December 22, 2015
Mexico isn’t often associated with flourishing vineyards and a burgeoning wine scene. But, that’s exactly why people come to the Baja Peninsula’s Guadalupe Valley. Within easy reach of the thriving coastal towns Rosarito and Ensenada, and just a two-hour drive from San Diego, vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, backed by the peninsula’s granite mountains.
The valley has been producing wine for over 100 years and is where around 90 per cent of Mexico’s wine is made, but it’s only in recent years that this wine region has been garnering international attention with the arrival of boutique wineries, chic hotels, and farm-to-table restaurants where top chefs showcase the valley’s produce.
Outdoor eateries with valley views lie amidst the vineyards, including renowned dining spot Finca Altozano where esteemed chef Javier Plascencia cooks up wood-fired dishes using organic produce from the valley’s farms, ranches and orchards. Here, at an outdoor communal wooden table, guests dine on wood-fired lamb, marlin carpaccio, octopus ceviche, local cheeses, and peppers roasted with olive oil, washed down with the valley wines and Mexico’s top craft beers.
Deckman’s en el Mogor is another eatery that’s made a name for itself by specialising in farm-to-table cuisine. Wine, vegetables and herbs, as well as lamb, olive oil and eggs are sourced from the surrounding estate and Mogor Ranch, while seafood is sustainably caught nearby; natural sea salt is from San Felipe and the restaurant’s cheese comes from the neighbouring farms. This is all served up alongside artisanal beer from Agua Mala Brewery and the far more potent Mezcal from Oaxaca.
Previously named one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, Laja was established by chef Jair Téllez, alongside winemaker Andres Blanco. With its own orchard, farm and vineyard, the restaurant utilises ingredients grown and produced on-site, with the addition of the peninsula’s exceptional seafood, serving up multi-course degustation menus with wine pairing in a light-filled, wood-beamed convivial space.
The valley is filled with small independent wine estates, many of which offer wine tours and tastings. Adobe Guadalupe is one of the valley’s best known, where guests can taste the estate’s own Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Merlot labels, accompanied by farmhouse bread and olive oil.
Hacienda La Lomita also hosts winery tours and tastings of the wine that’s produced there, alongside a restaurant serving up food by chef Humberto Aviles. The estate most celebrated for its vineyard views is the appropriately named Las Nubes, meaning “˜the clouds’, which is situated overlooking the valley. And, don’t miss out on the small winery and estate Vinisterra, where guests are greeted for a personal wine tasting.
Museo de la Vid y el Vino (the vine and wine museum) is the perfect place to start for an insight into the history of winemaking in the Guadalupe Valley, going back to the arrival of European settlers. In addition to tours around this exhibition, the museum offers tours that take in a number of vineyards within the Guadalupe Valley.
Baja Winery Tours is another of the Guadalupe Valley’s wine tours. Both group tours and bespoke private itineraries include meals in the valley’s top restaurants, the chance to walk through the vineyards and see how wine is made, and the opportunity to meet the winemakers.
While the restaurants and wineries here are open year-round, the summer months (June to October) are when the region is at its best. Seasonal outdoor eateries open up for the summer and August brings the annual wine festival, Fiestas de la Vendimia. Throughout the harvest festival, a series of events take place – including galas, dinners and wine tasting – in celebration of the grape harvest and to showcase the region’s food and wine.
The Guadalupe Valley is a two-hour drive from San Diego. Our flights with Delta make it easy to travel all over North America, making a trip to San Diego and beyond a breeze.
Written by Lauren Hill