Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Photo: Gabriel Flores Romero from Tecate, México (originally posted to Flickr as viñedos) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Gabriel Flores Romero from Tecate, México (originally posted to Flickr as viñedos) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Do your Mexican vacations usually revolve around sun, sand, and tequila? Those are three excellent ways to fill your vacation time. But lately, there’s another reason people are heading south of the border: wine.

Baja California, Mexico’s northwesternmost state, is home to Valle de Guadalupe, a burgeoning wine region. It’s located 90 miles south of San Diego and 18 miles from the coastal town of Ensenada. With its warm days, cool nights, and ocean breezes, the area has an ideal grape-growing climate. Many compare it to Napa and Tuscany. Though as you drive along the dirt roads in the rugged valley, it feels more like Rioja or Mendoza.

The area’s grape vines were first planted in the 1920s by Russian refugees fleeing persecution from the Russian Orthodox Church. Their first stop had been Los Angeles, but after finding the land unsuitable, they headed south to the fertile Valle de Guadalupe. Today, the winemakers in the valley produce full-bodied wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel.

Photo: Undine Pröhl, Encuentro Antiresorts
Photo: Undine Pröhl, Encuentro Antiresorts

Visit Viñas de Garza to taste Chardonnay and red blends on a flower-filled terrace overlooking the valley. Try a Swiss grape, Chasselas, and a Bordeaux blend at Mogor Badan. Buy olives, honey, and figs at their farmers’ market before leaving. Drive to Adobe Guadalupe’s hacienda-style tasting room to sip rosé, Tempranillo, and Syrah. And don’t miss Bodegas de Santo Tomás, the area’s oldest winery. You fall in love with their award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon and intense Unico Gran Reserva.

You could drive back to the coast after your tastings, but you should just stay in the area after drinking so much wine. Encuentro Guadalupe calls itself an “antiresort.” Instead of traditional hotel rooms, it has freestanding eco-lofts built on a hillside. Your loft’s balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the valley, wineries, and Sierra Blanca.

Relax by the pool and hydrate with a glass of cucumber-mint water. Tour the underground cellar. Watch the sun set from the terrace by an adobe fireplace with cheese and a glass of Nebbiolo. Then stuff yourself with ceviche, tostadas, tacos, and Merlot at Convivia Cantina Artesanal. You’ll return to the sun and the sand tomorrow, but right now, you’re not so sure about the tequila.

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