Franco’s bold flavors match the setting of Convivia, which is at Encuentro Guadalupe, the eco-friendly luxury resort with the most improbable of accommodations. The design of the Encuentro’s 20 minimalist cabins, on stilts on a mountainside among mammoth rock formations, has drawn global attention. In 2012, it was named Best Small Hotel on Travel + Leisure’s Design Awards list.
That same year, T+L named Corazón de Tierra, at the six-room La Villa del Valle, Best Hotel Restaurant.
Owned by British expats Eileen and Phil Gregory, La Villa del Valle is like a refined country estate whose winery, Vena Cava, looks like it was built by your salty, sea-loving loopy uncle. The winery’s unconventional style, made from recycled boats, and placement in the middle of a field of dirt and vines, led NPR to call it “The Hippest Winery in Mexico.”
And under chef Diego Hernandez, Corazón de Tierra is consistently named one of the best restaurants in Latin America. Why limit it to Latin America? My six-course lunch was a masterful progression of flavor, texture and technique, from the delectable charred octopus with burnt eggplant purée to the beet-four-ways dessert.
You could taste how much thought went into that meal. But — contrast again! — this is a kitchen that loves an on-the-fly challenge. When I first sat down, my waiter explained how my meal would go (there is no menu).
“If you’re full after the fourth course, we’ll skip to dessert,” he said. “If you’re still hungry after the fifth course, the chef will go get something from the garden and improvise.”
Really? Who does that?
If you go
- The Valle de Guadalupe is about 90 minutes south of the border, easily accessible by car.
- Choose wisely when buying from the 100-plus wineries: You can only bring one bottle of wine per person back to the U.S.
- Tasting rooms can keep irregular hours and many are by appointment only; make sure to call ahead.
- Information on wineries, restaurants, lodging, events and more can be found on the Discover Baja website.
- Various companies offer private tours; one of the more authentically foodie-centric companies is the LA-based Club Tengo Hambre.
- Drivers can be arranged through companies like Baja Wine Tours; tel. (888) 671-9842 or email [email protected]