For your next wine country getaway, look towards the south and across the border to Mexico. Yes, the hottest wine country destination for Southern Californians these days isn’t Napa Valley or Central California, but Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California. The wine region is a little over an hour drive south of the US-Mexico border crossing in Tijuana and boasts more than 100 gorgeous wineries, boutique hotels and amazing restaurants worth driving for. Not to mention, the cost for a wine tasting or dinner here on average is still notably cheaper than in California.
Move Over Napa, the Hottest Wine Destination for Californians Is South of the Border
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Valle de Guadalupe is an area in Baja California, Mexico that has become the premier wine region in Mexico. Located northeast of Ensenada and about 70 miles south of the US-Mexico border crossing in Tijuana, driving to Valle de Guadalupe from Los Angeles for the weekend is very doable (we highly recommend registering your car if you have Global Entry, which allows access to the expedited SENTRI lane).
Guadalupe was founded in 1821 by a Dominican priest, Felix Caballero, who had come to Mexico from Spain. The first grape vines in Valle de Guadalupe were also planted around this time. The valley’s warm climate combined with the cooling effects of the nearby Pacific Ocean creates a microclimate conducive to wine growing. The indigenous Kumiai peoples drove out the missionaries in 1840, and the land was eventually settled by Russian Molokans, a group who had split from the Russian Orthodox Church and fled to Mexico. The Molokans continued to plant vineyards, but these were mostly used for brandy in the early years. It wasn’t until the 1980s that commercial wine production really started to flourish here.
While the region has seen significant developments recently and has grown to over 100 wineries, most of the roads remain unpaved and the wineries and hotels are small, boutique establishments, lending to a sense of rustic charm. Because of the smaller tasting rooms, reservations are highly recommended for most wine tastings here, especially on weekends.
Where to Drink Wine in Valle de Guadalupe
Naturally, the main thing to do in Valle de Guadalupe is to drink wine, and there are more and more wineries emerging in the region. Founded in 1987, Monte Xanic is said to be Mexico’s first boutique winery and now produces 50,000 cases per year. A visit here is a must not only because of their high quality wines from Chenin Colombard to the Cabernet Sauvignon, but for the gorgeous view overlooking a small lake which functions as the vineyard’s water source.
Vena Cava’s winery and tasting room are built using reclaimed materials. The eye-catching ceilings are made using salvaged boats from the nearby port of Ensenada. In line with their sustainable building, the grapes grown at Vena Cava’s vineyard are all organic and more recently they have started to produce natural wines.
Lechuza’s chardonnay and nebbiolo are some of the few wines from Mexico that landed on The French Laundry’s wine list, making this family-run winery one of the most esteemed wineries in the region. Tastings here are available by appointment only, so be sure to plan ahead.
Things to Do in Valle de Guadalupe
Wine drinking aside, there are plenty of things to do for thrill seekers and chilled out travelers alike. Off Road Tours take guests on a thrilling ATV tour on the dirt roads around the area, including a stop at the top of a hill with sweeping views of the valley. The ATV tour can also be combined with a winery visit at Don Tomas Vineyard. For even more adrenaline rush, there is a circuit of five zip lines and a suspension bridge run by Desert Nest.
Alternatively, for an excursion that is less adrenaline-pumping, take a one-hour horseback ride through the vineyards of Adobe Guadalupe. Adobe Guadalupe breeds Azteca horses, a cross between Andalusian horse and American Quarter horse. And for an equally tranquil experience, head to the spa at Quinta Monasterio. The spa here specializes in wine therapies, from a sauna lined with French oak barrel wood to spa products derived from antioxidant-filled wine.
Restaurants You Can’t Miss
Valle de Guadalupe has a number of world-class restaurants, from affordable local hangouts to fine dining restaurants. One of the must-visit restaurants is Fauna, located within the luxury hotel, Bruma. The creative menu at Fauna earned the restaurant a place on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Javier Plascencia’s expansive Finca Altozano focuses on mesquite grilled or roasted meats and seafood, although when it is open, his pop-up Animalón is a stunner. Animalón pops up in the spring and summer under a beautiful 200-year old oak tree, serving a seasonal menu driven by local ingredients.
For breakfast, go local at Wa Kumiai Tabita, run by the indigenous Kumiai community. Prep for a day of wine with dishes like eggs and machaca or intensely flavorful barbacoa alongside freshly made tortillas. Another very popular breakfast spot is La Cocina de Doña Esthela, known for their slow-cooked lamb, borrego tatemado. For a lighter snack, stop by Conchas de Piedra for some fresh Baja shellfish paired with sparkling wines.
Where to Stay in Valle de Guadalupe
In the past few years there has been an explosion of new lodgings in Valle de Guadalupe, which range from unique glamping sites, Spanish hacienda-style bed and breakfasts, and modern, minimalist hotels.
Maglen Resort is currently the largest resort in Valle de Guadalupe and is great for larger groups that can spread out across its 60 modern accommodations, from standard rooms to stand-alone villas. The resort also has three pools, a brewery, a coffee shop and a couple of restaurants on-site.
The newest lodging option in the area is Montevalle, a luxury, adults-only wellness resort. Montevalle currently has 14 villas with private terraces available for booking and the resort is equipped with a number of health and wellness facilities including a spa, tennis court, reflexology path, meditation labyrinth and more.
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