother Vine’ that anchors the property. The vineyard goes up a gentle slope on the back of the estate. Harvest usually starts in mid September, but can last over a month. It’s destemmed by hand, massaging bunches over a kind of wooden zaranda.The grapes are then crushed by foot and transferred to plastic drums and one 450 liter concrete egg for fermentation and maceration. After native yeast fermentation, which takes about 2 – 3 weeks, the grapes are   pressed off with a small, wooden, 55L, hand crank basket press and racked into to neutral, 225 L oak for 6-8 months. Before bottling, the wine is transferred to glass carboys. Everything is racked and nothing is filtered or fined. The entire bottling process, down to labeling, is done by hand. No sulphur is added at any time. ”

La Casa Vieja is iconic viticulture of Baja California, which has an overlooked but equally important vitis history to Mexico’s better known neighbors to the north. Eighteenth-century Spanish Missionaries in Baja had a recipe to slake the thirst of their religious congregants: build a mission, plant a vineyard. They began in Las Californias Altas of New Spain (present day California) before heading south and branching throughout Baja California’s rugged landscape.

This nearly forgotten vignette is one that winemaker Humberto ‘Tito’ Toscano was content sharing only with those lucky enough to stumble upon his 1800’s adobe ranch in San Antonio de las Minas, a sub-valley of the Valle de Guadalupe. Humberto was born on the property and returned in 2003. He nursed it back to health and has nurtured it ever since. Honoring history and taking a cue from the padres—his father, the missionaries, and local farmhands—Toscano tends his 120+ year-old, dry-farmed, original-rootstock-vineyards, including Mission and Palomino, naturally. When asked if he every sprays his vineyards, Humberto responds, “With love and wisdom.”

The vineyards are at 1,066 ft above sea level on sandy loam and granitic soil. His property has never seen commercial yeast, and he maintains very beautiful yeast cultures given his 5 miles – as the crow flies – to the Pacific Ocean. That proximity also brings more coastal influence from the Ocean, so it’s 5 to 10 degrees F cooler than the central of the Valle on scorching summer days.

The winemaking is straightforward. He harvests and then de-stemms the old vines by hand, massaging bunches over a kind of wooden zaranda. Everything else is de-stemmed by machine. The grapes are crushed in a small, hand crank, 55L wooden basket press. Fermentation is done utilizing native, wild yeasts. Humberto never filters or fines, instead just racking until the wine is without sediment. Since he’s allergic to sulphur, you never see it anywhere in his wines. And because he dislikes the flavor of oak (“what are we, termites!?” he asks), only stainless steel, concrete tinaja, glass carboys, and very old, neutral oak is used. It’s just the simple and honest way he was taught to grow grapes and make clean wine.

La Casa Vieja is a member of the Borderless wine Alliance. Borderless Wine Alliance: Borderless Wine™ is a movement where wine buying is viewed as a form of activism and was created by writer and former sommelier Peter Weltman. BW scours the globe for excellent and sustainable wines from unknown corners of the world. The Borderless Wine Alliance is the business’s strategic partnership import wing. Borderless Wine impacts global palates by supporting local communities by creating the pipeline for wines to coming to the U.S. market. Terra Sancta Trading Company is the preferred import partner for Borderless Wine Alliance producers. Back labels will carry this logo.

The La Casa Vieja labels were designed by Rosarita (coastal Baja) based artist and muralist Jaime Carbo. On a whim, he painted the abandoned car (left) on Humberto’s property – which itself is quirky – so Borderless Wine asked him if he would design the label. There is a series of photographs online with LCV visitors taking photographs in the back of the car (predominantly women), so the bottles pay homage to that on the back label.