And God Said, “Let there be Wine”

Walking through a Latin grocery store the other day we saw aisles and aisles of beans.  Latin stores always have beans, but this time there was every bean imaginable due to Lent starting on February 13.  Latinos, who are meat based, get creative during this time with beans and fish.  Some people will practice Lent every day, some only on Fridays.  Some have fish every day, some only on Fridays.  There are many Lent traditions.  Whatever your chosen tradition, Lent still means that a carnivore society will have to pretend lo be herbivores  Here’s the good news, wine is vegetarian.  We have a few wines that we think will make this Lent season more palatable.


Ceja Rose`:  This wine is going to pair well with everything, but we     added it specifically for those of you who enjoy fish.   This rose` is dry, so the acidity will play well with the fish. However, it also has a little barrel age to it which gives it a nice round mouth feel, meaning it’s great with ceviche or with a delicious grilled salmon.  Because it’s light, it will do okay with salsas as long as they aren’t too hot.





Cesar Toxqui Viogner: At the beginning of the year we did a vegan experiment for 3 weeks.  Three weeks with no meat (not even fish or eggs) was a long time for us.  We missed meat.  We found some in this viogner.  This viogner, to me, has a distinctive umami finish.  Umami is a taste that is meaty, sort of like soy sauce.  It’s a savory sensation on the palate that I have an affinity for and more people seem to be talking about it.  If you are missing meat, crack open some of this viogner.  It will go lovely with anything made with cheese, roasted vegetables, bean stews, and roasted fish (but not ceviche)

winebttleJ. Wilkes Pinot Noir: This pinot will go great with vegetarian empanadas, especially the traditional kind that include cinnamon and raisins.  It will also lend itself well to lentils.  We don’t suggest this with salmon, although people always think of pinot and salmon, because this pinot has a lot of spicy notes such as cardamom and cinnamon.  However, if you create a lent dish other than empanadas that includes raisins and olives, this is the wine for that dish.







Aurora Vinedos Petite Sirah. Sometimes you just need steak.  Petite Sirah is the steak of wine . It’s big and meaty.  It’s warm and comforting.  Sometimes, when we want a steak, we just have a glass of petite sirah instead.  The perfect Lent pairing for this wine is cotija cheese and olives.  The saltiness of the cheese and olives will tame the tanins leaving with you something that will give the meat eater in you some satisfaction during this season of fasting.

wine label

Vino 101: Step One: Drink the Wine by Becky Tyner Sandoval



The very first step to enjoying wine is to drink it.  Seems simple until you start seeing all the books with titles such as, “How to Drink Wine” or advertisements for wine tasting classes.  At Vino Latino we don’t think that such a big fuss should be made over something so simple, but we do want to share a few tips that might make your wine drinking experience more enjoyable






THE VESSEL:  I’m sure it sounds silly, but believe it or not, the glass matters.  I don’t care how great your wine is, if you drink it out of a Styrofoam cup or a mason jar, it’s not going to taste good.  Riedel, the wine glass makers, discovered that what makes the most difference is how the glass throws the wine on your palate.  But rather than make this more complicated than it already is, just follow this simple rule.  Always use a wine glass and avoid wine glasses that have a lip on the rim.  The thinner the rim the better.  This ensures a smooth transfer of wine from the glass to your mouth, avoiding “splashing” upon the bitter parts of your palate.


RELEASE THE BOUQUET:  Unless you understand why, the swirling may seem a bit pretentious. But truly, the swirl is almost as important as the glass, for it oxidizes the wine and releases the “bouquet” allowing you to smell all the wonderful nuances of the wine.   You smell much more than you taste, and the smell of wine is almost better than the taste!  If you don’t believe it do this experiment.  Put some wine in a glass.  Now smell it.  Now swirl the wine.  Now smell it.  BIG DIFFERENCE!


RINSE YOUR MOUTH, NOT YOUR GLASS:  We see it all the time, people rinse their glass when they change from white wine to red wine.   What you really need to rinse is your mouth.  When you first go from white to red, the red wine might taste really harsh.  So take that first sip and let it rest in your mouth for an extra second to get your palate ready for red wine.  Then take another sip. After the 3rd or 4th sip your palate should be accommodated to the red wine so that you can fully enjoy your red wine experience.


WINE IS BETTER WITH FRIENDS.  Wine is meant for sharing.  That’s why the food and wine pairing aspect is so popular, because both were meant to be shared with friends and family.  When you share a wine your are excited about, make sure you tell your friends why, so that they too can be excited.



From Bricks to Brix

The Story of Cesar Toxqui by Becky Tyner Sandoval

Life takes many surprising twists and turns.  Sometimes you start out on a life’s path, then tragedy hits, and not only does it take you off the path, but sometimes it can make you feel like giving up.  Cesar’s story is a story of life’s twists and turns and how a spirit that never gives up can lead to your dreams, even if you didn’t know you had them.


Cesar was born in a pueblo outside of Mexico City.  He is the fifth of nine children.  When he was just 11 years old he began a business with his brother making bricks.  They would take bricks to Mexico City every week.   Even at this very young age they were finding success.  Their lives and the lives of their family had a very bright future.   But sadly, life had a tragic turn when his brother and business partner became very sick.  The entire financial burden for his large family rested on Ceasar’s shoulders.



When Cesar was 15 his uncle, who lived in Ukiah, California, offered to let him come to the USA to live and work.  Cesar took the offer and moved to Ukiah, expecting that work would come easily. However, it did not come easily for a 15 year old boy.  After sometime, with no work, Cesar was ready to return to Mexico with a heavy weight on his shoulders of failing his family.  That’s when he met the son of Jesse Tidwell, who then owned Parson’s Creek Winery.  They needed help with the winery.  Not only did they hire Cesar, but they invited him to live with them as well.


One thing we have learned, here at Vino Latino, is that it is virtually impossible to work in the wine industry and not eventually fall in love with wine, and Cesar was no exception.  He went to Sonoma State to become an engineer, but Jesse Tidwell asked why he didn’t become a winemaker.  After finishing nearly all the required math for engineering, Cesar decided that he should indeed pursue winemaking.


One of his early jobs was as The Cellar Master at Brutocao Cellars, which is also a custom crush facility.  Watching all those small independent vintners develop their own wine labels inspired Cesar to start his own label.  This was the catalyst to him leaving Brutocao Cellars and eventually starting Cesar Toxqui Cellars.


Cesar’s winemaking style is staying as close to nature as possible, from using as many organically grown grapes as possible to using wild yeast for fermentation.  His respect for the terroir and nature’s expertise in making good grapes shows in his wine.  His wines are full bodied, approachable, fruit forward, food friendly, and really just very very good.  He has a label he named Immigrant to celebrate his American dream and the American dream of others.

Cesar makes chardonnay, viogner, zinfandel, a solara style blend, and pinot.  Pinot is his favorite because it’s not only a challenge to grow, but a challenge to make as well.


You can visit Cesar at his tasting room in Hopland which is in Mendocino County.  He’s personally at the tasting room every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.