If you’re planning a wine tasting trip you might head straight for a weekend in the most famous wine region of Napa or Sonoma in the northern California, or maybe focus on the central coast cities of Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, or San Luis Obispo. Even the Temecula region in San Diego county has grown into a huge weekend destination. But did you know there is an ever expanding community of vineyards, wineries and winemakers south of the border? The Guadalupe Valley wine region is a few miles inland, between Ensenada and Rosarito in Baja California. There are over one hundred wineries in this tiny region, with views of vineyards rivaling any I’ve seen elsewhere. Ranging from small wineries that bottle only a few types of wine to much bigger operations the Guadalupe Valley has something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend away, celebrating an upcoming event (perfect for bridal party fun) or just a day trip from Southern California, this itinerary is perfect for your trip along the La Ruta del Vino, or the Wine Route.
We started off our wine route with Villa Montefiori. This is the most expensive of the three wineries but also the most beautiful. Their new tasting room is sleek and modern with beautiful design details and an incredible view. We chose to sit on the deck overlooking the vineyard and surrounding hills. The weekend we visited was very warm, but the deck was covered and there was a fair amount of breeze – not very cooling it was better than nothing.
The winery has four options for tasting, ranging from $6 for two pre-selected tastings to $24 for four premium wines plus a souvenir glass. We chose the ‘premium’ and ‘super premium’ so we could try most of the wines. You can also purchase a bottle of wine and share if you’d rather. They only had one white wine option – Chardonnay – and the rest were mostly red blends. (Although a few of the more premium wines, like the Brunello and Nerone were 100% of one varietal.) Villa Montefiori’s slogan is Mexican Wines With Italian Heart because the wine maker is Italian, but the grapes are all grown on the estate. This winery definitely caters to the more trendy crowd, and was very busy with several large groups at the time we visited. Even still, our server was patient and helpful, bringing us our next tasting soon after finishing the last. Wine tasting is not something to be rushed, even though you only get a small sample of the wines. So while she was running around helping everyone, we never felt like we were being rushed out the door. Before you leave be sure to check out the swing out back, it’s perfect for your next profile pic.
This is one of my parents’ favorite wineries in the region, although they had not been in a few years, so we decided to stop in. The tasting room is hidden from the parking area, but you’re greeted by another gorgeous view as you walk through the property to get there. (You might also be greeted by some adorable puppies, if they aren’t conked out under a tree.) Vinos Pijoan has a small indoor tasting bar and a good sized covered patio out front. Since it was about 90 degrees and we had just spent the last forty-five minutes sitting outside we opted for the bar. We were the only people in there, so we got great personalized service. They offer two selections of wine tastings, either four tastings for about $9 USD or five, including some of their best wines, for about $14. After tasting several of their wines, I now understand why it’s a favorite of my parents. All the wines I tried were delicious, and two glasses of wine, a few samples and a bottle of my favorite all came to about $30 USD.
Like Villa Montefiori, most of the wines Vinos Pijoan makes are red blends. They do have a Chardonnay, which I actually liked! The most unique offering at this winery is a trio of blends called Coordenadas. These wines are a blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache but what makes them interesting is where the grapes are grown. ‘Mexican’ is made from all three grapes grown in Mexico and ‘French’ is the same, but the grapes are grown in France. The last of the series is a blend made from Mexican Syrah and French Carignan and Grenache. If you’re new to viticulture, or like me, you’re fascinated by it, ask for a tasting of the three types. Even though they are all the same grape, each of these wines tastes different. It’s so cool! Like an adult science experiment. And if you’re starting to feel peckish, Vinos Pijoan has a nice menu for snacks and main courses.
Vinicola Tres Mujeres
The last winery we stopped at was another that my parents had been to before. When deciding on which wineries to visit before we left the house my mom said, “Tres Mujeres is cool because there’s a wine cave.” Well, consider me sold. Wine caves are awesome! But besides the fact that you get to taste wines inside of a (man made) cavern, this winery is awesome because it’s owned by three women winemakers. (Tres Mujeres means ‘three women’ in Spanish, in case you missed it)
The set up is a little odd because the tasting takes place inside the cave, but the rest of the winery is like a farm so you kind of have to track down one of the people running the joint to let you inside. However, it was pretty busy the weekend we were there, so when we arrived there was a group who had already flagged someone, but also another group already inside the cave. But ever the innovator, our winemaker started us with the first pour outside at one of the tables. She explained a little of the history of the winery and how she got into making wines (she took a class!) and where the grapes come from. The two wines they make at Tres Mujeres are a blend of Mexican grapes grown at various vineyards as well as wine that is made in France. Those grapes are grown and processed into wine in France then shipped to Guadalupe to be finished and blended with the other wine made on site. Seems like a lot of work and worry to make wine, but the end result is definitely worth it. Even though they only make two wines, they are both fantastic. The tasting includes the two wines, plus crusty bread and olive oil for $5 USD.
Dinner at Deckman’s en el Mogor
Just down the road from Tres Mujeres is a restaurant called Deckman’s. The brainchild of Michelin Star Chef Drew Deckman this is ‘table to the farm’ like I’ve never seen it. Just about every piece of the restaurant itself is recycled or handmade. The kitchen is outdoors, everything being cooked over an open flame. They cook the tortillas on a iron contraption that looks like a three-tiered flat banana basket, hanging over the fire. They even put their salt in abalone shells. The napkins are white kitchen towels, (which I’m pretty sure are the same ones I bought at Ikea back home) they even recycle the glass bottles they serve the water in, cutting them into water glasses. They don’t even sell soda or water bottles, they have lemonade or wine made from grapes on the farm, el Mogor.
If you’re not yet impressed, just wait until you’re handed the menu. Oysters, sea bass ceviche, spider crab, abalone, beef tartar and even bone marrow – and that’s just the appetizer list. I pulled this directly from the website:
- All our Wine, Vegetables, Herbs, Lamb, Olive Oil, and Eggs are estate grown or produced here on the Mogor Ranch.
- All our Fish and Seafoods are sustainable, always from the Baja Peninsula and when possible from SmartFishAC.
- All our salt is from San Felipe
- All our cheeses from our neighbors both here in Guadalupe Valley and Ojos Negros
- All our beef is local and responsible
We had eaten before wine tasting and were still not hungry enough for a full meal, so we decided to order things that seemed like they would be not overly filling. It ended up being pretty much one of the most perfect meals of my life. There are also puppies.
Isn’t it great when a trip works out perfectly even when you didn’t really plan it? After wanting to check out the Valle de Guadalupe for awhile I’m glad I was finally able to spend an awesome day there. The valley is about an hour south of the border, and an easy enough drive, after you drive through Tijuana, there’s a nice toll road that will take directly there. Every winery has a blue directional sign along the highway so you can easily find them, and many of them have restaurants so you don’t have to think about where you’re going to get food. If you’re not comfortable driving in Mexico (it’s a little like driving in LA but with less rules) there are shuttles that will take you from Tijuana to Ensenada and tours that will drive you from winery to winery in Guadalupe. Anyway you can get there, it’s definitely worth a trip. The wines made in the Valley are comparable – and sometimes better – to wines I’ve tasted elsewhere. Plus, you get the excellent hospitality that I’ve always found in Mexico. So what are you waiting for?
Where’s your favorite wine region? Let me know in the comments!