Valle de Guadalupe, the Tuscany of Mexico
Located in Northern Baja California, a pleasant 90-minute drive South of San Diego, you’ll find the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s principal wine region. One of five grape-growing coastal highland valleys surrounding the Pacific port town of Ensenada, the Valle de Guadalupe is home to over 110 wineries producing world-class handcrafted wines.
Coined “the Tuscany of Mexico,” the Guadalupe Valley is known for its boutique artisan wineries, farm-to-table campestre-style restaurants, and romantic bed-and-breakfast accommodations. But don’t be fooled by comparisons to Napa Valley—the Valle’s artisan movement features a rustic charm forged from the rugged surrounding desert landscape for which Baja California is best known. As there are only three paved roads, you’ll spend most of your time exploring the Valley via a patchwork quilt of bumpy dirt roads. After all, the Valle is an agricultural zone, so you shouldn’t be surprised when a herd of grazing goats strays across the road, or you are slowed to a snail’s pace by a farm tractor making its way between vineyards.
While the Valle de Guadalupe’s now famous boutique wine movement sprouted up a mere 30 years ago, Mexico and the Valle are not newcomers to the North American wine scene. Spanish Missionaries planted the first grapes for wine production in Northern Baja California’s Santo Tomás Valley in 1791. And it was a group of immigrant Russian pacifists fleeing the Russian Revolution who planted the first wine producing vineyards in the Guadalupe Valley by the early 1900s.
Just a handful of large commercial wineries dominated Mexican wine production into the 1980s, as a new wine movement—characterized by lower volume high-quality handcrafted production—started to take hold. Fueled mostly by the foodie scene in Mexico City, demand for high-quality boutique Mexican wines has given birth to a flurry of recent investment in the Valle de Guadalupe. Today, the Valle de Guadalupe can hardly keep pace with Mexican buyers, satisfying only an estimated 65% of demand for its wines within Mexico alone. If you haven’t heard much about Mexican wines North of the border, that’s likely why. While many familiar red and white wine varietals are grown in the Region, Italian Nebbiolo and Spanish Tempranillo are the emergent stars of the modern Mexican wine movement.
Award-winning wine production in Baja California has given rise to a farm-to-table slow food movement featuring locally sourced ingredients, prepared with modern flair by celebrity chefs, and most often served in open-air campestre-style restaurants overlooking the vineyards. These rustic yet chic outdoor eateries cook over hardwood-fueled hearths and expertly pair their gourmet fare with local wines and craft beers. The nearby Port of Ensenada provides chefs with its daily catch; organic ranches and dairy farms dot the coastal mountains and deliver grass-fed meats and artisan cheeses; while over 12,000 olive trees planted in the Valley provide a steady stream of cold-pressed organic olive oil to the local restaurant trade.
So famous is this emergent foodie movement, that three of Mexico’s top restaurants are located in the region. The poster child for Baja-style gastronomy is Chef Javier Plascencia, who’s James Beard nominated Bracero Cocina de Raiz restaurant, in San Diego's Little Italy, has put the Baja culinary movement solidly on foodie maps North of the border. And celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, of PBS fame, has imitated Baja’s campestre-style wood-fired seafood menu at his latest dining venture, Leña Brava, located in Chicago's chic West Loop neighborhood.
Baja Test Kitchen curates this uniquely Mexican culinary movement, and is one of only a few American companies offering same-day and multi-day culinary tours to the Region. Our culinary wine tours to the Guadalupe Valley, which originate in San Diego or from the Port of Ensenada for cruise ship passengers, typically visit two or three boutique wineries in a day, and include a multi-course gourmet lunch, but can be adapted to suit your interests and tastes. We look forward to having you on tour with us soon! Buen Provecho!