Most people think of Tecate and tequila and Ensenada with lobster tacos when they think of Mexico, certainly not wine. So 10 years ago, when I had a friend tell me that they were going down to taste wine in Mexico, I immediately thought "eeewwwww! Mexican wine? Who's ever heard of such a thing?."
Oh, what a silly, small minded person I was.
It wasn't until 2017 that I finally made my way down to Valle de Guadalupe to see what all the hype was about. I kept hearing "You will be super surprised at how nice it is" or "Stop being such a snob and check it out".
When we finally made our first trip and pulled up to our beautiful hacienda we would be staying after the weekend, I could tell that I had been missing out on a wonderful experience that was less than 2 hours from my home in San Diego.
Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you have a wonderful and delicious adventure.
The majority of the drive from San Diego to Ensenada is a picture-perfect cruise along the Pacific Coast on a paved toll road. You will pass 3 toll booths so make sure you have change. They will be around $2. They take US dollars. Bumpy dirt roads connect the wineries in the Valley, however, so be sure your car can handle the terrain.
Here are directions from the San Ysidro Border to get onto HWY 1 which will connect you to HWY 3 which leads into Valle de Guadalupe. Keep an eye out for the may Ruta del Vino signs you will see along the way.
It's a good idea to buy car insurance for Mexico. Most insurance companies don't cover accidents in Mexico. I have used Baja Bound several times. The site is easy and affordable.
Download an "offline map" of The Valle de Guadalupe onto your phone before you leave. Here is a good video tutorial.
Check out a map of the wineries here to give you an idea of where you're headed. You can pick up a nice paper map at the more popular wineries which will help you organize your time better.
Hire a driver for the day. This can ease your mind when attempting to navigate the unmarked dirt roads you may come upon and give you a designated driver for the day. We used The Wine Route our first time there. . Our driver picked us up at our hotel, made our reservations at the wineries for us and created an easy and stress-free day. Organize a group tour with Baja Wine and Dine.
Many of the wineries and some restaurants are closed Monday and Tuesday.
You may need reservations for many of the wineries and restaurants, especially on the weekend.
If a winery doesn't open until 11 am, don't go barging up to the front door and ask to be let in early. We had an owner of a winery thank us for waiting in our car until they opened the gates properly. They mentioned how many times people come waltzing into their tasting rooms demanding to be served.
Carry US dollars with you. Many of the smaller convince stores don't take debit or credit cards.
Unfortunately, you are only allowed to bring back one liter of alcohol per person when returning to the United States. I won't lie and say that I haven't brought back more than my quota of bottles. Just understand that at the border, they will ask you what you have to declare.
Here is a website that offers to ship wines from a few of the wineries in Valle de Guadalupe.
Check real time border waits here. Often times, crossing back into the States is going to be much faster.
Remember to bring your passport.
Cremeria los globos, the first, and maybe the last stop, on your way in or out of the valley should be to Los Globos. Inside this charming little artisanal cheese shop, you may lose your mind with the delicious selection of cheese, olive oil, olives, and bread. You can sample all the cheese and I suggest you do. Make sure to get their Queso Ramonetti and the blue cheese, and maybe 10 others. You're guaranteed to see many of these cheeses at most wineries and restaurants throughout your trip. Be sure to have a little cooler bag with you to keep your treasures cool.
Look out for a map of the wineries here.
Cremeria Los Globos is 50 feet from the only traffic light in the valley.
The sign above the entrance will say “Tienda de Vinos y Quesos”
Tienda de Quesos y Vinos:
La Ruta del Vino, Cnsenada B.C.
+52 646 155 3158
Here are a few recommendations of where to sleep your wine buzz off.
Valle De Guadalupe is rapidly becoming a very popular destination so make sure to have reservations prior to your arrival.
My favorite place to stay is La Villa De Valle.
This gorgeous 6 bedroom hacienda that is a bed and breakfast, sits high on a hilltop with 360-degree views of farms and vineyards below.
Probably the most popular and unique hotel is Encuentro Guadalupe. You're bound to have seen it on Instagram or heard of this place in passing. These minimalist cottages, or Eco Pods, are a splurge but you're worth it, right?
Here, you will also find that they have their own hillside pool, restaurant, wine cellar, and oyster bar.
How about sleeping in an air-conditioned plastic bubble on a vineyard.
Just a little bit outside Valle de Guadalupe is Cuatro Cuatros. Legitimate glamping is happening here. Many people come here on their way into the valley for a chance to sit atBura Bar. Probably the most popular place to have a cocktail and watch the sunset.
Bruma is a stunning boutique hotel with just a few rooms. Just come here for the Wow factor. Their on-site restaurant, Fauna, is one of the most memorable places I've ever had a meal at. They also have their own vinacola that is crazy beautiful. Make sure you have reservations for everything here.
Where to eat some amazing food.
You will be driving down a dirt road and most likely will have a bit of a wait, but it's worth it. Spend your time waiting for your table by looking at all the animals that are kept on the here on the property. At La Cocina de Dona Esthela, you will be mixing with a large crowd of hungry locals who come here for breakfast and lunch. They don't take reservations but the simple traditional food here is delicious.
Ranchos San Marcos, El Porvenir, Ejido San Marcos, B.C., Mexico
La Cocina de Doña Esthela,
One of the best and most memorable meals of my life was here atFauna, the restaurant at Bruma. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on the weekends. We splurged on the Chef's experimental menu and had our socks blown off with everything we put in our mouths. We were that annoying couple that could be heard making all kinds of creepy groans of pleasure. At one point, the couple sitting across from us at our communal table stated: " You really sound like you're enjoying your meal!"
It turned out to be a 10-course meal with pairings of champagne, beer, red and white wine, tequila and mezcal. My husband couldn't make it to the last couple of courses but I'm no quitter.
La Esperanza Baja Med sits right on a vineyard with beautiful mountain views. It will be hard to decide which is better, the view or the food. You will find a very relaxed atmosphere with an amazing fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean dishes. I found myself constantly wondering "How do they come up with these incredible combinations?"
km. 73.5, Carretera Ensenada Tecate 3, Valle de Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
If it's still on the menu, try the Madagascar Tuna.
No, it's not actually from Madagascar but it is out of the world!
I don't think it's a far stretch to say the Deckman's is probably the most popular restaurant right now in The Valle de Guadalupe. If you ask anyone who has been here before, I guarantee this will be one of their top recommendations. Will the outdoor kitchen and the beautiful farm-like setting on a vineyard, you may want to come here more than once. If you have never tried octopus before, this is the place to try it. The process of cooking the octopus makes you realize it's probably not something you will be able to accomplish at home. So just get it where you know it's going to be done right. They massage it for 20 minutes in salt, then flash boil it several times. Then after boiling it, the grill it and then pan fry it in butter and rosemary and other seasonings.
Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km. 85.5, San Antonio de Las Minas, 22766 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico
Another not to be missed, beautiful and delicious farm to table restaurant is Finca Altozano. This is Chef Javier Plascencia's own ranch where he has created a laid-back, al fresco dining experience. This is the perfect place to come early before dinner and grab a glass of wine and sit in one of the giant wine barrels and look out into the vineyards surrounding his ranch. If you love creative grilled meats and seafood, call and reserve a table. It's popular so reservations are a must.
Javier also has a beautiful bed and breakfast you can stay at nearby that is gorgeous, Finca La Divina.
Carretera Tecate - Ensenada Km 83, Ejido Francisco Zarco, Valle de Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Where to get your drink on!
There are over 200 wineries in this valley and it will be hard to find one that isn't worthy of a visit. Not all of them offer a wine tasting room though. Grab yourself a map of the wineries in the area to find out where your winery is and the days and hours of operation. Many places are closed on Monday and Tuesday.
The climate here is similar to that in Italy and Argentina and you will hear about winemakers from all over the world coming here, wanting to contribute their skills of winemaking. Most people are incredibly surprised at how delicious and complex the wines are from this region.
Many of the roads you'll be traveling on will look like this, so don't bring your fancy car
One of our favorite wineries is Lechuza. Not only are the wines fantastic but the experience we had with the owners, Kristin and Adam, made me want to tell everyone who comes here that this is the first place you should come to. We made reservations and both Kristin and Adam sat down with us at their beautiful outdoor patio and talked about their journey to getting to where there are now in the winemaking process. Kristin took over this project from her parents and they are turning out a wonderful product. I told Kristin that I was thankful for the amount of time that they spent with us. She said: "Well, you made a reservation because you wanted to spend time with us, we should reciprocate." I knew I would remember Adam forever when while sitting in a wooden swing, he held up a glass of Rose and said: "Real men drink Rose!"
Not only is the wine at Clos de Tres Cantos delicious, but people also come here to look at the unique architecture from Alejandro D’Acosta. I come here every time I'm down here just to buy more wine to take home.
There are also a few cabins that you can rent here.
Finca La Carrodilla is the valleys first certified organic winery. It's a beautiful winery with a tasting room, cafe and a rooftop garden and is surrounded by organic farmland and vegetable gardens that supply many of the nearby restaurants.
Sol y Barro was recommended to us by someone working at another winery. Telling us that they were producing some of their favorite wines at the moment.
A small, lovely boutique winery with a limited production that didn't disappoint.
Vena Cava is known as the tasting room with the recycled boats and award-winning wines. If you get there after 1 pm, get yourself some tacos at the permanent food truck, Troika, situated right outside next to a man-made pond. And if you're staying at La Villa del Valle, you can walk down the dirt path just 3 minutes away.
There are so many wonderful wineries and restaurants here in The Valle de Guadalupe. Make your reservations and get down here quick because its popularity is growing rapidly.
I started this blog so that I could document and share my adventures in travel, photography, food and the things that inspired me. It's a work in progress as are most things in life.