By Archana Ram
Excellent street food, pristine beaches, a buzzy museum scene—Mexico is known for many things, but wine isn’t necessarily one of them. That’s quickly changing thanks to Valle de Guadalupe, the country’s wine region located in the northern Baja peninsula and just two hours by car from San Diego. Compared to Napa and Sonoma, Valle offers a more low-key, less commercial, highly authentic experience. It’s the kind of place where you can watch a Michelin-starred chef grill grass-fed meat a few feet from your table or chat with winemakers during a tasting. But Valle isn’t short on style either. There are glamorous villas, pools overlooking vineyards, private wine tastings in caves, and more.
As the scene continues to grow—100 wineries and counting—we’ve rounded up the best places for oenophiles to stay, drink, and eat. Vámonos!
Encuentro Guadalupe comprises 20 modern steel and glass bungalows perched on the rocky hillside. For a next-level getaway, make like Rihanna and book the villa, an ultra-private retreat on a secluded nook of the mountain that accommodates 10 people across multiple lofts (RiRi actually booked out the entire resort for her and her crew). And don’t miss dining on breakfast by the adults-only pool that overlooks the vineyards. If you’re pining for quintessential Spanish-style decor, pay a visit to the elegant Adobe Guadalupe, a hacienda-style six-room bed-and-breakfast with a winery where reds rule. The ranch property boasts a food truck, Italian restaurant, fine dining, horses for riding, and a family of Weimaraners that serve as unofficial tour guides. A private wine tasting is included in the room rate. Just 20 minutes away in nearby coastal Ensenada, CuatroCuatros is made up of glamping tents complete with air-conditioning, heat, and WiFi. Watch the sunset from your private porch, or head to Mirador, CuatroCuatros’s cliffside lounge, with live music, wine and beer, and impeccable sunset views. The ultra-sexy space feels like a slice of the French Riviera in Baja.
Contemporary architecture is sweeping Valle de Guadalupe, and the sleek Decantos Vinícola is a prime example. The 50-acre winery features a dramatic glass-walled pavilion and amazing views from its wraparound patio. Finca La Carrodilla is the first certified organic winery in Valle de Guadalupe, and it is committed to sustainability, from the use of organic grapes and solar panels to water recycling. Its most popular pours are the mono-varietals—a novelty in a region that favors blends—with Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz among the best-sellers. Elsewhere in the valley, Monte Xanic is known for its award-winning whites. Sip on its popular Sauvignon Blanc while overlooking the winery’s lake.
Wine country may be its marquee feature, but Valle’s restaurant scene deserves equal bragging rights. One of the best dining experiences is feasting on smoky asado meats and farm-fresh vegetables at Deckman’s en el Mogor, run by Michelin-starred chef Drew Deckman. The space, outfitted in sunflowers, haystacks, and picnic tables, feels like a glamorous campsite with a five-star menu. Finca Altozano, from buzzy chef Javier Plascencia, offers another all-alfresco adventure, featuring an outdoor kitchen and unspoiled scenery best enjoyed with its ahi tuna tostada and cucumber cocktail. Instagram alert: You can climb atop the giant wine barrels in the field for the ultimate selfie. Dine under a grand palapa at Malva, where chef Roberto Alcocer forages and grows many of the ingredients for everything from the beautiful garden salad to 10-course tasting menus.
Given the well-paved (and scenic) coastal Highway 1 between San Diego and Valle de Guadalupe, renting a car from San Diego or Tijuana makes for a more independent journey, but keep in mind that wait times when crossing back into the U.S. can be long, especially on Sunday evenings. With the new UberPassport, you can be driven one way from downtown San Diego to Tijuana. From there, you can hail UberValle to be paired with a driver for the day.
Many hotels can arrange a chauffeur service, like YTS Transport. For more guidance, book a tour with Club Tengo Hambre, Turista Libre, or Baja Wine + Food.