A weekend in Valle de Guadalupe wine country will have you coming back for more delicious Mexican cuisine, wine, and warm culture filled with many other adventures. Wait, WHAT, they make wine in Mexico? They sure do and have for centuries. If you make your way to northern Baja California, along Route 3 in the Valle de Guadalupe region, the quality of wine has grown tremendously in the past two decades. In fact, certain wineries here have teamed up with chefs and hoteliers to create Baja’s very own Ruta del Vino. Less than two hours from San Diego, the Valle de Guadalupe, close to the city of Ensenada, has moved past its traditional Tequila roots to ones based on the grape. Head south of the border for a wine-and-travel experience you won’t forget.
Ten Valle de Guadalupe Wineries To Taste
1. Quinta Monasterio – Founded in 2006 Valle de Guadalupe’s up and coming winemaker, Reynaldo Rodriguez Jr., joined forces with his winemaker father Reynaldo Sr. and partner Ronald Duhl to produce the the first wine from their private label, Quinta Monasterio. Working with a wonderful piece of land and well maintained vineyards that had been handed down within their family for generations, they were determined to create distinct wines of superb quality. (Appointment is recommended, wine tasting fee approx $9.00 US Dollars)
Wine Varieties: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc; Red Blends: Cabernet-Merlot, Cabernet Franc-Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot
2. Vinas Pijoan – Vinos Pijoan is an intimate, family-run winery just a few miles beyond the town of Francisco Zarco along Valle de Guadalupe’s Ruta del Vino. Pijoan is a bright, outgoing, passionate man who adores wines and has dedicated himself to their study and cultivation. Once settled in Baja California Pijoan attended La Escuelita, the Valle de Guadalupe wine school led by respected enologist Hugo D’Acosta, in order to develop his understanding of wine production. Over time Pijoan developed a warm working relationship with D’Acosta and now looks to him as a mentor and consultant in the development of the memorable wines of Vinos Pijoan. (Appointment is recommended)
Wine Varieties: Merlot-Zinfandel-Petite Sirah, Grenache-Petite Sirah-Cabernet, Zinfandel-Cabernet-Merlot, Cabernet-Merlot, Cabernet-Barbera-Colombard, Chenin Blanc-Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier-Moscatel
3. JC Bravo – In El Porvenir just outside of Valle de Guadalupe’s charming town of Francisco Zarco, a friendly and outgoing gentleman named Juan Carlos Bravo will greet you warmly and welcome you to his spacious 20 hectare vineyard complete with well-placed vines and many fruit trees. Born in the beautiful Valle de Guadalupe, JC Bravo and his brother Martin now belong to a “new wave” of local artisans who are handcrafting cheeses, olive oil, sauces, outstanding wines and original art, sculpture and pottery. Together with their contemporaries, they are making a name for Valle de Guadalupe products around the world. (Appointment is recommended for large groups, wine tasting fee approx $5.00 US Dollars)
Wine Varieties: Palomino, Carignan
4. Vena Cava – Vena Cava is an exceptional private winery owned and operated by Eileen and Phil Gregory, proprietors of the romantic Mediterranean style B&B luxury retreat La Villa del Valle. The concept of Vena Cava is to create the highest quality wines from the very best grapes in the valley. Eileen shares the thought behind their wine, “Phil’s idea is to make elegant, understated wines that whilst complex are easy to drink and complement rather than fight with food for center stage. His wines are very much an expression of who he is – European at the core but with vibrant, spicy, new world accents.” (Appointment is recommended, wine tasting fee approx $9.00 US Dollars)
Wine Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Traditional Method Sparkling Wine; Blends: Big Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Reserva
5. Vinicola Retorno – It all began in 2005, when Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, seduced many minds to begin the idea of producing wines. However, for Retorno, this dream didn’t begin until 2008, when he launched his first wine called Palabra, 2008. That year they began with a production of 75 cartons, eight was a clear wine called Piluchas, and the rest of the wine was barreled for 6 months of Palabra. By 2009 production increased to 50 boxes of Piluchas, 200 Palabra and 150 for a new wine that is called Retorno. The region of Valle de Guadalupe has provided grapes from which they have been able to create magnificent wines, specifically, the grapes come from the Ejido “El Porvenir” and “Toros Pintos”. (Appointment is recommended)
6. Tres Valles Vitivinícola – Vitivinicola Tres Valles is a relatively young winery that has already won rave reviews for the top quality wines it produces from grapes grown in three Baja California valleys: San Antonio de las Minas, Guadalupe and San Vicente de Ferrer. Conceived in 1999 when a group of close friends realized they shared the same dream of learning about wine and opening their own winery, Vitivinicola Tres Valles is a high level operation that utilizes stainless steel tanks for fermentation and an aging cave. Its group of owners have dedicated themselves to learning about growing grapes and creating wine, working closely with three special growers (one in each valley) to produce unique fruit with highly concentrated flavor and the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. (Appointment is recommended)
Wine Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Grenache, Petite Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc
7. Las Nubes – The Las Nubes winery is a relative newcomer to the Valle de Guadalupe region, founded just a handful of years ago in 2008 by enologist Victor Segura and his partners. Dedicated to producing outstanding and memorable wine for a reasonable cost, Las Nubes, “The Clouds”, offers sweeping valley views and remarkable wine. Although he began making wine casually with friends, Victor soon realized that he felt a passion and commitment to the vines which inspired him to further develop his own skills and expand the project. He took classes in enology at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California and began to work on his own vision. (Appointment is recommended, wine tasting fee approx $6.00 US Dollars)
Wine Varieties: Nebbiolo; Blends: Grenache-Carignan-Tempranillo, Merlot-Cabernet-Tempranillo, Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet-Carignan-Grenache-Syrah
8. Barón Balch’é – The proprietors of Valle de Guadalupe’s beloved Barón Balch’é winery feel deeply for their grapes. “Wine invites us to share our feelings,” their website proclaims – “It provokes discussion, passion and emotion!” Balch’é is a Mayan word for a ceremonial beverage, Barón Balch’é honors past kingdoms and the Mayan tradition. Each Barón Balch’é wine represents the terroir of the Valle de Guadalupe and the winemakers are consistently surprised and delighted by new discoveries they’re making about their grapes and the land during the processes of fermentation and maceration. (Appointment is recommended for large groups, wine tasting fee approx $6.00-$10.00 US Dollars)
Wine Varieties: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Viognier, Tempranillo
9. Clos de Tres Cantos – Clos de Tres Cantos can be seen from the highway through Valle de Guadalupe. The sight is enough to stop traffic, if traffic existed. As you arrive you’ll find one of the most architecturally astonishing wineries in the valley with stunning composition of rocks and cement. The winery opened in September, 2014 by owners María Benítez and Joaquín Moyaand and designed by architects Alejandro d’Acosta and Claudia Turrent, whose innovative work can be seen in other valley wineries. (Appointment is recommended)
10. Viñas de Garza – Vinas de Garza was born in 2003 and founded by Amado y Ana Garza, with the certainty that the small Mexican winery would produce wines of the highest quality and offer its consumers a personal touch and a unique boutique experience.
Wine Varieties: Tempranillo, Grenache, Zinfandel, Carignan, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Petit Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc y Moscato Canelli.
How To Get Around Valle De Guadalupe
There’s a few ways to get around the wineries, from driving yourself – which I don’t recommend unless you have a designated driver – to hiring a tour guide. I personally have tried both and it’s worth hiring a driver that knows their way around the Valle. One service I can recommend is Baja Wine Sun Tours and ask for Alain. Make sure you tell him I sent you so he can take good care of you. I’ve used his service twice, one for a large group and a small group, it was both a great experience. He also extensive knowledge about all the local wineries and can customize any experience.