TPG's guide to Mexico's answer to Napa Valley: Valle de Guadalupe
If Valle de Guadalupe is the next big thing in wine, plenty are hearing the call. This up-and-coming wine region in Baja California, Mexico, is catching global attention for its wineries, its culinary explorations, its eye-popping lodging and much more. Known throughout Mexico for making delicious wines, Valle de Guadalupe and its 100-plus wineries are now garnering rave reviews from top wine enthusiasts and chefs from around the world.
If you have not yet heard of Valle de Guadalupe, it’s understandable. The wines themselves are crafted mostly in small boutique wineries by hands-on winemakers, though there a couple of larger producers here as well. Wineries bottle what they grow and do not import grapes from elsewhere as many other wine regions do. With these tasty wines in high demand throughout Mexico, it’s hard to find a bottle of wine from this region outside the country. Thus, you might not have seen or tasted one yet.
This is why so many wine lovers are traveling to Valle de Guadalupe to taste the wines at their origin. And it’s a quick trip across the border from San Diego.
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Valle de Guadalupe is an easy visit
Situated in a valley among rocky and arid mountain terrain, the Valle (as locals call it) is just 90 minutes south of the U.S. border crossing in San Diego. It’s an easy drive on safe and well-maintained roads, and many Americans arrive in private cars to spend a few days exploring. Only measuring about 20 square miles in total, Valle de Guadalupe’s wineries are concentrated in a relatively small area. This makes it convenient to hop from winery to winery without long treks or winding roads.
Another convenient way to visit the Valle is by taking one of the many daytrip tours organized by providers specializing in local wine excursions. These guides meet visitors at the Tijuana border in vehicles designed to accommodate tours. Depending on the party size, tours can embark in new luxury cars, well-equipped vans or even small buses. A couple of traveler-approved tour companies to consider include Baja Winery Tours, which is ideal for a larger group experience, and Baja Wine + Food, a more bespoke option founded by local entrepreneur Fernando Gaxiola. Taxis and ride-hailing services are also available.
Regardless of how visitors make their way to Valle de Guadalupe, the drive is fascinating in several ways. Embarking in Tijuana, a bustling metropolis that is enjoying a bit of a cultural and economic renaissance, tourgoers drive through the city toward the coast, passing interesting sights as they go. Once they reach the Pacific Ocean, they'll follow the road south past the beaches of Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo and La Fonda until taking a quick turn inland at Ensenada to arrive at Valle de Guadalupe in just 15 minutes.
Visiting wineries in Valle de Guadalupe
The terroir in Valle de Guadalupe is rich and unique, with a climate a little warmer and drier than California wine regions. Combined with the fog and marine layer blowing in from the nearby coast, the conditions are ideal for vineyards. Producing wines since 16th-century Spaniards brought the first vines here, the Valle really started taking itself seriously in the 1980s.
The area produces a broad range of wine grapes and is best known for tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc.
It’s (unfortunately) not possible to visit all of the area's 100+ wineries in one day. Instead, you'll want to pick a few and leave time for lingering at a table beneath old-growth olive trees or enjoying the view of the valley from a tasting room.
Of the many wineries to visit, here are a few highlights:
Bruma Vinicola: Perched at the eastern end of the valley, this visually stunning winery was created completely from recycled and found materials. Bruma Vinicola's focal point is a gigantic dead tree with thick, twisting branches that tie in beautifully with the arid landscape. The crisp architectural lines mixed with natural elements create a modern yet locally inspired design that's just as spectacular as the wine produced on site. Keep in mind that when you visit, a small charge for the wine tour and tasting will apply. Try the reserva cabernet in the recently opened Bruma Wine Garden — and buy a bottle to bring back home to the U.S. — if it's available during your tour.
Adobe Guadalupe: One of the first to find a tourist crowd, Adobe Guadalupe is a small winery and bed-and-breakfast with a tasty flight of wines, plus a beautiful tasting room and gift shop. Featuring charming details like brick archways and a stone fountain, the property offers a tranquil atmosphere that is bound to help you instantly relax. Tastings of varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and syrah are available in the store or cellar for a small fee.
Vena Cava: Most of the buildings in the Valle are created from reused materials, including the spaces at Vena Cava. The wine cave here is created from overturned boat hulls, forming a zigzag rooftop that's architecturally mind-blowing. The tasting area, where you can try everything from sauvignon blanc to cabernet for a small charge, is outdoors and features brightly colored picnic tables shaded by a web of intricately woven old garden hoses.
Related: 11 of the world’s craziest wine travel experiences
Top-notch dining puts the Valle on the map
Perhaps as impressive as the delicious wines, gorgeous wineries and architecturally stunning tasting rooms are the region's restaurants.
Bruma Wine Garden: As previously mentioned, this outdoor addition to the Bruma Vinicola compound is relatively new. It offers an impressive menu of inspired dishes featuring fresh shellfish, interesting vegetable combinations and exotic spices.
Deckman’s: The owners of this restaurant pledge to provide an excellent experience, and they have succeeded with this masterful combination of rustic outdoor dining spaces and delicious food. You'll love watching the outdoor kitchens prepare roasted meats and vegetables over an open fire while savoring elegantly plated dishes full of unique flavors.
Finca Altozano: The signature restaurant of celebrated Baja chef Javier Plascencia, Finca is a darling of the Valle that attracts a large crowd with varied tastes and palates. Completely open-air with a covered dining area, Finca is both rustic and refined, offering cowboy-chic decor (think: wooden beams and corrugated metal accents) and amazingly intricate dishes, including elevated twists on Mexican favorites.
La Cocina de Dona Esthela: This down-home Mexican restaurant is pure authenticity, and the family-style fare here is probably some of the best you'll find at breakfast. Don’t mind the crowds — it’s worth the wait for La Cocina's huevos rancheros, which are accompanied by fresh handmade tortillas.
Related: Everything you need to know about safely traveling with wine
Where to stay
There are a couple of ways this can go, depending on comfort level. Valle de Guadalupe has excellent boutique hotels and B&Bs, many of which have been featured in the news repeatedly. For those who would prefer to stay in the U.S. and visit the Valle on a daytrip, there are myriad options where you can earn or use points.
On the U.S. side of the border, there are several hotels bookable with points. Many are within a short drive of the border, where there are fee-based parking lots available should you decide to leave the car and walk across the border to Tijuana.
Best Western Americana Inn: Located within walking distance of the border, this convenient hotel offers several popular amenities, including complimentary continental breakfast and a spa.
Hampton Inn Chula Vista Eastlake: Another option close to the border, this Hampton Inn outpost offers a seasonal outdoor pool and proximity to various shops, restaurants and parks.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort: Situated on the waterfront with bay views from nearly every room, this hotel offers a taste of affordable luxury in nearby Coronado.
Valle de Guadalupe hotels
While there are no branded hotels in Valle de Guadalupe, travelers have access to small, safe and independently owned B&Bs or casitas with impressive architectural features and charming grounds.
Encuentro Guadalupe: This property's rooms are iconic, featuring stunning pod designs and incredible locations atop the rocky hilltops overlooking the Valle. The only downside? The climb to reach them is not for the faint of heart.
Casa 8: Bruma Vinicola's B&B, which has eight suites and a central dining villa, boasts easy access to the property's gorgeous winery, as well as its highly regarded restaurant.
Adobe Guadalupe: Although many come to this property to enjoy its exceptional wines, its six guest rooms, which draw inspiration from the Middle East, are equally impressive.