Wine Travel: Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Extending inland from Ensenada, in Baja California, Mexico, the Valle de Guadalupe is fast becoming a top destination for wine geeks in search of something new and authentic.
An hour-and-a-half drive south of the US border, 12 miles inland from the coast, is the Valle de Guadalupe. Every time I drive down (which is often) there is a new paved road, sign, hotel, winery… it’s very quickly becoming a top destination for SoCal locals and other wine wanderers. Although the history of wine in Mexico is the oldest in the Americas—starting with Casa Madero (established 1597) and dating back to the 1700s in the Valle—a variety of political, social, and economic factors prevented it from becoming the region it is today. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the real modern wine boom began. The Valle has ideal conditions for grape growing, thanks to its warm days, cool nights, and Pacific Ocean influence. The continued increase in quality has put the wines of the region on the playing field alongside other world-class growing zones. Interest from well-known international chefs is bringing notoriety to a culinary scene already on the rise, so it’s no wonder the destination is growing in popularity. It encapsulates the best combination of quality wine, farm-and-sea-to-table Mexican cuisine, eco-luxury accommodations, good weather and most importantly, a laid-back Baja vibe. If you make it into Ensenada proper, don’t miss the classic food carts: La Guerrerense for tostadas or Tacos El Fenix for traditional Baja-style fried fish and shrimp tacos.
Traditional Mexican fare loved by locals and tourists alike. Known for her Borrego Tatemado (roasted lamb), Elote pancakes, Birria, and handmade tortillas. Worth the wait!
Mediterranean-inspired restaurant from husband-wife duo Andres and Vanessa Trujillo, formerly of Maximo Bistro in Mexico City. Set poolside at the top of the Encuentro Hotel. Once reserved only for hotel guests, diners are now able to shuttle up for a meal with a view.
The brainchild of Chef Javier Plascencia with Chef de Cuisine Oscar Torres (also at the helm at Finca Altozano) offers an intimate dining experience under a 100-year-old oak tree. Choose from 4- or 6-course seasonal tasting menu from locally sourced Baja ingredients. Go early and explore the whole property at Finca Altozano: animals, vineyards, and a new wine shop, BajaDivina, opened by Javier’s daughter, Lauren.
A small, intimate indoor space where Chef Sheyla Alvarado showcases a range of local flavors in her gastronomical tasting menu following cycles of the moon.
Originally from Valtellina, Italy, Camillo Magoni is a pioneer of the Baja wine industry. He moved to the Valle in 1965 and was the founding winemaker for the legendary LA Cetto before branching out on his own. Over the years, he has planted his vineyards with European varieties. The tasting room is set beside a 200-year-old oak tree, where you can enjoy organic wine and food pairings set to live music from local bands. This is TRESOMM’s partner winery, so they have our wines available at the tasting room!
It’s a bit off the beaten path, so much that you might wonder if you are heading the right way, but continue and find yourself surrounded by vineyards leading to a small tasting room deep in the valley. They have a unique microclimate in which the Pacific breeze is pulled into the canyon, keeping it an average 10% cooler than the rest of the Valle during the summer. The winery was founded in 2007 by Santiago Lopez, who left engineering to pursue a career in wine (his father Dr. Jose Alberto Lopez, is an astrophysicist who started making his own wine 30 years ago). The focus is on Mediterranean grapes, including beautiful varietal expressions of Mourvèdre and Syrah. Pair the wines with a smoked marlin taco from their adjacent restaurant, Dulce Vida.
Founded in 2005 by English couple Eileen and Phil Gregory, they grow organically farmed grapes and showcase a range of wines with different vinification methods. Their artfully designed winery, designed by architect Alejandro D’acosta, was constructed using reclaimed fishing boats and other recycled materials.
Pau Pijoan and his family produce wines with distinctive voices and expressions. Pau, a former veterinary researcher, was an early disciple of the Hugo D’Acosta winemaking school and started Vinos Pijoan in 2002. His daughter, Silvana, leans towards a more “natural” approach. Regardless of the differences in vinification, they aim to create wines that reveal the land’s diverse soils, and work closely in managing small vineyards with care and respect.
Thirty rooms with a poolside bar, art gallery, firepit and live music on weekend nights.
Centrally located in the Valle, this boutique hotel has a full-service spa, an outdoor pool, and restaurant on-site.
Four-bedroom bed-and-breakfast run by Lauren Plascencia, daughter of famed local chef Javier Plascencia. It has a shared outdoor grill, pool and jacuzzi, and a deck for yoga or meditation. Just off the main road and a quick drive to Finca Altozano.
THE TOTAL PACKAGE
For a luxurious, all-encompassing Valle de Guadalupe experience, check out Bruma, a resort set on 200 acres at the northeast end of the region.
Bruma Casa Ocho is their “eco-luxury” hotel—a secluded retreat with only eight rooms. Enjoy the infinity pool and jacuzzi overlooking vineyards, and a short walk to the Fauna Restaurant & Bruma Wine Garden.
Fauna is a restaurant from chef/Ensenada native David Castro Hussong and his wife, Maribel, who is the pastry chef. The stunning modern space offers both indoor and outdoor dining overlooking their organic garden, from which most of the food is sourced before being cooked over open flame.
Bruma Wine Garden is the newest addition, set among the vineyards. It’s open all day, but I recommend brunch for the brioche with egg and Mornay sauce; scallop tostada; and mushroom pizza. Try to loop in a Bruma vineyard tour before or after a meal (reservations needed) to try the biodynamic wines made by Winemaker Lulu Martinez.
Los Angeles-based Sommelier Taylor Grant calls Baja California her “second home,” traveling there often to oversee production of TRESOMM wines in the Valle del Guadalupe. Taylor is the founder of Salutay, a wine consulting company which offers a range of services including private tastings, restaurant consultation, fine wine acquisition and food & wine experiences. She has worked in many top LA restaurants, including Osteria Mozza, Scopa Italian Roots, Old Lightning, Dama, and Dudley Market.