On a rare cloudy and cool morning I took a trip out to Rancho Toyan to learn about the growing interest in winery tours and I learned very much more.
Minutes from town, beyond the mall, Rancho Toyan lies nestled between two other wineries, Dos Buhos and San Lucas. The tree lined entrance is reminiscent of approaching Twelve Oaks in Gone With Wind had Scarlet put immense faces on the oaks that now serve as bee colonies.
Martha, the owner, is seriously organic and in-tuned with energies reflected in everything from her triangular logo to the gargoyle and monk lined walls. In fact, the whole compound reminded me of Cher’s foray in catalogue sales in the early 1990s featuring everything gothic and/or at home in Medieval Catholic church/graveyard.
Opened daily, you can enjoy an organic meal, stock up on food supplies from the fields and orchards, enjoy a concert in the amphitheater, visit the animals or take a tour with Alma into the underground wine cellars lined with monks. The cellar reminded me of an underground Roman chapel build from the bones of monks (some still dressed in their robes) I visited while working in the embassy.
Alma introduces you to her favorite monk, the wishing monk, as you can put a peso in his bowl and make a wish. As far as I could tell, no two monks were exactly alike with nary a nun in sight.
You can’t stay long in the cellar as the body’s temperature affects the development of the wine. I was fine with that because if you are going to be underground that long I’d just as soon be floating around in a hot spring, or dead.
Wine has a long history in Mexico, arriving, of course, with Hernán Cortéz in 1521. Legend has it that one of Hernán Cortéz’s first orders was that each colonist was to plant 1,000 grapevines, for each 100 native employees, each year for five years.
By 1700 King Charles II of Spain prohibited wine making in Mexico, with the exception of wine for the Church, requiring wine be imported from Spain for general consumption.
Wine production in Mexico has been rising in both quantity and quality since the 1980s.
With competition from foreign wines having to include a 40% tax, Mexican wines clearly have the home court advantage.
Still, Mexico is not traditionally a wine-drinking country. The growth of the Mexican beer industry following the revolution slowed the recovery of the wine industry as beer became more popular than wine. (Mexicans also have the distinction of having the highest per capita consumption of Coca Cola.) Mexico is the 25th largest wine producer in the world, but ranks only 66th in wine consumption.
However, if you want a nice morning in the countryside not far from town, Rancho Toyan is a lovely option. Beyond food and wine, the architecture, art and animals are equally enticing!
By Joseph Toone
TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on history, holidays, tours and living in San Miguel.