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Plan a wine weekend to Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe. With so many great wines, excellent food, and comfortable accommodations, it’s the perfect weekend getaway from Southern California.
Weekend trips to wine countries are popular—Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, and Santa Ynez. But in the last ten years, the popularity of Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe has exploded. And it is no surprise! From the food and the wines to the accommodations and the people, nothing will keep you from falling in love with Valle de Guadalupe. Well—maybe the dirt roads with their bumps and dips will be a little off-putting, but they are worth it. A weekend getaway to sample wine in Valle de Guadalupe should be on everyone’s list.
About Valle de Guadalupe
Valle de Guadalupe is in Baja, California, just an hour and a half south of the border in Tijuana. Less than 30 minutes inland from Ensenada, Valle de Guadalupe is the main wine region in Baja, California. Vines were first planted in the mid-1800s by Dominican priests, and commercial production of wine began in the 1960s. But, in the last decade, Valle de Guadalupe has grown exponentially. With the growth of wineries, there has been an increase in quality places to stay and dining options from award-winning chefs.
Valle de Guadalupe has so much to offer, so that is where a few friends and I decided to go for a recent weekend getaway. For my friends, it was their first trip to Valle de Guadalupe; for me, it was my fourth trip, but my first time back in four years.
Getting To/From/Around Valle de Guadalupe
Every time I have traveled to Valle de Guadalupe, I have traveled by car. Many ask me if it is safe, and all I can say is that I have never had any trouble. Once you cross the border, you get onto the highway, which takes you out of Tijuana and along the coast to Ensenada, where you head east to the Valle.
I took the train from Los Angeles to San Diego on previous trips and rented a car to drive over the border. But on this recent trip, I took my own car. The reason I wanted to take my own car is so that we could use the Global Entry line when coming back to the US. There is always congestion when crossing the border. And, when crossing back into the US, it can take two hours or more. But if you have Global Entry, and everyone you are traveling with does as well, you can register your car to use the Nexus/Sentri lanes. We could cross the border on our return in under 20 minutes.
Once in Valle de Guadalupe, it is very easy. There are two main paved roads that run parallel on two sides of the Valle. Beyond those roads, most other roads are dirt roads. You must be careful with the unnamed roads that most navigation apps will want to take you on as a “shortcut” between the main roads. These roads can be rocky and bumpy, and if there has been a recent rain, there will be puddles of water. Four-wheel drive cars are ideal, as are higher-bodied cars. But my smaller car was just fine. I had to drive slowly in certain spots but came home with no issues.
Where to Drink Wine in Valle de Guadalupe
In 2006, there were only 25 wineries in Valle de Guadalupe. Today there are 190 wineries. That means that there are many wineries to choose from. On my most recent trip, we visited four wineries.
Lechuza Vineyard is a family-owned winery established by the Magnussen family, who is originally from San Diego. They established Lechuza in 2005 and released their first vintage in 2007. The name Lechuza pays homage to a family of Lechuza, the native western burrowing ground owl that lives in the ground and helps regulate vermin that live on their property.
With a sustainable focus, owner and winemaker Kristin Shute makes chardonnay, merlot, tempranillo, nebbiolo, cabernet sauvignon, and blends. Lechuza offers tastings at their tasting room, and reservations are recommended. I was impressed by our hostess’ ability to knowingly talk about the wine-making process.
Camillo Magoni is an icon in the region. Born and raised in Italy, Camillo studied enology in Italy before moving to Mexico in 1965 to work at L.A. Cetto, where he worked for 49 years. In 2021, at the age of 70, he created his own brand Casa Magoni. Camillo works with traditional varieties but also cultivates more than 70 different grapes varietals from around the world in an experimental vineyard. A visit to Casa Magoni is a popular destination, so a reservation is required. They have outdoor seating and live music on weekends.
Vino Pijoan is a family business that was started in 2002. Owner and winemaker Pau Pijoan, who is of Spanish heritage, was a veterinarian before becoming a winemaker. This explains all the happy rescue dogs that will greet you at the property. At Vinos Pijoan, their slogan is that they are “honest.” They make wines that express the terroir and do not use any chemicals in the vineyard. A visit to Vinos Pijoan does not require a reservation. They have a small indoor tasting room and a covered patio, where you can taste their wines that range from traditional to pet-nats and carbonic maceration.
Adobe Guadalupe is an elegant six-bedroom hacienda owned by Tru Miller, a Dutch woman who originally built the house for friends to visit. In addition to the guestrooms, they produce wine and breed and ride champion Azteca horses. A visit to Adobe Guadalupe does not require a reservation. But bring your appetite because the Adobe Truck serves tapas that can be enjoyed while tasting the wines.
There are many more wineries to visit in Valle de Guadalupe. Some are larger and better known, such as Monte Xanic, Baja California’s most award-winning winery. Monte Xanic has a large, modern winery with amazing views, but you must have a reservation to get in here. And there are also small wineries to seek out. After enjoying different bottles of Henri Lurton wines at dinners, they are a winery I plan to seek out for a visit next time.
A great place to try a large selection of wines from Valle de Guadalupe is Bloodlust Wine Bar, the first and only wine bar in Valle. Bloodlust Wine Bar is surrealist and looks like a head of garlic, although it is supposed to be a wine drop in the middle of the desert. There is indoor and outdoor seating, and Bloodlust Wine Bar offers more than 60 labels of wine from Baja and cocktails. They also have a kitchen serving traditional Baja food using local produce from local farmers.
Where to Eat
The food in Valle de Guadalupe is so good you can spend the whole time eating. From home-cooked breakfasts to award-winning chefs serving fresh seafood and produce, I do not think it is possible to have a bad meal.
Javier Plascencia is one of the most respected chefs in Baja. He owns Finca Altozano, and this is where he roasts, smokes, and grills on the outdoor veranda grill. Next door to Finca Altozano is Javier Plascencia’s Animalon, named one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2022. In the spring and summer, the restaurant is located under a 200+-year-old oak tree, and in the winter season, they offer the Animalon Test Kitchen. Animalon offers a tasting menu, but a la carte is also an option.
It is hard to say that one meal was better than another, but our meal at Lunario was one of the best. To get to the restaurant, you wander down a path through the gardens. Lunario is a small but tranquil restaurant decorated with modern minimalism and mixed with fresh lavish greenery. At the helm is the talented Chef Sheyla Alvarado, who is only 30 years old. Lunario offers a four-course or six-course tasting menu featuring food from the coastline to the land that changes weekly. Each bite of each dish was so extraordinary, and the wine pairing was perfectly on point.
An outdoor restaurant that is made of sustainable materials, Deckman’s en El Mogor feels like a luxurious campground. Chef Drew Deckman, who is originally from Georgia, worked in Europe before finding his home in Valle de Guadalupe and opening Deckman’s in 2012. The menu changes daily as Drew is a huge proponent of sustainability and uses hyper-local, seasonal ingredients from the Baja Peninsula. Everything is cooked with fire.
Drew Deckman is also an owner at Conchas de Piedra, a restaurant where you can enjoy fresh shellfish paired with Mexican sparkling wines made by Hugo d’Acorta at Casa de Piedra Winery.
Fauna is the restaurant at Bruma, a tranquil boutique hotel designed by eight childhood friends located at the northern end of the Valle. I had the pleasure of staying at Bruma a few years ago before the restaurant was open. Considered one of the top restaurants in the valley, Fauna has an experimental menu that changes daily. The restaurant, both indoors and outdoors, is filled with long family-style wood tables. This is great for large parties but also for small parties. The vibe is casual and energetic, and the food is wonderfully flavorful.
Where To Stay While Tasting Wines in Valle de Guadalupe
When it comes to where to stay, there are so many options. I have enjoyed past stays at the boutique hotel Bruma and Finca la Divina, an old hacienda that has been remodeled. On this recent trip, we stayed at La Cima de Valle Hotel. Easy to get to. La Cima del Valle Hotel sits on a hill with great views of the Valle.
The rooms, which are like little cottages, are modern and comfortable, with free Wifi. There is a restaurant on the property, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a small fitness room and a spa. There is also a pool and jacuzzi and a bar by the pool.
Everyone on the La Cima de Valle Hotel staff was friendly, welcoming, and helpful. And there are five dogs on the property who spend most of their days relaxing in the sun but who might want to take a walk with you, as they did with me.
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Final Tips When You Go Tasting Wine in Valle de Guadalupe
- Valle de Guadalupe is a casual place, even at the nicest restaurants. But one tip is to bring layers. It can get cold at night, especially in the off-season months. And bring socks or slippers to wear in your hotel room as most rooms have concrete or tile floors.
- Don’t forget your passport as you will cross the border to another country. And if you have a Global Entry Card, do not forget to bring it. When crossing the border via car or foot, you must have the card with you (although not when you fly into Mexico). And you will also need to get a Mexican Immigration Card which is free.
- If you are driving across the border with your own car, you will need your driver’s license, car insurance, and proof of registration. And if you have Global Entry, do not forget to register your car. You will also need Mexican Tourist Auto Insurance. It will cost a couple hundred dollars and is easy to get at Mexipro.com.
If you are looking for a weekend getaway that will excite your palate, then Valle de Guadalupe is the answer. The food, the wine, the accommodations, and the hospitality will have you planning a return trip before the first one is over! Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning to visit Mexico or another fabulous wine region.