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Tuscany in Mexico: the wineries of Valle de Guadalupe

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Tuscany in Mexico: the wineries of Valle de Guadalupe

The vineyards of Valle de Guadalupe. Photo by Vanessa Sanchez.

The vineyards of Valle de Guadalupe. Photo by Vanessa Sanchez.

The vineyards of Valle de Guadalupe. Photo by Vanessa Sanchez.

The vineyards of Valle de Guadalupe. Photo by Vanessa Sanchez.

Vanessa Sanchez, Staff Writer

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Eighty-three miles south of San Diego brings you to what is hailed as the Tuscany of Mexico: Valle de Guadalupe in Ensenada. 

Founded in 1834, Valle de Guadalupe has turned into a wine and culinary haven that rivals many European cities. With an empty stomach, craving for wine, and a few pesos you can experience rolling hills of vineyards and unmatched cuisine.

Getting to the Valle is easy and just requires a passport, a car and some cash. After crossing the border at San Ysidro border, stay in the right lane to merge onto the 1D highway in Mexico. This toll road provides direct access to the Valle de Guadalupe with no stoplights and an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean. It’s highly recommended you do this during the day since streetlights are nearly non-existent in Mexico and a drive off a cliff is not a way to start you vineyard excursion.

Once you pull into the main drag of Valle de Guadalupe, you are transported to a magical land of dirt roads, small restaurants, rolling hills of vineyard and most importantly, wine. The wine in Valle de Guadalupe is unparalleled. The diversity of soil and climate births a wide array of wines impossible to list and it would be impossible not find one to love. 

Vineyards range from the well-known LA Cetto to the delicious and family-operated Trevista winery. It’s highly suggested you hire a driver or draw straws within your group to designate a driver to transport you from one vineyard to the next because the $3 wine tastings will have you happily buzzing as you sample the various offerings at each stop.

Laja Restaurant in Ensenada. Photo by Vanessa Sanchez.

Laja Restaurant in Ensenada. Photo by Vanessa Sanchez.

After tasting Trevista’s tempranillo wine and LA Cetto’s award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, food choices await: For a casual, farm-to-table experience, Finca Altozano is highly recommended by any foodie. Set in an outdoor space with views of the vineyard, Finca Altozano prides itself on fresh, innovative fare that won’t break the bank. Enjoy original sangria while you explore the property and wait for your food.

Alternatively, restaurants like Laja offer fine dining for much less than stateside restaurants. Reservations are required and you enjoy an eight-course meal with wine pairings in an intimate setting of fewer than 10 other tables in the restaurant. The restaurant’s passion for food is evident, whether by the chef running to the garden for that mint leaf to top your ice cream or the servers who eagerly detail the love and labor that goes into every dish served.

Plan to spend at least a weekend in the Valle de Guadalupe exploring. For this, you will need a place to rest your head between wine fillings. You could always AirBnB it, but you will miss out on waking up with vineyards in your backyard. If you are willing (and able) to splurge, then Encuentro is the place to go. Unique eco-villas perch above the vineyard and you are met with luxury and privacy from the moment you set foot on the property.

An alternative is Casa Mayoral, which offers an equally amazing experience on a smaller budget. Modern and rustic styled cabins are set back in a vineyard with beautiful vistas, homemade fare and silence we only daydream of here in the bustle of San Diego.

Regrettably, a weekend in Ensenada’s Valle de Guadalupe will end too quickly and soon you will be crossing back over the U.S. border. Be prepared to come back well-rested and well-fed and already planning your second trip. There’s no need to fly across oceans to visit the magic of Italian Tuscany, because it’s right in our backyard.

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Tuscany in Mexico: the wineries of Valle de Guadalupe