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Baja

La Cava de Marcelo, the Only Cheese Cellar in Latin America Open to the Public, Is in Nearby Baja Wine Country

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Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF MARCELO CASTRO AND NIDIA PALACIOS
  • Photo courtesy of Marcelo Castro and Nidia Palacios
See also: Anthony Bourdain's Baja Episode of No Reservations Will Make You Want to Cross the Border Immediately.

See also: 'Stick a Fork in It' column Tijuana Sí!.

The promise of wine country that's "like Tuscany" right in our own backyard of Baja is enough to have many of us running for the border, but it turns out that wine may not be the only reason to visit the famed Valle de Guadalupe.

Cheese connoisseurs (or, those who are simply looking for a good queso to go with their vino) will be pleased to learn that just southeast of the wine route near the town of Ojos Negros is La Cava de Marcelo -- a more than 100-year-old artisanal cheese cellar, wine and cheese tasting room and all around gorgeous place to spend an afternoon.

We're especially lucky it's so close by considering it's the only cheese cellar in Latin America open to the public.

Marcelo Castro, who is the fourth generation cheesemaker and owner of the farm, was gracious enough to give us the story behind the place and his craft via email, with the help of translation assistance from his employee Nidia Palacios. Turn the page to read our short interview.

click to enlarge La Cava de Marcelo owner Marcelo Castro - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARCELO CASTRO AND NIDIA PALACIOS
  • Photo courtesy of Marcelo Castro and Nidia Palacios
  • La Cava de Marcelo owner Marcelo Castro
Squid Ink: How long has Cava de Marcello been open?

Marcelo Castro: It opened to the public in June 2008.

SI: Is it family-owned? What is its history?

MC: Yes, my great-grandfather, a Swiss-Italian immigrant, bought the land 110 years ago. I am currently the fourth generation: My great-grandfather, grandfather, father and have been producing all-natural cheeses since.

SI: What makes it unique?

MC: The specials things about La Cava de Marcelo are correct conservation, moisture, temperature and darkness (within its hard wall of rock). The unique flavors come from all of the characteristics of the region (the kind of dirt, water and weather of the region). We do not use pasteurization, which makes a big difference in the flavors.

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF MARCELO CASTRO AND NIDIA PALACIOS
  • Photo courtesy of Marcelo Castro and Nidia Palacios

SI: What kinds of cheeses are made there? What kinds are guests able to sample?

MC: Our cheese is a variety [of] Real del Castillo (named for the region) called Ramonetti (like our great-grandfather's last name, M.R. Ramonetti). There are varieties with basil, black pepper, and rosemary, and cheeses aged 4 months, 1 years, and 3 years. Guests can sample all of our varieties, as well as our wine, bread and fig jam.

SI: Anything else you think we should know?

MC: Yes I would like to add that is very important to know that the winter cheese (called that because we make it in winter), is the creamiest because the frozen grass concentrates the proteins, so when the cow eats the grass, she produces "fatter milk," and the cows don't want to drink water because of the cold.

For more information on location and tours, visit La Cava de Marcello's website.

See also: Anthony Bourdain's Baja Episode of No Reservations Will Make You Want to Cross the Border Immediately.

See also: 'Stick a Fork in It' column Tijuana Sí!.


Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter @MySo_CalLife. Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page.

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