Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zen Girl's Guide to Valle de Guadalupe - Mexico's Baja Wine Country

I am so excited to share with you one of my favorite places in the world - Valle de Guadalupe or The Guadalupe Valley in northern Baja California, Mexico. I've been traveling to Baja at least once a month for the past 6 years and discovered this beautiful wine region 2 years ago when tourism was still slow and it was relatively untouched. Even during my very first visit, I knew it was special. I felt like I was walking on sacred ground. 

But, of course, nothing this great stays a secret long! It's as if the perfect storm erupted in late 2013: two of the Valle's crown jewel restaurants, Corazon de Tierra and Laja were ranked in Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants; the border region became more safe and stable, allowing Americans and other tourists to once again feel comfortable driving into Mexico; and lastly, a collection of superstar chefs started getting major international exposure for their signature Baja-Med cooking style {Javier Plascenia, Flor Franco, Drew Deckman, to name just a few...}. These 3 things happening over the course of 2012 and 2013 set the stage for the Valle de Guadalupe to finally get the international recognition it deserves. 

The icing on the cake might have been Wine Magazine naming the Valle one of the TOP 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations in the World. OK, get the point! :) This place is super special, sacred, a must-see. Especially if you live in Southern California and are within a few hours driving, there really is no excuse not to take a little road-trip adventure south to indulge in our own local version of Tuscany, with its charming Mexican twist.  

Having stayed in the Valle many time, with budgets ranging from ballin' out! to bare minimum, I can assure you that all options are wonderful. I put together this little guide to show you my recommendations and help take some of the work out of your planning. Here goes....

where to drink 
my favorite vineyards, in order from family-run (the wine-makers themselves will sit and sip wine with you) to super fancy, global award-winning:  Vinos Fuentes; Trevista Vineyards (by appointment only - their 2011 tempranillo is to die for!); Hacienda La LomitaChateau CamouLas Nubes; Baron Balche (do the guided tour!); Vena Cava (at La Villa del Valle)

[these are just my personal faves. find the full list of all 55 wineries here]

where to eat 
Finca Altozano (Javier Plascencia's little gem, feels like a fairy tale!)Troika (baja-med food truck located at La Villa del Valle, perfect for a quick bite after tasting at Vena Cava); Corazon de Tierra (their 6 course, 3 hour dinner was ranked best in Latin America); Deckman's en el Mogor (open-aire dining); La Cocina de Dona Esthela (home-cooked classic Mexican food); Trevista Vineyards ~  for a special occasion, book a private dinner here with Hilda. Will be the best dining experience of your life!

* My vote for hottest new cantina in the Valle: Convivia by Chef Flor Franco, located at Encuentro Guadalupe -- just opened at the end of July, perfect spot to finish off a long day of wine tasting. Their yellowtail ceviche and mezcal cocktails are to die for!

where to sleep  

less $$ ($100 range) -- Vinedos MalagonCasa Encinares

mid-level ($200 range) -- Adobe Guadalupe; Hotel BoutiqueLa Villa del Valle

expensive ($300+ per night) -- Encentro Guadalupe 

* cool and different: Cabanas Cuatro Cuatros aka Mexican Glamping.
*not right in the Valle but is overlooking the ocean (near the San Miguel surf break) and has a restaurant and bar on-site, so you can just relax there all weekend. Or drive 20 mins to the vineyards. ($200 per night)

valle de guadalupe vernacular

campestre - means country, and in this context, means outdoor kitchens, open aire dining classic to this region (some of the best in the campestre game are finca altozano and deckman's)

vendimias - the annual celebration of the harvesting of the grapes. In Baja, this happens every year during the first 2 weeks of August and is marked with huge parties, live concerts in the vines, invite-only dinners, fashion shows, charity events, etc. Basically, the party of the year - not to be missed!

degustaciones - translasted as tastings, you will hear this word a lot during your time in the Valle, if you're lucky :)

here's a collection of some of my favorite photos from travels to the Valle de Guadalupe:

my go-to before I head down:
I always check in with this blog as it has the most up-to-date, real-time list of new restaurants/hotel openings, road closures, insider tips and more.

more reading material:
Bon Appetit - Travel + Food Review August 2014 // Wall Street Journal - Burgeoning baja region // Travel Proper - Valle de Guadalupe feature // The Guardian - Mexico's exciting new wine trail // New York Magazine - Discover stunning wine country...

explore with me:
I'm leading a yoga retreat this August called Baja Yoga Soul Retreat. It will feature 2 nights at the beach, 2 visits to a local orphanage and a full day in Valle de Guadalupe, hosted by Trevista Vineyards, all benefiting Corazon de Vida foundation. Details here.


  1. Thanks for the shout out. I reciprocated on my blog. Your yoga retreat sounds great.

  2. It looks like you had a lot of fun! Valle is gorgeous. Hope you enjoyed the cocktails at Convivia

  3. Snake Oil Cocktails - your drinks at Convivia were so delicious! I loved the green juice mezcal concoction :)

    Chipotle - thanks for your support! Keep spreading the BAJA love!

  4. We are heading down in a couple weeks and are so excited! Pardon my ignorance but is it safe to make the drive from SoCal at night?

    1. Hi Mariette, thanks for reading! From my experience, it's totally safe, but would be tricky for your first time going down. The issue wouldn't be the safety, it would be navigating the roads (most of which aren't marked well) and finding your way around. I would either cruise down during the day, with enough daylight to help you navigate the 90 minute drive once you cross the border OR if you have to leave late, stay at the beach for the night, then head out to Valle first thing in the morning. Hope this helps in your planning! :)

    2. Great! Thank you for the fantastic advice! I appreciate it!


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