Gautemala isn’t known for its’ wine and if the results of the only winery in the country are any indication, it will be a long time, if ever.
What started as a boutique operation and ‘gentleman’s farm’ in 2002, located several kilometers south of Antigua shows a lot of effort, time and money. The imposing French Normandy style chateau houses a tasting room, small restaurant and living quarters for the resident manager.
The several acres of struggling vineyards lie above and below the 800 square foot fermentation building, which holds seven large and gleaming stainless steel tanks and a host of smaller versions. The
equipment is new and expensive. The wines are new and equally expensive.
It can be said that it’s the best winery in all of Guatemala. They imported cuttings from Washington State, the only venue declared to be ‘disease free.’ There’s a range of reds, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the lighter, drier white wines. Only time will tell if the dry climate, assisted by afternoon fogs and the volcanic soils will produce something commercial.
To find the Chateau, one must first find the road south of Antigua to the dusty village of Santa Maria de Jesus, located on the eastern slope of the towering Volcano they call Agua. From there it’s a downward, dusty and just plain rotten ‘road’ of dirt, ruts and boulders until the first sign, painted on a rock by the road proclaims that there’s another 650 meters to go. By now, you’ve driven, bounced
and dodged some six kilometers from the village, past curious farmers and their bored burros.
The first sight of the chateau, set against the trees and the vineyards, is disconcerting. This may well be the only French Normandy style building in all of Guatemala but you’ve called ahead and made
reservations. And for the price of some six dollars plus for the privilege of tasting the winery’s products, there’s no turning back now. A pack of five German Shepherds will meet you at the dusty
parking lot but only one pup will condescend to greet you. Jose A, age 45 and the manager, is a rumpled and middle-aged Guatemalan gentleman who will open the tall wooden gates.
Let the tour begin. Tomorrow.