Valle de Guadalupe: the Wine Refuge You Didn't Know You Needed

Views from Las Nubes Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Views from Las Nubes Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

In the land of tequila and cervezas, wine is making a surprising name for itself.

Heading south along Highway 1, the Pacific ocean sparkles brilliant blue in the morning light.

With the windows down in our 4-Runner, the warm October wind was encouraged to blow through the SUV.  

As America inched out of sight in our rearview mirror, I called Bruma Winery in hopes of a last-minute tasting reservation. They happily oblige.

Every time I cross the border from San Diego to Tijuana, I feel giddy with child-like delight and wonder. This trip was of particular excitement for me, a trip several years in the making.

Bruma Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Bruma Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Bruma Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Bruma Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Just 80 miles (2-hours) south of San Diego, the two-lane “highway” quickly gives way to rugged terrain, best traversed by 4-wheelers.

The stern beauty of bumpy backcountry roads, mostly unmarked, tell tales of the wild west of wine country.

Unpaved roads, dirt parking areas, and missing railings contribute to the intentional absence of polish.

The renowned winemaker, Hugo d’Acosta, a Bordeaux-trained oenologist from Mexico City slyly explains: “Good roads, bad tourists. Bad roads, good tourists.”

I chuckle at this notion; this is why I visit; you have to work to get here. The unforgiving roads, few English speakers, no Wi-Fi, etc. adds to the experience and creates a barrier for most travelers so it’s not overrun with American tourists looking for an “all-inclusive resort” in places like Cancun, Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta.

While Valle de Guadalupe is often compared to Napa of 50 years ago, winemaker Fernando Perez Castro, who owns La Lomita and my favorite winery to date, La Carrodilla, with its’ vegetable garden and lush rooftop patio which flaunt showstopping views of the valley, states emphatically, “If you come here directly from Napa, you’ll feel like you’re on a safari.”

La Carrodilla Winery in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

The wine tradition in Valle de Guadalupe began in the 18th century, brought by the Jesuits. In 1859, after the Mexican Revolution, Spanish Catholic’s were no longer allowed to own property in Mexico, fled and abandoned almost all of the wineries.

The success of the region took off with thanks to a few pioneers who dreamt of producing quality wine, the new road from Ensenada to Tecate constructed beginning in 2008, and La Ruta de Vino - the wine route.

In its’ brief but unequivocal history, Valle de Guadalupe has perfected the trifecta of a great getaway - impeccable style, great food, and connecting with nature.

Perfect for wine curious travelers, you come for the wine but you’ll stay for the delicious food, magical views of the rolling mountains, and the elegant design that greets you at every single winery.

Encuentro Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Rooftop tasting room at La Carrodilla Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Finca Altozano restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Valle de Guadalupe is the definition of hand-made, quality, and craftsmanship; small batch wines are necessary to balance the salt from the air, accommodations are primarily BnBs with only a handful of rooms, and food is made to order, using seasonal and locally grown ingredients.

Seemly these design and production tactics are an effort to keep up with Western trend, but the region has been operating this way long before this style became popular.

People here live in harmony with the ecosystem.

Valle de Guadalupe Mexico views from Encuentro winery

A native Californian, I have been… spoiled with my wine choices; Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Temecula, and many more are all stone's throw away effortlessly located in the States.

Unknown in the States because of high export tariffs, small batch production, and an increase in Mexicans drinking wine, wines from Valle de Guadalupe don’t make their way north, as most wine produced here is drank here or shipped to the capital to be sold in restaurants.

You’ll have to travel to Valle de Guadalupe to taste for yourself.

I’ve also wine tasted in Bordeaux, France and Hvar, Croatia; both of which have a thousand year (or more!) wine tradition and history. But the notion of this Mexican wine region, so close to San Diego which I’ve long considered home, intrigued me.

After visiting, it’s easy to claim that the experience rivals that of it’s California or Europe counterparts.

Valle de Guadalupe fuses together many styles in their food & design, creating an excitable blend of new culture.

Vineyards and old world charm would have you believing you’ve crossed the Atlantic.  

Giving you the feeling of traveling farther, without the physical distance, making Valle de Guadalupe an excellent travel destination for PTO-strapped people who are in desperate need of a mental break.

Next: Discover the 2,000 Year Old Wine Making Tradition in Croatia

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