A Renaissance in the Sierra Madre Hotel Mision hotel mision vineyards
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Cerocahui, Chihuahua, Mexico

16th century Jesuits set up missions in the remote regions of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. They taught the indigenous Tarahumara Indians to raise livestock and introduced Old World plants to the region including grapevines for wine production.


The King of Spain a century later expulsed the Jesuits from Mexico replacing them with missionaries of the Franciscan order. In what could be described as a form of NAFTA in reverse - Mexico was ordered to cease wine production in order to protect the Spanish wine industry. As a result, Mexico never fully developed its wine industry potential despite it having excellent soil and climate for grape production.

The Copper Canyon mountain village of Ceracahui (sero-kah-wee) enjoys a micro-climate that approximates Spring-like weather conditions year-round ensuring perfect grape harvests year after year. Or, one could say, century after century.

When the Jesuits left Cerocahui, the vineyards were destroyed - except for some cuttings secretly replanted behind Jose Maria Sanchez’s casa. Jose Maria’s familia preserved the vines, caring for, protecting and enjoying them for many generations up until 25 years ago when the last Sanchez passed on without heirs.

The Old World Heirloom species of red grape was in danger of being lost forever but was saved when Sanchez’s gardener, working with the Mision Hotel in Cerocahui, decided to restore the vine by planting cuttings on unused land adjacent to the Tarahumara built stone Cathedral and Indian girls orphanage. The Mision vineyard located on a gentle rise in the middle of the village has been producing delicious wine ever since.

mexico hotel wine festival


hotel mision wine cellar

The vineyard has become the centerpiece for the colonial era hotel. All the guest rooms open to a rustic covered esplanade porch with hand-hewn chairs and benches that overlook the rows of grapevines. Deer, mountain lion, wild boar and coyote pelts decorate guestroom walls, vibrantly colored native woven spreads cover beds and antique cast iron wood stoves provide warmth on cool Alpine nights. The hotel like the wine, grew out of the land rather than being imposed on it, like so many modern resorts.

Accomplished hotelier and chef Bernardo Balderrama has been pressed by wine experts to submit the Mision hotel’s wine to international competitions. He always declines stating that he is in the hotel business not the wine business. “If demand for our wine increased – the price would go up, and then we wouldn’t have enough for our guests.”

A perfect ending to an adventurous day of exploring the nearby waterfalls, forests and viewing the incredible Copper Canyon vistas from the rim nearby – would be to sit in front of the stone fireplace in the main salon and sip a glass or few of wine with fellow adventurers.

When one tastes the Mision wine of Cerocahui, one tastes the mountains, the rivers, the flora and fauna of the Canyons. The wine is part of the history, mystery and magic of the region infused with memories of Old Spain, Jesuit missionaries, Tarahumara Indians and generations of Jose Maria’s familia who preserved this bouquet of life for us to enjoy today.

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