Discover Valle De Guadalupe’s Ruta Del Vino

Discover Valle De Guadalupe’s Ruta Del Vino
Courtesy: Noreen Kompanik | News Source:

The signs on the picturesque Ruta Del Vino are not always clear, but that’s part of the rustic charm of Valle de Guadalupe. This premier, somewhat off-the-beaten-path, wine country in sunny Baja, California produces 90 percent of all wines coming from Mexico. And it’s one incredibly fun and fascinating destination to visit.

Only a few hours from San Diego, just across the Mexican border, the “Valle” as the locals call it is one of the fastest growing wine regions of North America. Jesuit priests planted the first grapevines here in the 18th century and its first winery, Bodegas de Santo Tomas, was established in the late 1800s.

Today, there are 110 wineries in the Valle, 57 registered for international sales.

Mexican artisan and boutique wineries are scattered throughout this picturesque valley surrounded by boulder-stacked mountains. Add in a myriad of new creative chef-driven farm-to-table restaurants and accommodations ranging from quaint bed and breakfasts to eco-lofts built into the sloping hillsides, it’s no surprise that more and more visitors are discovering the allure of this spectacular wine region.

Over the years, wine production and quality have made quantum leaps and many of the Valle’s wines have earned international acclaim.

Where to Wine and Stay

The Valle’s Museo De La Vid Y El Vino (Museum of Vine and Wine) is a great place to begin the exploration of wine country. Exhibits highlight the valley’s fascinating winemaking history along with artifacts and vintage winemaking equipment. Views of the surrounding vineyards are breathtaking.

L.A. Cetto is Mexico’s largest wine producer, cultivating 2,500 acres of vineyards. Its founder, Don Angelo Cetto, immigrated to Mexico from Trento, Italy in 1924. Four years later, he planted his first grapevines. Today, the third-generation Cetto family still operates the winery with gardens, a picnic area and wine tasting room on site.

Though the winery produces reds and whites, our favorite, hands-down, was their fruit-forward, off-dry refreshing Chenin Blanc. A magnificent wedding pavilion located at the top of a hillside provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valley below.

A visit to El Cielo Winery and Resort (which means heavenly) is unforgettable. Even their wines have starry names like Andromeda, Cassiopeia and Orion. The winery is ringed by mountains and has two sparkling lakes and luxury vacation villas on site for guests choosing an overnight stay.

Patrons can taste their wines on a large stoned outdoor wraparound patio, in the main tasting room or in a downstairs wine-cellar. A separate outdoor area with a master fireplace and fire pits with wooden Adirondack-type chairs is a perfect place to share a bottle of wine. Two colorful and boisterous peacocks serve as the winery’s “unofficial” greeters.

No matter how many times we visit Valle De Guadalupe, the resplendent Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards & Inn draws us back like a moth to a flame. Adobe’s vines not only produce incredible award-winning wines, but, when they’re named after the archangels, you know they’ve been blessed with some extra special love. Having two of the valley’s top-notch agronomists and winemakers doesn’t hurt either.

Just passing through the gates of the winery, visitors know they’re in for a treat. A stay at one of its six well-appointed angelic-named hacienda guest rooms includes breakfast for two in its rustic welcoming kitchen and wine tasting in its splendid towered tasting room.

Where to Wine and Dine

Each time we venture down to the Valle, we are amazed by yet another incredible restaurant popping up on the Baja, California foodie scene. And so, it was again with one of the newest kids on the block, Frida Asador Campestre Restaurant.

Pairing Baja wine with Baja food is one of our top reasons to visit Valle De Guadalupe. Located at Casa Frida Winery, so-named for famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the winery and restaurant set the mark for an eclectic winetasting and gastronomic experience.

Artistry here is colorfully imaginative with its lighted wine-bottle wall, 13 works of art including paintings of Kahlo throughout the property, magnificent sculptures, 1920s-inspired furnishings and a definite electric vibrancy. There’s even a reproduction of Frida Kahlo’s original Mexico City “Blue House” constructed on site.

El Cielo wine glass with vineyards in the background

PHOTO: El Cielo wine glass with vineyards in the background. (Photo by Michael Kompanik)

You won’t find another wine tasting room in the Valle like Frida’s. The room was created on the foundation of the Guadalupe Valley’s first chapel. Parts of the adobe original structure, along with its stained-glass windows, are incorporated into the tasting room.

We loved the opportunity to pair their wines with innovative samplers created with locally grown and raised products bursting with the unique flavors of Baja in Frida’s outdoor platformed restaurant.

A selection of delightful whites and reds accompanied delectable sampler dishes as a Green Ceviche, a tasteful spicy cold smoked fish with fresh vegetables and avocado. The Sautéed Vegetable Tostadas was a definite winner with crisp seasonal vegetables and a savory beet sauce. But it was the smoky tender Suckling Pig Tacos, cooked on an outdoor cooktop and served on a corn tortilla topped with pickled onions, cilantro, and radish, that was the real showstopper.

Other fascinating menu items include Grilled Bone Marrow, Roasted Lamb, Tiradito (fresh catch of the day) and smoked clams and oysters from the nearby waters of coastal Ensenada.

Wine author Thom Elkjer said that “Wine is a passport to the world.” More and more of Valle De Guadalupe’s vineyards are producing world-class wines. And its creative chefs and talented architects are also playing key roles in making the Valle one spectacular must-visit Mexican destination. It’s a secret well-worth discovering.