Excellent wine is being made in Mexico. You read that correctly. The country we associate with beer and tequila has something more to offer. Have you ever heard of The Valley of Guadalupe? Located on the Baja Peninsula, 20 minutes by car from the port town of Ensenada, this is the premier wine region of Mexico. In the native tongue it is, El Valle de Guadalupe, and it is a wine tourism trip worth taking.
Do you love combining wine and travel? Here are 10 Reasons Why You Should Go to El Valle de Guadalupe in Baja Norte, México
1 You will impress others with knowledge of the region, especially wine-lovers
Though this may be the first mention of Valle de Guadalupe that you have heard, there is tremendous buzz in the wine world. The area is quickly developing a reputation as a sought after and serene location for wine vacations. Celebrities have even been coming. With lodging options ranging from affordable to luxury, there is something for everyone.
2 The Beauty
With sweeping landscapes of the vineyards snugged up against rugged, rocky hills, it is breathtaking. Still a pastoral setting, with horses dotting fields and crops of life springing forth. Life is everywhere. It is an escape to the countryside. No stoplights and in some cases, no paved roads. All indicators to slow down, take your time and slough off the rigors of urban life. This is a place in which you can exhale, unplug and unwind.
3 The Food
The Valle boasts a world-class gastronomic scene. With one restaurant featuring a Michelin rated chef and owner, the food game here is strong. The cooking style is called campestres or “country style” which refers to the use of wood fires rather than ovens and dining outdoors. The farm-to-table ethos is prominent with many purveyors of local produce and fish and seafood from the nearby coast. In the town of San Antonio de Las Minas there is a local cheese shop that sports large wheels of locally made cheeses, in a multitude of styles including the likes of smoked manchego. A perfect accompaniment to wine. Additionally many locally made food products, such as jams, oils, vinegars and similar are sold there, as well as the wineries. Many of the wineries are equipped with full-service restaurants so your next gourmet meal is always close by.
4 The History
Though the Valle de Guadalupe may be new to your lexicon, it actually has a historic longevity. Viticulture of the area was initiated by the Catholic Church, under the Spanish crown, circa 16th century. One of the original missions still stands as a winery today, though it has passed through some varying ownership. There was also a period, at the turn of the 20th century, in which a Russian migration to the area occurred, bringing farming practices suited for the biodiverse land. A fascinating history and still one Russian owned and operated winery exists today, as well as a museum. Speaking of, there is a Wine Museum, dedicated to none other than, wine.
5 The Climate
A mediterranean climate, moderated by maritime breezes, as the ocean is just over the horizon. The sun is beaming, broken away from the marine layer of the foggy coastline. The Valley gets plenty of sunshine with which to ripen the grapes and other crops. The summers are hot, with average temperatures in the 90’s, but the coast is close by for cooling respite. Winters can be cool and mostly wet with the rainy season being December to February, with some nice mild and dry days sprinkled throughout. Spring and Fall are the most moderate with temps averaging between 65-75 F. All in all, there is not a bad time of the year to travel there.
6 An Easy International Trip
Depending on where you are coming from and how you plan to arrive, the logistics can be very simple. If you are up for your own adventure, you could fly into the Tijuana airport, or even San Diego and rent a car, or drive your own to the “Ruta del Vino”. Be sure to purchase Mexican car insurance on-line ahead of time for the dates you will travel. Prices range according to length of stay, type of vehicle, etc. If you take the scenic route along the coast, which is Highway 1, there will be tolls that you can use either pesos or dollars for. If you prefer to be driven, there are many tours of the area that operate out of San Diego or The Valle proper. In either case, remember that you are traveling internationally and will want to place travel alerts on any bank or credit cards you may use. Most places accept US dollars and will account for the conversion rate. Also, check with your cell phone carrier about coverage. Acquiring a paper map as a backup is always a good plan. And don’t forget your passport!
7 It is slightly more affordable than other wine regions
The dollar definitely goes further in Mexico. The prices you will pay for an exquisite meal will be less than the equivalent stateside. And it will be delicious! The price-point for the wine is a bit of a different story. While, a touch more affordable than other notable regions, the economics of production do not allow for bargain basement prices. Making good wine is a process and one that includes labor, effort and careful attention, all things that cost money. Also there is not the custom of waiving tasting fees with a purchase, though tasting fees are quite reasonable in the $5-$20 dollar range, though listed in pesos so check the exchange rate.
8 You can brush up on your Espanol!
Most establishments in the Valle have multilingual staff on hand, however Spanish is the official language. If you are game, the proprietors, fellow travelers from within Mexico and locals alike will all happily indulge your attempts. On that note, if you correspond in Spanish with any wineries to arrange a private tasting or tour be sure to inform them that you need an English (or another language) speaker, for the actual appointment. However if you are a proficient speaker with good comprehension skills, go for it!
9 All the cool kids are going
As mentioned, celebrities are flocking, Mexico’s yuppies and day-trippers from San Diego are all taking it in. The area has been referred to as “The Next Napa”. An apples & oranges comparison, as it is so very different in vibe, terroir, location etc. The locals are reluctant to embrace that parallel, fearful of being priced out. The innovative, eco-friendly and 21st Century spirit here is very appealing. Think hip and trendy. It is reflected in the décor, the approach and the young affluent crowd it entices. Pass the wine! Valle de Guadalupe is where the party is, and all are welcome.
10 Because, Wine
Have you ever tasted wine from Mexico? Chances are that you haven’t or only in a limited capacity. This is because the exporting of it is somewhat finite. And overall production is still small compared to the top wine producing countries. That said, El Valle de Guadalupe is where wine dominates with well over a hundred wineries and counting! Many of the wineries in the region also offer lodging, like this favorite, Adobe Guadalupe. Founded originally as a horse ranch, they boast being one of the largest breeders of Raza Azteca horses. They also have a guest house and a food truck.
How is the wine? It is rich, viscous and bursting with flavor, courtesy of the sun-scorched days. There is no specific variety that VdeG is most known for. Lots are doing Cabernet Sauvignon and others are proffering Grenache, Syrah, also blends of each and as well as Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. As there are no rules, many winemakers are experimenting. Salud!