Wine devotees know about Napa, Bordeaux, and Mendoza, but what about Mexico's Valle de Guadalupe? Beyond tequila, fish tacos, and all-inclusive resorts, multi-talented Mexico has acres of vines that produce a muy bien glass of vino.
You probably haven't heard of Mexico's wine because it doesn't really travel outside the borders; the majority is consumed domestically. Baja California's wine phenomenon isn't really a new thing either, the first winery came onto the scene in 1928, and now 60+ wineries plot the wine path along dirt roads.
Along the routa del vino (wine route) I suggest starting your grape gallivant at three wineries, some big and some boutique. The biggest and oldest vintage is L.A. Cetto. Tastings start at $2.00 for a quartet, and if you think Mexican wine is like their beer—cheaper than water—think again, the cheapest wine I found at L.A. Cetto was $7.
Then, Adobe Guadalupe—both a winery and six-room inn—has been around Mexico's sipping scene since 1998, and wines from their 60+ acres of vines are an excellent testament to the region's sustenance. Tastings are $10 per person and take you deep into the barrel-filled cellar and inn to sample a half dozen wines, most of which feature an arc angel motif to commemorate someone very close to the owners' family who received their wings too early in life.
At Tres Mujeres (three ladies), the grounds are lush and botanical garden-like, a place you could spend hours sitting under a tree reading a book. Through a hobbit-like walkway leading to a cellar, a two-wine tasting is $5, accompanied by a bite of raisin bread. If you're lucky, the winery pup might pop in for a visit.
Unlike other wine regions, there isn't a grand harvest of hotels in Valle de Guadalupe. The area is raw and ripe for travel. While bed and breakfast lovers will relish in Adobe Guadalupe's grape-filled grounds and hacienda-style environs, modernists will feel like they're the star of a Dwell Magazine photoshoot staying at the newly-built Encuentro Guadalupe. Situated on a 232-acre nature reserve, Encuentro is eco-luxe featuring 20 rectangular lofts staggered on a hillside between boulders and desert brush. Inside the minimalist pods, Edison-style bulbs light the gallery-white space, and small wood-burning clay fireplaces keep you toasty while stargazing. Rates start around $230 per night and include WiFi, parking, and bottled water. Fido is welcome. As for kids, well, you'll have to Skype them before sipping a glass of grape and dipping into the infinity pool.
Insider Tip: We love the eco-lofts on the sunset side of the mountain. Lofts 1-7 are closest to the pool if you don't want to walk far for a cerveza.
In addition to the winery-side dining at Encuentro Guadalupe, Valle de Guadalupe has a trio of standout restaurants offering a 90-point blend of wine country's romanticism and the region's fish- and farm-to-table bounty into every bite. Laja is the oldest vintage, Corazon de Tierra is the design darling, and Finca Altozano is the newcomer. Pair them with your stay and sips to savor the region's terroir from every touchpoint.
Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, about one hour from the Tecate MEX-US Border (one hour outside San Diego) along a safe, well-maintained, and well-marked road. Crossing with a non-luxe vehicle is recommended. I took a Toyota Prius and purchased mandatory extra auto insurance to cross the border.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Trish Friesen