Scorching summer droughts, moist winter mists, dry valley walls, and the ever-present Pacific breezes that lift their way over the Baja California coastal hills into the Valle de Guadalupe have conspired in this northern enclave of Mexico to create a micro-climate not unlike the prolific and archetypal European wine meccas of southern France or Alpine Italy. Since this area south of San Diego was first settled by Dominican monks in the second half of the 19th century, it has been the premier wine growing hot spot of the country as a whole, while subsequent influxes of European growers and local ingenuity has led to an upsurge in both quality and reputation for Baja reds and whites in the last ten years. The region is now fast becoming home to one of the most coveted tasting trails in the world, offering travelers the mystique of uncharted territory, along with the promise of some seriously good wines.
Famed for its rich and fruity creations, the Adobe Guadalupe Winery has been harvesting no less than seven different grape species since their first year of production in 2004. What’s more, with the rise of the Valle de Guadalupe to the forefront of global wine tourism, the owners here have also moved to create luxurious accommodations that put guests right in the heart of growing country – with Jacuzzi baths and deck terraces overlooking the vast array of vineyards.
Home to the iconic nebbiolo grape wines that mirror the heavy flavors of the species’ native northern Italy, the Baron Balche winery has positioned itself as one of the premier producers of fine reds in the whole of the Valle de Guadalupe. With a capacity for just 120,000 bottles a year, the finest wines here will set you back around $200, but each will bear a distinctive character that’s entirely unique to Baron Balche. Regular tasting sessions and wine-related events also make it one of the most popular stops on the Baja wine trail.
The winery here is the product of almost a century of growing expertise that still follows the viticulture philosophies of its founder, the Italian Don Angelo Cetto. Set amidst the beautiful green vineyards at the floor of the Valle de Guadalupe, this sprawling complex now produces almost one million cases of wine every year, primarily fermented from the cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay grape varieties. On-site, visitors enjoy access to a tasting balcony and picnic terrace with magnificent 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding Baja backcountry.
Set in an enclave of natural calm and relaxation in the heart of the Valle de Guadalupe, the Monte Xanic Winery is a wonder to behold from the get go; a place where whitewashed plaster walls rise from the banks of a small lake, while sprawling fields of vineyards run haphazardly over the hills behind. Most of the staff are bilingual and offer immersive sessions in wine tasting, each of which encompasses the history of the Baja producing regions and introductions to the unique terroir that makes the famous local flavours possible.
Just south of Ensenada, visitors on the Valle de Guadalupe tasting trail can spy out this, one of the Baja California’s oldest and best-known wineries. The Bodegas De San Tomas was first founded way back in 1751 by missionary Dominican monks who’d made their way into northern Mexico. After several periods of expansion and consolidation, the San Tomas label is now a recognized staple of the country’s wine line up, and responsible for some of the finest reds the region has to offer. With five separate tours of the cellars and vineyards every day, along with a welcoming tasting room, visitors coming here to sample the produce rarely leave disappointed.