Casa Madero is not only a winery with a fascinating history, but a weekend retreat for the wealthy owner’s family. This fall, I had the unique opportunity to stay there and experience how the Mexican gentry have lived for generations! The Casa Madero Winery occupies the oldest vineyard on the North American Continent, in the valley of San Lorenzo, 8 kms north of Parras de la Fuente in the State of Coahuila in North Eastern Mexico. Their temperate weather, 1700 metres above sea-level, and the spring fed earth make it ideal for pomegranate, pecan, walnut and grape growing.
I was fortunate to stay at the winery in the Posada Casa Grande de la Hacienda de San Lorenzo, the twenty-five bedroom weekend retreat of the Madero family. In this beautiful setting the five thousand extended members of the Madero family come for their annual reunion. The reunion is held by the illuminated swimming pool surrounded by a colourful display of purple bougainvillea bushes.
Sixteenth century paintings, hundred year old tapestries, wooden butterflies and mythical creatures are displayed in the rooms of the hacienda. My enormous bedroom with its carved table and bed had children’s wooden buses, village scenes and a Chiapas tapestry adorning the walls. The red-tiled bathroom was huge, with wooden shutters instead of curtains covering the windows for privacy. There was even a private 2400 metre, paved airstrip available for all guests with planes. I was allowed to climb up to the roof of a building to get a better overview of the vineyard. What one does for a photo! Groups, but not individuals, may book to stay here.
In 1549 Spanish priests and the conquistador’s army were already making wine from indigenous vines at the Mission of Santa Maria de las Parras or Holy Mary of the Vines. We were taken to underground caves where wine was being gently aged in oak barrels imported from Hungary and the United States. Surprisingly white wine was kept cool in metal tanks shaded under the cascading boughs of grapes. Not only fine wines, but the excellent Pedro Domecq Brandy is distilled here from grapes too. The consumption of all wine is complimentary to Casa Madera’s overnight guests. I must confess I found that the red Casa Madero Vino Tinto Cepa Shiraz and the white Casa Madero Vino Blanco Cepa Chardonnay wines went down rather well.
On the 19th August 1597 the Spaniard Don Lorenzo Garcia was granted this land by King Philip II of Spain and thus the Hacienda de San Lorenzo was born. However in 1699 the King of Spain was concerned over the popularity and competition of these wines with the European wines and prohibited wine production in the American Colonies unless the wine was for church use. This prohibition was not lifted until Mexico’s freedom from Spain in 1810.
In 1893 Evaristo Madero Elizondo bought this original American wine production company from the French owners and named it Casa Madero. In 1899 he also took over “La Estrella” Cotton Company which still weaves the world famous blue denim jean material and has been the number one exporter to Brazil and number two exporter to the States. The Madero family also owns cement factories, television stations, hotels and gold and silver mines.
Evaristo Madero Elizondo’s son Francisco Madero, who was born in 1873 in the Hacienda del Rosario in Parras de la Fuente, became President of Mexico in Oct. 1911. Unfortunately he was murdered in Feb.1913.
Vacationing in the retreat of the wealthy, Mexican gentry is not just a fantasy, it was a dream lived for too brief a time! Next time I hope to visit Parras de la Fuente in August during their Annual Grape and Wine Festival, La Feria de la Uva y el Vino - although it would be kind of nice to be part of the Madero family reunion.
Article and Pictures by Lenora Hayman
1 Entrance to Casa Madero Winery
2 Mythical Oaxacean creature in dining room
3 Bedroom at Posada Casa Grande de la Hacienda de San Lorenzo
4 Overview of Casa Madero vineyards
5 Posada Casa Grande de la Hacienda de San Lorenzo weekend retreat
6 Holy Mary of the Vines
7 Wine in barrels stored in underground cave
8 Wine tanks cooling under boughs of grapes
9 Distillers of red and white brandy
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