History of the Wines of Baja California Mexico
In 1524, Hernán Cortés, Spain’s then appointed governor of “New Spain” (modern-day Mexico), ordered every Spaniard that held a land grant to plant grapevines every year for 5 years straight. The resulting species of grapes came to be called “criolla”. These are the grapes that were used for Mexico’s first wine production.
Winegrowing had become well established by 1554 in Mexican haciendas. By 1593, the first commercial vineyard was planted in Parras de la Fuente in the state of Coahuila, the oldest town in northern Mexico. Bodega Marqués de Aguayo was founded in 1597 and is the oldest surviving continuously operating winery in Mexico.
During the sixteenth century, with the help of Jesuit missionaries, winemaking reportedly spread from Mexico into other parts of the America’s including Peru, Chile and Argentina. By the eighteenth century it also spread into Baja California and into parts of western United States.
In 1697, the first Baja mission was founded in the Southern Baja California town of Loreto. Father Ugarte planted the first vineyard there around 1701. In 1888, the Bodegas de Santo Tomás winery was established in Northern Baja and, today, remains the oldest continually operating winery in Baja California!