It has been called the Napa Valley of Mexico, but Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe—with 50-plus wineries, outstanding farm-to-table restaurants, and tiny markets that specialize in cheese and produce—is less accessible and less precious than California’s famous wine region. No lines (unless you’re without a reservation at Deckman’s restaurant). No traffic jams. What you’ll find instead are six-course meals, stunning views, and a laid-back vibe. Think about a fall trip—but book early.
The valley is known for its well-appointed tasting rooms, many on or near Highway 3, which connects Ensenada and Tecate. Stop at Clos de Tres Cantos (above) to sample the accomplishments of winemakers Maria Benitez Cantarero and Joaquin Moya Cussi, and architect Alejandro D’Acosta, who designed a series of structures with the feel of a modern monastery. Tastings (three wines) run about $9. Continue northeast on Highway 3 to check out Monte Xanic, Tres Mujeres, or Vinas de Garza.
When you stop at Deckman’s (above) on the grounds of El Mogor Winery, plan to stay awhile. A leisurely lunch ($55 per person) on a spring afternoon included scallop ceviche, oysters, a platter with abalone, uni, and beets, and shredded quail on a bed of black bean puree.
Make time for another three-hour meal of beet meringue and goat cheese, seafood risotto, and fennel root ice cream with lemon crumble, this one (above) at Corazon de Tierra. Stop at Cremeria Los Globos to check out the cheeses, spreads, and jars of honey ($5.75 for a cabernet-infused variety).
La Villa del Valle—above, with its large pool, olive groves, sun deck, six rooms, and easy access to Corazon de Tierra—seems designed to encourage relaxation and intimacy ($225 to $245). Sit in the lobby or one of the adjoining public rooms and you might end up staying for hours, ensconced in a leather chair, enjoying some wine. Or book a room at the Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards & Inn ($275), where the rooms are named after archangels, and activities include wine tasting and horseback riding.
Guadalupe Valley is a three- to four-hour drive from Orange County, and insurance is a must. It can be purchased online through the Automobile Club of Southern California or sites such as bajabound.com.
Photo of sunset at La Villa del Valle by Kerry Brown