Baja California is proving to be as beautiful as we expected, but much more remote than we anticipated. We are purposefully steering clear of the big cities – Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada. Hence, we have little access to the internet to post updates and send emails. So you are about to get several stories in a row, which will catch you up to where we are now as of Sept. 12 in San Ignacio. This first post is about our first stop in Baja, Mexico from Sept. 1 – 4 at Valle de Guadalupe, or La Ruta del Vino – the wine route.
The Valle is about an hour’s drive south of the U.S. – Mexico border from either Tijuana or Tecate. We entered via Tecate, opting for an easier and faster border crossing than TJ. With only two cars ahead of us and less than 20 minutes with the border official, we were on our way. It was even easier and faster than we anticipated, and the drive out of San Diego on rural route 94 was gorgeous.
The Valle has earned a reputation as the “Napa of Mexico” among wine aficionados in the United States. This wine haven is slowly being “discovered” by Southern Californians from LA to San Diego, but outside of Southern California, few Americans visit the area. Calling the Valle the “Napa of Mexico,” in my opinion, is actually a disservice to the region. After just three days there, we could see that the Valle is an exceptionally unique place. Here, the desert meets vineyards and olive groves in a stark, mountainous, and dry landscape that reminded us of Namibia in Southern Africa. After just a few days of driving down the bumpy dirt roads, lazily going from vineyard to vineyard, it felt like we were on a “wine safari”, but visiting entirely different kinds of watering holes (no lions spotted, just stray dogs.) 🙂
There are more than 65 wineries in the Valle – which isn’t that big of a place. The region stretches about 100 kilometers between Tecate and Ensenada. Some wineries are large, big brand operators like L. A. Cetto, others are boutique, small batch producers like Montefiori, while others are even smaller, mom and pop shops like Meson del Vino (which also operates the hotel we stayed at) that aren’t found in stores at all.
Each winery has a unique architectural style – from the uber nouveau like Decantos to the classic old mission style of Adobe Guadalupe. Each one is incredibly beautiful, and some of the wines we tasted – in particular those of Montefiori and Adobe Guadalupe – were some of the best wines we have ever had.
Our favorite vineyard by far was Adobe Guadalupe – both for its wines and architecture. The grounds showcase an impressive array of artwork – from a flying herd of iron horses, to a winged water tower “angel” that stood guard over the grape vines in the field.
We only stayed in the Valle three nights, and we wished we could have stayed longer. We came in on the Tuesday before Labor Day weekend, and could only find a hotel room (in our price range) through Thursday night. There are several modern and upscale boutique hotels, if you are willing to pay the price. Everything was vacant for the three days we were in town; it felt like were were the only tourists in the area. Not once did we have to share a tasting room with anyone else.
Our hotel, Meson del Vino, was a great value at $50/night with clean, pretty rooms surrounding a small pool and outdoor wine bar. One morning, we got to watch the Meson winemakers crush nebbiolo and tempranillo grapes. We were allowed to taste the grapes which were super sweet – Maya loved them! We could definitely see ourselves coming back to the Valle in the future.
Next stop: Puerto Santo Tomas!