There are many great choices for wine regions around the U.S. and the world, such as Napa Valley, France, and Italy. Mexico may not be top of mine when it comes to wine regions, but it should be. Mexico's wine region, Valle De Guadalupe (Guadalupe Valley), is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the world and a place wine lovers, and foodies, should know about.
I've experienced the Valle de Guadalupe multiple times and can attest to all it has to offer. This fantastic wine region is located two hours south of San Diego in the coastal city of Ensenada in the Baja region.
About Valle de Guadalupe
As the oldest wine region in North America, Valle de Guadalupe is home to more than 150 wineries. It's an area not only full of wine but rich history too. The original Valle de Guadalupe winery was formed in the late 1800s and called Bodegas de Santo Tomas. Visits to Museo Comunitario del Valle de Guadalupe (Community Historical Museum of the Guadalupe Valley) and the Museo de la Vid y e Vino (Museum of Vine and Wine) are an excellent start for any visit to the region.
The area didn't see much growth until the 1980s with the opening of Monte Zanic Bodega Vinicola, which has now become the largest winery in the valley. Annually, the area hosts the Valle Food & Wine Festival in October, one of many options for experiencing region's finest offerings. Between 800,000 and one million people visit the Wine Route or “Ruta de Vino” annually.
The Wine & Wineries in Valle de Guadalupe
With fertile soil, Pacific Ocean breezes, and temperature conditions, the Valle de Guadalupe boasts ideal growing conditions. From the classic La Casa De Dona Lupe to LA Cetto, one of the largest, there is a winery style and experience for everyone. One of my favorites is Sol De Media Noche, which includes a cheese tasting with its wine. Unlike wineries in other regions, tastings are typically half the cost.
Maryia Brereton has been visiting the Valle for 15 years and attempts to make her visits annually. Having been wine-tasting in Napa, Sonoma, Central Coast, and Temecula many times, a trip to the Baja beaches resulted in her discovery of the Valle de Guadalupe.
“I had no idea this wine-producing gem existed just three hours drive from my house in Los Angeles,” she said. “Another surprise was that many wineries have restaurants that serve delicious, local farm-to-table cuisine. ”
Tour Options & Trip Planning
First-time visitors to the Valle de Guadalupe may choose a tour company or private guide. Since guides and booking companies are the region's experts, they can find the right tour and experience for any taste or budget. On the luxurious side, check out the offerings from Explore VDG, a boutique travel company in the Valle.
Shari Sisco, Operations Manager and Guide at Valley Girl Wine Tours, has been working in the Valle since 2017 and has witnessed growth in the region's popularity. When she started giving tours, there were only 56 wineries and a few restaurants.
“I highly advise taking a tour, which is available for everyone. Whether you are a history buff, a foodie, or want a day of partying, we have companies and guides that meet everyone's needs,” she said. “A guide will get the most out of your day knowing how long to spend at each winery, where to get a great lunch, what time to start wrapping up your day, and the logistics of getting around the roads.”
The Culinary Experience
Beyond the wineries, the dining scene is a major draw for visitors to the Valle. Over 100 restaurants, many specializing in farm-to-table cuisine, have become staples in the Valle. Famous chefs like Javier Placencia have opened their own restaurant locations. Deckman's in el Mogor, Finca Altozano, La Cocina de Dona Esthela, and Alximia Vinicola are just a few places to be considered. Ochentos Pizza Valle Dorado should not be missed due to its excellent food but even more so for its stunning atmosphere.
Breyerton shared that the dining experience is partly what keeps her returning to the region.
“I think it's a combination of the fantastic wines they produce and the rise of exceptional gastronomic offerings in the area,” she said. “The Valley now attracts top chefs from around the world, and I visit the area for the excellent food as much as I go for the superb wine these days. ”
Sisco agrees. “With so many wonderful restaurants and up-and-coming as well as accomplished chefs, it is easy to fill a weekend with wine-tasting and good food,” she said.
Where To Stay
The Valle de Guadalupe's growth as a destination for weekend stays has given rise to and influx of hotels, glamping cabins, and Airbnb spots. Finding the perfect hotel for a weekend stay is easy. A quick search on Airbnb or VRBO will yield many options, particularly for larger groups desiring to stay together.
For an intimate, all-in-one experience, Adobe Guadalupe offers guests 60 acres with its own vineyard, restaurant, and outdoor activities. For an elevated “glamping” experience, Hotel Cuatro Cuatros is a group of 19 cabins nestled amongst the mountains and vineyards with cool ocean breezes as a benefit. Sisco recommends El Alamo for anyone on a budget.
Many also stay in Ensenada, Rosarito Beach, or other oceanfront destinations at points in between. I have taken two tours of the Valle de Guadalupe while staying at the Rosarito Beach Hotel. This is ideal for combining a beach vacation and wine experience in Mexico. On another visit, I stayed in an Airbnb in Ensenada, combining big city sights with a day in the Valle.
The Valle de Guadalupe is about a two-hour drive south of San Diego. It is easily accessed by Mexico's Toll Road, Highway One, and then a scenic trip over some rolling hills. Drivers must have Mexican insurance and other proper documentation to travel south of the border. While the main road through the Valle is paved, many side roads are dirt roads and difficult to pass without an SUV. This is another reason many use a tour company or private driver.
Additionally, for those wanting to avoid driving themselves across the border, there are tours, experiences, and drivers available on the U.S. side. Baja Bound is a great place to start for everything related to Baja Travel and rules and regulations.
The Valle de Guadalupe has expanded in size and popularity so much that it's become an ultimate one-stop destination for weekend getaways and Mexican excursions. Its proximity to San Diego and Southern California makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway. Great wine, food, and adventure await in the “Napa Valley” of Mexico. Visitors like myself keep returning because it's impossible to experience everything in one trip.