Wine barrels aging in a dark cellar.

Photo © Roman Barelko.

The Valle de Guadalupe is an internationally recognized winemaking region that has been gaining attention from Southern California residents and the U.S. travel press in recent years. Baja California wines are shipped all over Mexico and Western Europe, but because of U.S. and Canadian trade policies, they weren’t exported north of the border until recent years. They’re still difficult to find in Canada and the United States.

The highest concentration of wineries—more than two dozen at last count—are located in the 23-kilometer-long Valle de Guadalupe, located off Mexico 3, northeast of Ensenada. The introduction of stainless steel tanks and temperature-controlled barrels at many of these vineyards have helped put Baja wines on the map. But you can still enjoy personal service and, often, time with the winemakers themselves as you make your way through the valley. Spring and summer are the most popular time to visit, though Mexican holiday weekends also draw a crowd.

You might start your tour at the west end of Guadalupe Valley in the village of San Antonio de las Minas. At Vinisterra (Km. 94.5, 646/178-3350), Abelardo and Patricia Macouzet Rodriguez offer a cabernet sauvignon-merlot blend, tempranillo, and other award-winning wines.

Inquire about the award-winning merlot at family-owned Viña de Liceaga (Km. 93.5, 646/155-3091). Choose from several tasting options for US$3–5. Reservations are recommended.

Nearby, contemporary Casa de Piedra (Km. 93.5, 646/155-3097) offers tastings in a farmhouse setting. Reservations are required. Once a year it offers a four-weekend winemaking seminar.

La Casa Vieja (Km. 93.5, 646/155-3153, opens at 9 A.M. daily and closes at sunset, or whenever the crowd disperses. In addition to offering tastings, this winery has a deli, arts and crafts store, and information center on-site.

Chateau Camou (646/177-2221 or 646/177-3303) specializes in expensive Bordeaux-style reds. It offers three tasting/tour options: Try four wines and a tour for US$5, six tastings and a tour for US$10, or a tour with the winemaker and a complete tasting, including a barrel sample, for US$40.

Next up, Mogor Badán (Km. 86.5, 646/177-1484, is a combination organic produce farm, vineyard, and winery with tours, tastings, and shopping. Reservations are required.

Baja’s most acclaimed winery, Monte Xanic (646/174-7055), produces 50,000 cases of wine per year, and many of its labels have won awards in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The winery charges US$4 for tasting whites and an additional US$4 for reds. Reservations are required.

Housed in an adobe brick building, Barón Balch’é (El Porvenir, 646/183-9501) is another boutique winery using the latest technology to make wine—10,000 cases a year.

The largest winery in the region—and in all of Latin America—Italian-owned L. A. Cetto (Km. 73.5, 646/155-2179) has gardens and a picnic area as well as an inviting tasting room. You can tour the winery without reservations, and there are no tasting or tour fees.

Past L. A. Cetto, La Casa de Doña Lupe (Rancho La Gotita, Francisco Zarco, 646/155-2323) tempts visitors with home-baked goods as well as farm-fresh cheese, honey, and produce and organically grown wines.

In San Antonio de las Minas, Hacienda La Lomita (646/156-8459) opened in 2009 with 8 hectares of merlot, tempranillo, Shiraz, and chardonnay vines.

Italian-run Villa Montefiori is another one of the newer wineries, located in El Porvenir.

Also in El Porvenir, a former olive oil factory has been converted into the Estación de Oficios El Porvenir, known locally as La Escuelita (Km. 3.5, Carr. Tecate-Ensenada, 646/175-0000). This wine school runs a popular four-week class each summer for aspiring winemakers.

Baja Wine Country Tours

Local resident Steve Dryden (U.S. tel. 619/300-4976) offers wine-tasting tours by private van or motor coach. Day-long bus tours depart from San Diego and include tastings at three wineries and lunch at Mustafa’s Moroccan Restaurant.

Steve is a former Napa Valley winery manager with extensive knowledge of the Mexican wine industry as well as the Kumiai people, Russian (Molokan) history, and the culture and history of Baja California. To follow the action in Baja’s wine country, read his Baja Times column online.

Fiesta de la Vendimía Bajacaliforniana

Each August, the Valle de Guadalupe wineries celebrate a 10-day winemaking festival with tastings, food/wine pairings, vineyard tours, and the requisite music and dancing, in the valley and in downtown Ensenada. For information on upcoming festivals, call 646/174-0170 or Bodegas de Santo Tomás in Ensenada (646/178-3333).