La Ruta del Vino, The Wine Route, is the name given to the collection of wineries and restaurants in the Valle de Guadalupe that are now drawing visitors from all over the world. There are over 120 wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, ranging in size from small micro wineries to large commercial wineries. Many visitors to the Valle will agree that the charm and soul of the region lies in the small and medium boutique wineries where the winemakers are often found around the property, and visitors will get a more unique and personal experience in the tasting room.
The famous Fiestas de la Vendimia (wine harvest festival) takes place over two weeks every August.There are only three paved roads in the Valle de Guadalupe, the rest of the valley is a network of unnamed dirt roads. A day wine tasting in the Valle often requires winding along dirt roads (seemingly lost) before arriving at a stunning boutique winery or campestre restaurant with gourmet food. There are a series of blue signs designating the turn offs from the paved roads for various wineries and restaurants. From here, you’ll need to keep an eye out for any private signs that the business has put up along the road directing you to the property. Some of the individual establishments that are more difficult to find will have maps and more precise directions on their website or Facebook page.
Because many of the best wineries and restaurants are tucked away out of sight from the paved roads, it’s a good idea to have picked out a few wineries ahead of time that you know you’d like to visit. Calling ahead to make a reservation or to at least make sure that the winery will be able to receive you on the day that you desire is a good idea as well. Those who simply drive around the valley in hopes of stumbling across good wineries may find themselves frustrated and disappointed.
The famous Fiestas de la Vendimia (wine harvest festival) takes place over two weeks every August. Coinciding with the beginning of the harvest season, the festival is a series of private parties and dinners held at the wineries and restaurants in the valley. There are two large events that bring together most of the wineries and huge crowds—the Muestra del Vino (wine-tasting), which opens the festival, and the famous Concurso de Paella (paella contest), which closes the festival. Tickets for events and parties are sold at a premium (starting around US$100). The Vendimia is considered one of Ensenada’s most high-society events.
First-time travelers, frequent visitors, and locals all find themselves enjoying the fantastic views and good wine at Las Nubes (tel. 646/156-8037, 11am-5pm daily). Owner and winemaker Victor Segura not only creates easy-to-drink wines, but has established a welcoming environment for all guests. Perched on the northern hillside of the valley, the beautiful stone winery (all of the stones used to build it were mined from the property) offers sweeping views from the large outdoor terrace and the chic indoor tasting room.
Just east of Las Nubes, family-operated Bodegas F. Rubio (tel. 646/156-8046, noon-6pm Thurs., noon-7pm Fri.-Sun.) has a nice indoor facility as well as an outdoor patio for wine-tasting. Try their montepulciano wine, an Italian red grape that isn’t available anywhere else in the valley. They open later in the day and stay open until 7pm on the weekends, so this is one of the few places in the valley to visit past 5pm once most of the other wineries have closed.
The unique architecture is part of the allure for Vena Cava (tel. 646/156-8053, 11am-5pm daily, tastings on the hour). The wine cave is dug out of the hillside and topped off with decommissioned wooden fishing boats from Ensenada. Favorite wines at Vena Cava are the tempranillo, the “Big Blend” red, and the special espumoso brut rosé (one of only two sparkling wines produced in the Valle de Guadalupe).
Looking somewhat like an adobe spaceship, Alximia (Camino Vecinal al Tigre Km. 3, tel. 646/127-1453, 11am-6pm daily) is a winery that comes from a family of scientists. Alximia means the chemist, and the main wines produced here are named after the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) and created by drawing on Alvaro’s background in chemistry. Restaurant La Terrasse San Roman is located on the outdoor patio of the winery.
Family-operated Lechuza (tel. 646/947-6315, open daily by appointment only) offers a tranquil setting for enjoying some of the best wines coming out of the Valle de Guadalupe. Appointments are required for tastings, but you’ll receive personal attention as you learn directly from the family about their wines and become familiar with their process and facility.
Visitors will feel comfortably at home at the intimate winery at Vinos Pijoan (Carretera El Tigre Km. 13.5, tel. 646/127-1251, 10am-4pm Mon.-Fri., 11am-5pm Sat.-Sun.). The inviting outdoor patio creates a serene setting for enjoying wine, looking out onto the vineyards. Pau Pijoan, the owner/winemaker, is often around, and Sharon and Arturo, who work in the tasting room, are beloved by all patrons. If they aren’t too busy, ask them for a behind-the-scenes tour of their unique wine cave.
Serving up wine and beautiful vineyard views from a covered deck, Viñas de Garza (Mexico 3 Km. 87, tel. 646/175-8883, 11am-4:30pm Fri.-Sun.) offers an intimate and picturesque wine-tasting experience.
Vinícola 3 Mujeres (Mexico 3 Km. 87, tel. 646/171-5674, 10am-5pm daily) was started in 2005 by three friends who met studying winemaking at La Escuelita. Ivette Vaillard, Eva Cotero Altamirano, and Laura McGregor Garcia were the first women winemakers in the region, and today they serve their wines in a rustic and intimate cave.
The rooftop garden at Finca La Carrodilla (tel. 646/156-8052, 11am-4pm Wed.-Sun.) looks out onto the gardens and vineyards on the property. It’s the perfect setting for enjoying their organic biodynamic wines. Their sister winery, Hacienda La Lomita (tel. 646/156-8466, 11am-4pm Wed.-Thurs., 11am-6pm Fri.-Sun.), also has an outdoor restaurant, Traslomita (tel. 646/156-8469, 1pm-7pm Thurs.-Mon.) on the property.
The family-run Vinícola Torres Alegre y Familia (tel. 646/688-1033, 10am-5pm daily) takes great care in making wines from de-stemming the grapes to ensuring the flavors are perfectly balanced without adding chemicals. The results are superb, creating some of the most well-respected wines coming out of the valley.
Nestled into its own little corner of the valley, Chateau Camou (tel. 646/156-8456, 10am-4pm daily) uses all French grapes and French winemaking techniques. The winery has been in operation for 20 years, and it’s worth it to take a tour of the facilities, which include the large barrel room where classical music is played according to a weekly schedule in order to help with the stabilization process of the wine, getting the molecules of the wine and barrel to vibrate together.
The unique pyramid-like architecture at Clos de Tres Cantos (tel. 558/568-9240, 10am-5pm Wed.-Sun.) continues underground into their wine caves below. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, pay to take the tour (all tour profits go to charity) to see the cave and underground “cathedral.”
With an Italian winemaker and varietals, Villa Montefiori (tel. 646/156-8020, 11am-5pm daily) creates “Mexican wines with an Italian heart.“ The tasting room is set up on the second story and boasts beautiful views of the valley from an outdoor patio. The Italian restaurant Tre Galline is on the same property.
The personal attention and gracious hospitality are what keep visitors coming back to Trevista (tel. 646/156-8027, open weekends by appointment only). Their tempranillo is a favorite of those familiar with Valle de Guadalupe wines. With advance notification, they can accommodate groups with skillfully-prepared food.
If you have a beer lover in your group, head to Bodegas Cieli Winery & Brewery (Mexico 3 Km. 84.7, tel. 646/185-4478, 11am-9pm Thurs.-Sat., 11am-6pm Sun.) where owner Ron McCabe creates both boutique wine and excellent craft beers. Perched up on the hill, the comfortable and relaxed environment offers beautiful views of the valley from the outdoor deck.
Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Baja.