The first annual Mexico Unearthed Wine Festival offers tastings in downtown Phoenix | Phoenix New Times


Sip wines from across Mexico at Phoenix’s newest festival

The first annual Mexico Unearthed Wine Festival will showcase diverse offerings from around the country.
Abel Arriaga (right) began distributing mezcals in 2018. In May, he expanded his offerings to highlight Mexican wines.
Abel Arriaga (right) began distributing mezcals in 2018. In May, he expanded his offerings to highlight Mexican wines. Compa Spirits
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Stephen and Dale Ott, the husband-and-wife duo behind Tucson-based Nossa Imports, have tasted their fair share of wines.

As trained sommeliers, they’ve sipped and dissected wines from all over the globe but noticed the industry’s attention skews heavily towards a select few countries. So when they started their own importing company, the duo decided to concentrate on Mexican wines.
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Stephen and Dale Ott of Nossa Imports are helping to bring Mexican wines to a larger audience.
Nossa Imports
“Many wines are coming out of Mexico that, for me, are entirely internationally competitive in terms of quality and ethos to every major wine-growing country on Earth,” Dale says.

While connoisseurs are beginning to enthusiastically embrace Mexican wines, general awareness of the country's wine and wine regions is still relatively low.

Abel Arriaga, owner of Compa Spirits, began importing and distributing Mexican wine after starting his business with mezcal and tequila. Compa Spirits launched a wine division in May, representing eight different wineries from across Northern and Central Mexico. As he began promoting his roster, he noticed that diners and industry professionals alike were shocked to learn that Mexico produced any wine at all.

Hoping to help alter public perception, Compa Spirits and Nossa Imports are bringing Mexican wine to the masses with the first annual Mexico Unearthed Wine Festival. The event, happening this Saturday, will showcase diverse offerings from the Baja California, Coahuila, Guanajuato, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí regions of Mexico.

“People think California is the closest place that makes a large quantity of great wine. And the truth is, Mexico [is] as close as we get,” Stephen says.

Billed as the first festival in Arizona to focus solely on Mexican wines, the event is something Arriaga and the Otts have ideated on for years. With the festival coming to fruition, both sides are excited to highlight an often-overlooked import.

“People already associate Mexico with tequila and mezcal. We want to showcase this other beautiful industry,” Arriaga says.

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JC Bravo is one of the many wineries that will be on display at the Mexico Unearthed Wine Festival.
Nossa Imports
Mexico has a long and storied history with wine. The country saw a bountiful period of winemaking in the 16th century — until Spanish King Philip II intervened. Feeling threatened by Mexico’s output both in quality and quantity, he demanded that vineyard owners destroy their harvests and cease all production.

Now, Mexican wine is experiencing a renaissance, with an estimated 400+ wineries spread across 14 regions in 2022. While some vineyards have been around since the 1500s, Stephen notes that many of the wineries that work with Nossa Imports formed in the last three decades.

“It’s not unlike Arizona’s wine industry. It’s going through this exploratory process of figuring out what works in the different regions, the soil and the climate,” Stephen says.

Through the experimentation, specific varietals are beginning to emerge from select regions. Arriaga mentions the large amount of Nebbiolos coming out of Baja California, while the Otts note the array of Bordeaux options produced in Coahuila. Across multiple regions, many vineyards are creating unique blends with Misión grapes which are the closest one can get to an indigenous Mexican grape, according to Stephen.

“It’s just sparkling, crackling creativity right now,” Dale says.

Beyond the wine, the event producers aim to showcase the stories behind the vineyards. Far from the corporate-produced options that tend to dominate shelf space in the United States, the wines that will be on display at Mexico Unearthed are from family-owned vineyards, some of which have been passed down through multiple generations.

Dale and Stephen Ott recalled the story of Juan Carlos Bravo, head winemaker at JC Bravo who, at 40 years old, learned how to make wine to save his family’s vineyard from extinction. He now operates the winery with his children and nephews, utilizing natural fermentation techniques to help give the wine added complexity.

“These wines are essentially a love letter to where he comes from,” Dale says.
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Juan Carlos Bravo of the JC Bravo vineyard. Select wines will be available for tasting at the Mexico Unearthed Wine Festival.
Nossa Imports
For Arriaga, the event holds personal significance. As a Mexican-American born and raised in Arizona with grandparents from Guanajuato, he says that it’s been a treat showcasing parts of his ancestral land to a new audience. With the event intentionally taking place one week before Mexican Independence Day, Arriaga is hopeful that it will inspire positive action ahead of the holiday.

“This event is a great way for [attendees] to learn what wines they enjoy from Mexico and share it with their family and friends the following week," he says.

Mexico Unearthed Wine Festival

Sept. 9, noon - 4 p.m.
FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel
1100 N. Central Ave.
Tickets start at $25
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