600 miles south of Napa Valley and across the Mexican border is a different type of wine country: Valle de Guadalupe. Surrounded by panoramic mountains on all sides and characterized by its affordability and proximity to the border, it’s a mystery why Valle de Guadalupe hasn’t become more popular for wine tasting among Americans, particularly Southern California residents.
At 1,000 feet in elevation, Valle de Guadalupe’s climate is ideal for growing red wine grapes, yielding nearly 70% of Mexico’s overall wine production. And while many are deterred by the unkempt dirt roads leading to many of the wineries, many tourists have begun opting for tour groups that include transportation to avoid the pitfalls of potholes.
Valle de Guadalupe has risen to prominence among wine lovers over the past few years, earning coverage in leading publications such as The New York Times and Forbes. But its rise to fame still has a ways to go, with many nearby Southern California residents still preferring Temecula for its convenient location and equally beautiful–yet pricier–vineyards.
After spending a sunny Sunday traversing “La Ruta del Vino”–the nickname given to Valle de Guadalupe’s main wine tasting road, skirted by picturesque vineyards and restaurants–we can officially say that we were stunned by our experience. The beauty of the region and quality of the wine (we are by no means wine experts) left us only wanting more time in the region.
Here are the wineries that made our list, and should be on yours too:
This well-known hotel and tasting room is the perfect way to begin any journey into Valle de Guadalupe. It’s beautiful location and scenic views of the valley and surrounding mountains are unrivaled.
No need to stay at this hotel to enjoy the amazing wines they have to offer: visitors can choose from a beautiful restaurant or an oak embellished wine cellar. We briefly explored the wine tasting room, a great option for those looking for more information and details about the wines.
We opted to do our wine tasting in the restaurant, overlooking the property and beautiful terrain. The restaurant has a full menu, making this vineyard a great option for the hungry wine-taster. We visited in the morning, and they had an assortment of beautiful looking pastries.
While there is seating available inside, the outdoor patio is really the place to be. The vineyard is set far off the road, creating a quiet and peaceful atmosphere with unforgettable views.
Instead of committing to a single glass of wine, we opted to sample two red wines and a fruity rosé. The rosé (Gaby Rosé 2017) was one of our favorites of the day, described as velvety with a fruity aftertaste. We could clearly taste the red fruits like strawberries and raspberries that it was made with.
Prices: Approximately $8 USD for a three pour sample
Hours: Monday – Thursday 10-5; Friday – Sunday 10-7
Lechuza Vineyard is an excellent option for the more refined wine taste. This was the only winery that we visited that recommends making a reservation ahead of time, since they do fill up quickly. Lechuza’s outdoor patio is a zen oasis with palm trees and beautiful sculptures, overlooking row after row of grape vines.
Inside, you’ll find a beautiful wooden-accented lounge, complete with a small gift shop for retail purchases. A small family-owned business, the staff are very attentive, friendly and proud of the wines and vineyard that they have cultivated.
We ordered a glass of Chardonnay to share, which was one of our favorite white wines of the day. It was fruity without being sweet, and had an unique flavor that you don’t get in white wines that you buy in the U.S.
One of the best accommodations at Lechuza Vineyard was the taco truck located on site. It made grabbing a quick bite to eat very easy, and the chicken, carnitas and lamb trio of tacos that we ordered were delicious with fresh ingredients, though on the pricy side.
Prices: $20 for a tasting; $15 for 3 tacos.
Hours: Thursday – Monday 11-4; Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Reservations: Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cieli Winery was our favorite winery that we visited. Situated very far back off the road, this small wine oasis gives the appearance that it’s in the middle of nowhere. Rolling mountains surround Cieli on all sides, with beautiful orange and yellow wildflowers and horses grazing in the nearby pastures.
Cieli was one of the few wineries that we visited that also has an ample selection of beer. There are six premium craft beers are regularly on tap: Hot Blonde (American Blonde Ale), Rosarito Red (Irish Red Ale), Saison Cieli, Hoppy Amber IPA (American IPA), Belle’s 8 Teats IPA (American IPA) and Carlito’s Squirrel Chaser Oatmeal Stout.
Enjoying our wine tasting and complimentary bread with olive oil and vinegar out on the patio, we couldn’t help but appreciate the splendor of Valle de Guadalupe. It didn’t hurt that we were able to enjoy the Cieli patio to ourselves, with the only other people at the winery leaving soon after we arrived.
We get the feeling that Cieli Winery is one of Valle de Guadalupe’s best up-and-coming wineries. Producing an excellent selection of both wine and beer and home to some of the best views of the valley, it won’t be long before people are flocking to this hidden gem. Stop by when they have live music for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Prices: Approximately $15 USD for four tastings.
Vinas de Garza
Rounding out our day of wine tasting in Valle de Guadalupe was Vinas de Garza, a popular spot among tourists for its beautiful patio and views. There were quite a few tour buses when we visited, so this is likely a popular destination among tour groups in Valle de Guadalupe.
Upon arriving at Vinas de Garza, you select the wine or tasting that you want with the hostess and pay up front, before taking your ticket and picking a table. Then the bartenders will check wines off your ticket as you work your way through your tasting. We liked this process, since it helped us remember which wine we were currently tasting.
Prices: Approximately $10 USD for a three pour sample
Hours: Friday – Sunday, 11-4:30; Closed Monday – Thursday.
Our experience wine tasting in Valle de Guadalupe was incredible. In addition to being very affordable and close to the California border, it was also one of the most picturesque places we’ve ever been to in Mexico.
Here are a few tips that we have if you are planning a trip down to Valle de Guadalupe:
Bring cash. While many wineries accept credit cards, it can be easier to pay with cash, especially since most wineries accept both Mexican pesos and USD for currency.
Drive slowly. As you make your way down the dirt roads to the wineries, take your time and drive slow and you won’t have any problems. You definitely won’t need four-wheel drive, but we don’t recommend taking your porsche down either.
Consider a tour. While we enjoyed our time without a tour, there are so many affordable tour groups to consider. They make transportation easy, and plan the entire itinerary for you.
Bring a jacket. Since Valle de Guadalupe is surrounded by mountains and at approximately 1,000 feet in elevation, it can get very windy and chilly. Bring a coat to keep you warm since you’ll be sitting outside at many of the wineries.
Check out our video from Valle de Guadalupe if you want more details:
Don’t forget to check out our blog posts from Baja California! They’ll help finalize your perfect Baja California itinerary to where it needs to be.