Back in late December, our friend Brian, Matt and I, piled into Brian’s car before sunrise and drove south to Valle de Guadalupe in Baja, Mexico. Matt and I had been wanting to visit this area of Baja again after a brief stop on a road trip four years earlier. We loved the small town feel and the quirky wineries that dotted the desert landscape.
We left Carson City early with the intention of crossing the border in Tecate before dark since the road is very curvy. We always forget about driving in southern California – the traffic is obnoxious. We were very naive to think we would arrive at our destination in 10 hours and 15 minutes as Google Maps states.
It was dark by the time we arrived in Mexico and drove 45 minutes to Valle de Guadalupe (also known as Francisco Zarco), about 14 miles north of Ensenada. We continued on to the town of El Porvenir and met the very sweet hosts of Casa Quinque, our Airbnb, named after the oil lamps that light up the house after dark.
After we unloaded the car, we drove out to the main street and stopped by the busiest taqueria for dinner. And oh, I wish I could remember the name of the place, because the tacos al pastor were perfectly spicy. Next, we stopped at Mercado Liz, the local grocery, for supplies and headed back to Casa Quinque to map out our next few days of wine tasting.
I love wine, but I am no expert. Not even close. Even the vocabulary I use to describe wine is very limited: excellent, not bad, and gross. I prefer the smaller wineries to the big, sprawling ones. The quiet to the crowded. And that’s pretty much how I base my choices on what to try.
When we left the house to begin our tastings, I armed myself with a notepad and a pen to take notes about every place we stopped, like a good blogger should. Instead, I just took pictures. I could tell you about the wine, but all I can say is I liked just about everything I tried.
Lomita had a bustling tasting room, a hip vibe that contrasts with the more traditional look of the exterior. We knew we were on to good wine when we arrived, and ended up buying a few bottles of chardonnay and rose. Later, we were told that California residents can only bring back one liter of wine from Mexico, everyone else can cross the border with 5 cases. (Good thing Matt and I are Nevadans!)
We stopped at Frida because the tasting room is an eye-catching, vibrant blue building that used to be a chapel. Inside, the winery is bursting with colorful artwork. They also offer food and wine pairing on their gorgeous property.
Rondo del Valle has seriously cool ambiance, so many seating areas and hang out spaces. We stocked up on wine here.
While I prefer wine, the boys love craft beer, lucky for them there are a few breweries in the area. Cieli is a winery and brewery with a serious view.
Villa Montefiori is my kind of place. It’s small, friendly, quiet, and surrounded by beautiful scenery. The wine is also really good.
Matt and I were excited to revisit this winery. We stopped at Tres Mujeres four years prior and loved the wine. It did not disappoint.
Not only does Media Perra brew excellent beer, it’s the ultimate hang out spot. Everything about this place is cool, no detail has been overlooked, even down to the bathroom sink.
I’ll be honest. We wanted to stop at one or two more tasting rooms, but it was New Years Eve and many were closing early for private parties. That’s how we ended up at Baron Balche, one of the larger wineries in the area. Luckily we scored a private tour and tasting.
We also stopped at Decantos Vinicola just after sunset. It was packed inside so we each bought a different glass of red and went outside to wander the property before it was completely dark. Both places have great wine, I just don’t like spending time among crowds of people.
So that’s it for wine. As for food, we mostly cooked at the Airbnb. One night we ate at a place in town, Valle 13. I was hangry and we didn’t follow my three rules for day drinking (eat a large breakfast, drink tons of water, have a solid plan for lunch) so I insisted we go out for dinner. We were pleasantly surprised at how delicious (and inexpensive!) the food was here.
On New Years Eve we ended up at Finca Altozano, a restaurant with rave reviews. I wish we had seen this place in the daylight – the ambiance was fabulous with outdoor seating and the open kitchen lining one entire stretch of the patio. I wish I would’ve written down what we ate because the food was outstanding. I had shrimp, I think.
I love Valle de Guadalupe. I love the laid back vibe (and my sad attempts to speak Spanish that result in everyone having a good laugh). If you enjoy wine, beer, or even food, it is so worth a visit.
Apparently, it’s becoming a very popular destination judging from the two hour wait at the border when we were heading home. So check it out soon!