La Villa del Valle is a Tuscan-style B&B in Baja’s wine country. // © 2010 La Villa del Valle
To enjoy a world-class glass of chardonnay or syrah and learn about winemaking at the same time, experiential travelers need not venture far. Located just 70 miles south of San Diego, Calif., in Mexico’s Baja California are the verdant valleys of San Vicente, Santo Tomas and Valle Guadalupe — Mexico’s wine headquarters, producing 90 percent of the country’s supply and garnering some 300 international awards.
It is Valle Guadalupe, in particular, that is giving Mexico its reputation for all things vino. About two-thirds of the size of Napa, Calif., Valle Guadalupe is filled to the brim with vineyards, whitewashed adobe haciendas and colonial-style inns.
Today, there are more than 20 established wineries in Valle Guadalupe, ranging from the large, internationally known vineyards to small, family-owned artisan vintners, all of which offer a unique experience.
Mexico’s oldest and largest wine producer, the family-run L.A. Cetto Winery, has won 132 international wine awards and is on the top of every oenophile’s must-see list in the valley. L.A. Cetto’s beautiful gardens, wine samplings, picnic areas and wine boutique add to its popularity.
Nearby, La Casa de Dona Lupe is a boutique winery specializing in organic wines and inexpensive tastings, but there is also much to be said about its cuisine. The al fresco dining is worth the stop alone (try the pizza or lasagna), and a variety of wines, natural jams, jellies, salsa, cheese and herbs are available to purchase in the winery’s gourmet shop.
Guests can expect gourmet cuisine, wine tastings and a renewed appreciation for culinary culture at La Villa del Valle, a Tuscan-style B&B in the hills of Baja wine country. Established by a friendly English couple, La Villa del Valle is a romantic escape that encompasses 70 acres. In addition to a vineyard visit, guests can explore its fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, rows of fragrant lavender or relax in the pool or Jacuzzi with a glass of local wine.
Venturing through the Baja wine country is an extraordinary experience in itself. Because many of the wineries are located off the beaten path, many only reachable by dirt road, wine lovers enjoy a rewarding sense of discovery as they visit seemingly hidden vineyards. A number of tour operators based out of either San Diego or the Baja areas offer daily bus excursions year-round that showcase the verdant region.
Las Dunas Tours offers a bus tour that travels the wine route to Valle de Guadalupe. Departing from downtown Ensenada, the tour stops at local wineries where visitors learn how red wine and dry white wines are produced.
Another tour operator, Baja Wine and Tours, caters its custom tours to small groups. It offers special services, such as lodging and restaurant suggestions, and insider knowledge about new wine releases, best values, rare producers and unique wines and wineries.
Recognized for its knowledge of Baja wine country, Baja Vino Tours is another respected operator in the Valley; the company’s guide is a winemaker and wine distributor himself. The day-long tour leaves out of San Diego and stops at three of the most popular wineries in the region. Lunch on this tour is also a special treat since Baja Vino Tours collaborates with a gourmet taqueria in Ensenada.
Undeniably, Baja’s wine country promises scenic landscapes, friendly locals, diverse culinary options and a relaxed atmosphere. So, whatever the reason for making the trip south of the border, the many splendors of the valley will deliver a trip that your clients will want to savor.