Calling all wine lovers - there's a hip new getaway to go wine tasting that is quickly rising in popularity. Often referred to as the 'Napa Valley of Mexico', the Valle de Guadalupe region in the northern Baja peninsula is putting Mexican wine on the map. Touting not only a high-quality product but the area is also surrounded by stunning natural scenery and a relaxed, unpretentious vibe in the wineries.
While places like Italy, France, Spain, and California have been established as the premier wine-producing regions for decades, it's time to try out the new kid on the block. Valle de Guadalupe is worthy of a spot on the travel bucket list for any wine enthusiasts out there!
The Next Big Thing In Wine
Even though it's still relatively uncommon to find wines from Valle de Guadalupe outside of Mexico, those in the know are heading there just to sample the goods. Responsible for 90% of Mexico's total wine production, there are well over 100 wineries in the region, and all grapes are grown locally in the surrounding valleys rather than exported. Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are among the most prominent varieties in the vineyards, but there are dozens more.
The Mediterranean climate, rich soil, and general terroir (fancy wine lingo that means the unique set of characteristics of the growing environment) allow grapes to thrive. The topography of the region, including the proximity to the ocean, gives a distinct flavor to the wines produced here. While the wines and the culinary scene are award-winning, the ambiance is notably relaxed and laid back. The wineries are overwhelmingly Mexican-owned, family operators who care deeply about their product rather than the large-scale, commercial producers found elsewhere.
Getting To Valle De Guadalupe
The proximity to the United States/Mexico border makes getting to the Valle simple and self-explanatory for anyone traveling from the US. Just drive south to San Diego and cross the border into Tijuana at San Ysidro or Otay Mesa. The entire Baja peninsula is part of the Free Zone, so no car permits are required (but an FMM tourist permit AND a Mexican car insurance policy are still necessary). For visitors who aren't coming from the United States, Tijuana's airport (TIJ) services a ton of both international and domestic flights.
From Tijuana, Valle de Guadalupe is about a 90-minute drive, and the most recommended and efficient option is to simply rent a car at the airport if not driving a personal vehicle in from elsewhere. Having a car makes getting around the region much easier, and there are some great surrounding towns and beaches to explore on the way (more on that later).
- It is relatively affordable to take an Uber from Tijuana to Valle de Guadalupe, but transportation then becomes problematic upon arrival. Taxis and rideshares are NOT common in the region, and not having a vehicle becomes extremely inconvenient.
- Pre-arranged tours are also available, departing from Tijuana or even California, but they offer very little flexibility.
Where To Eat And Drink In Valle De Guadalupe
As previously mentioned, there are well over 100 wineries in Valle de Guadalupe, so giving a comprehensive rundown of them all is impossible. The culinary scene is booming, too, with a focus on sustainable, locally-sourced ingredients and farm-to-table dining. With a consistently high caliber of food and wine, it's hard to go wrong anywhere in the Valle. There is something to suit all tastes and budgets, but below are a few unique standouts to get started.
- Vena Cava: coined the 'hippest winery in Mexico,' the whole place is an ongoing art project made from things like recycled boats and discarded eyeglass lenses. Tastings are available daily between 11 am - 5 pm (every hour, on the hour).
- Adobe Guadalupe: spread over 60 acres of vineyards, guests can also stay on-site at the hacienda-style inn. Aside from wine, Adobe Guadalupe is the world's biggest breeder of Azteca horses. Enjoy a wine tasting in the stables or even tour the vineyards on horseback for a truly unforgettable experience.
- Monte Xanic: one of the largest and oldest wineries in the region, their wines have won over 260 awards and medals. Open 7 days from 10 am - 5 pm; reservations are strictly required to even enter the breathtaking property, so be sure to book ahead.
- Fauna: with a menu that changes daily, no two visits are ever the same. With a hip and trendy atmosphere and innovative flavors, Fauna was even named Mexico's Restaurant of the Year in 2020.
- Deckman's en El Mogar: foodies travel from far and wide to experience Michelin-star chef Drew Deckman's alfresco passion project.
- Finca Altozano (pictured below): a perennial crowd favorite thanks to its locally-sourced ingredients, stunning backdrop, and sprawling patio-style seating and lounges. Despite its celebrity chef status, the vibe is casual and relaxed.
Surrounding Areas To Explore
Travelers with more time on their hands than just a weekend getaway can easily incorporate some sand and sun into their itineraries. Several popular Mexican beach towns are just a short drive away (less than an hour) and make for a great stop on the journey to or from wine country.
- Rosarito: just slightly to the south of Tijuana (about 20 minutes), the main beach of Rosarito was once reserved for Hollywood film sets. It's a long, spacious beach with tons of vendors, and you can even go horseback riding. The town itself is full of shopping, art galleries, and bars (including a party-til-the-sun-comes-up nightlife scene).
- Ensenada: this adorable coastal inlet is only about a half-hour drive from Valle de Guadalupe. The community is much more focused on eco-tourism and the natural environment rather than wild parties. Surrounded by dramatic landscapes of both beaches and mountains, there are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. It's a more low-key and family-friendly destination than Rosarito. Be sure to try the fresh seafood (paired with local wine)!
When To Go And Tips To Know
While the Mediterranean climate is not subject to weather extremes, spring and fall are generally regarded as the most desirable times of year to visit Valle de Guadalupe. Summer temps can be pretty hot, but the region is lively.
Don't forget that even with its proximity to the US, it is still Mexico, and the usual considerations should be applied. Wineries generally have some bilingual staff, but it's always polite to utilize a few basics in Spanish. Valle de Guadalupe is regarded as very safe, but outside of town (and especially through Tijuana), it is better not to drive at night. Lastly, remember that pay is very low in Mexico. Even in fancy, high-priced establishments, the staff is getting paid a meager local wage, so tips are always appreciated.
Mexico has always been famous for its mezcal, tequila, and Cerveza, but Valle de Guadalupe is quickly establishing a spot for wine on the list too. There is no better time than now to check out this up-and-coming travel destination!