Mexico’s wine country, the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, is little more than an hour south of the US border and slightly northeast of the city of Ensenada. It is a great day-trip. Even better, it is a wonderful getaway for several days – and each of those days will be chock-full of wine valley adventures, gourmet food, award-winning wines and unforgettable memories.
The Valle de Guadalupe has a rich history (and what many believe will be an even richer future), as chronicled by author David Kier. Change, though, has been a hallmark of the region – of Baja, itself – and it is embraced whole-heartedly by the locals. ‘Why not?’, say many, as they smile in acknowledgement of the prosperity that change is bringing to the Valle.
The region is rapidly becoming world-famous for its gastronomy: Wines that run the gamut from Tempranillo to Colombard at wineries ranging from charming-rustic to sophisticated-sleek, and restaurants that bring new meaning to the words ‘from farm to table’, with everything from food trucks to Provencal simplicity to high-powered eateries run by famous chefs.
Ten years ago, there were fewer than 10 wineries in this coastal valley, where warm days and cool nights are reminiscent of the Napa region. Today, estimates vary; but the Provino organization that represents many of the area’s wineries (and that sponsors the internationally renowned Fiestas de la Vendimia wine harvest festival in August of each year) notes that there are at least 80 wineries and cavas producing everything from rich Tempranillos to crisp Sauvignon Blancs (and there is at least one world-class sparkling wine to be had and Baja.com knows where!).
Looking for information and recommendations? Your first stop might be scheduling a fantastic wine tour with Baja.com and its Provecho wine tours. Whether you are going to the wine country for a night or two, or a week, your Baja.com travel concierge can make your journey easy and fun and can arrange for safe transportation with a knowledgeable and English-speaking tour guide (seriously, why drive when you are wine tasting?)
Following are just a few of the notable wineries in Mexico’s wine country. Starting from the western end of the Valle de Guadalupe, on Highway 3 Ensenada-Tecate, the first town you will come to is called San Antonio de las Minas. Let the fun – and the wine-tasting – begin here!
“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” – Galileo Galilei, 1564-1642
Owner: Guillermo Rodriguez Macouzet
Winemaker: Cristoph Gaertner
Winery established: 2002
Vinisterra is in the little burg of San Antonio de las Minas, over a little bridge and up a small hill (passing the turn-off for La Hacienda restaurant, that is actually both a nursery and a fun weekend dining spot). The winery is modern and beautiful and there is plenty of parking. The building itself is constructed of thermal insulating materials, and is semi-buried in order to maintain temperature control. The warm-looking brick that has been used in the creation of the tasting area was actually produced in San Antonio de las Minas. The award-winning wines of Vinisterra have been nurtured by well-known winemaker Cristoph, who strives to achieve a full expression of the grape’s origin by intervening with the natural processes as little as possible. The resulting wines are redolent and rich reminders of Baja and its natural bounties!
Liceaga (Viñas de Liceaga)
Founder: Eduardo Liceaga
Owner: Myrna Liceaga
Winery Established: 1993
Just a few years ago, you could visit Liceaga – then a small room with barely a table to taste upon – and you were almost always served wine by Senor Eduardo Liceaga, himself. What an affable man, and his passing was a sad loss to the wine country and to the Liceaga family. But, carrying his legacy forward, his wife Myrna has taken what Senor Liceaga began and has created a spectacular tasting room where visitors can sample the reds, and even an Aqua de Vid, produced by this outstanding winery. In August during the harvest festival, Liceaga is noted for its family style event hosted under the huge oak trees that flank the winery and in 2012 and 2013 played host the famous paella festival.
Owner/winemaker: Phil Gregory
Winery Established: 2012
Vena Cava is Phil Gregory’s proprietary label and also the name of his avant-garde wine cave that is located on the grounds of the La Villa del Valle country retreat that Gregory and his wife Eileen started in 2005. The inn is perched on a hill in the heart of the wine valley, with 360 degree views of hills and vineyards. It’s flanked by its own vines, as well as organic vegetable and herb gardens that support Corazon de Tierra restaurant (a 2011 addition to the La Villa del Valle compound). And now, there is another feature to the retreat’s landscape: As one drives up the long road towards the hotel, it takes a second to absorb the fact that there are upturned fishing boats partially submerged in earth among the grapevines, fronted by a man-made ‘lake’. Who would guess that these land-bound vessels would harbor 3,200 square feet, most of it subterranean, of a sophisticated facility for making, aging, storing and –most important – tasting wine? Gregory’s wines have received international acclaim and, in fact, were featured at the 2012 G20 global summit in Cabo San Lucas.
Las Nubes Winery
Co-owner/winemaker: Victor Segura
Winery established: 2008
Perched on a hill on the north side of the Valle de Guadalupe is the ethereal and airy Las Nubes winery. The name means ‘the clouds’ and the beautiful modern building does, indeed, have a rather lofty view of the amazing wine valley below. Currently, Las Nubes — which encompasses 30 hectares of land devoted to the production of grapes and Manzanilla olives — produces seven varietals, including what Victor Segura calls the ‘happy girl’ wine Cumulus (Grenache, Carignan and Tempranillo), Nimbus (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and just a bit of Tempranillo), Nebbiolo (all Nebbiolo), and the reserves — Selección de Barricas (Carignan, Grenache, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon) and Coleccion de Parcelas (Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo). Says Victor, “Everything about Las Nubes is about respecting the land, respecting the view and respecting the foods.”
Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards & Inn
Owners: Don and Tru Miller
Winemaker: Daniel Lonneberg
Winery established: 1998
A working winery, bed and breakfast, and restaurant, Adobe Guadalupe is recognized as one of the original players in what is seen as the ‘new age’ of Mexican wines. With approximately 60 acres of vineyards where Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Shiraz and some Viognier are grown, the vinicola (winery) has garnered numerous awards and helped heighten the overall stature of Mexico’s wine industry. In fact, Adobe Guadalupe and its owners have been instrumental in propelling the Valle de Guadalupe into the international spotlight as a region of high gastronomy, gracious hostelry and as a destination for visitors from throughout the world. Mexico’s wine country is trending, in a very big way.
This is one of the wine country’s premier wineries, and spending time here is a treat. Stay if you can, or at least come for a delicious, farm-fresh meal and wine-tasting!
A few more notable wineries to visit and enjoy: Vintango, Jo Ann Knox Martino’s new wine cave that features her rich Nebbiolos, Zins and a Chardonnay; Mogor Badan, that is also home to chef Drew Deckman’s El Mogor restaurant under the pine trees; Hugo D’Acosta’s Casa de Piedra that is visited by appointment only; Villa Montefiori owned by Paolo Paoloni, with an array of Italian varietals; Madera 5, the first winery you will come to on Highway 3 Ensenada-Tecate off the toll road; Dona Lupe near the LA Cetto winery, where you will enjoy homemade olives and salsas; Torres Alegre with its forward-thinking winemaking techniques, and, for a special treat, visit La Escuelita (the little wine school), where many of the valley’s winemakers got their starts.
With more than 80 wineries and now more than 20 eateries in the Valle de Guadalupe, the best way to get around Mexico’s Wine Country is under the wing of a knowledgeable tour guide. The Provecho tour provides turn-key coordination of accommodations, tours and even dining. Contact us!
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