Where to eat, drink and stay in style in one of Mexico’s best kept secrets.
Mexico’s emerging Valle de Guadalupe, located two hours south of San Diego, is quickly becoming the most interesting place in the California’s to visit for wine tasting, boutique hotels, and farm-to-table Baja Med cuisine. Like Sonoma and Napa in Northern California, the Valle in Baja California is the new chic spot to visit for emerging chefs, delicious cuisine and stellar wine.
Wine & Dine: A Perfect Day in Valle de Guadalupe
Valle de Guadalupe is a regular weekend trek for many in San Diego and Nothern Baja, but if you are visiting from a bit farther, you’ll want to spend a night, a weekend or even a week. There is an abundance to explore in this wine region just east on the coastal town of Ensenada. Here is how to have one perfect day in Valle de Guadalupe.
La Cocina de Doña Esthela
Highway 3, also known as Ruta de Vino, is paved, but you’ll quickly find that driving down dusty, rocky roads is most likely in the cards as you veer off the main road to visit wineries and restaurants. This is true with your first stop for breakfast at La Cocina de Doña Esthela. Doña Esthela recently won the award for “Tastiest Breakfast in the World” from FoodieHub. Begin breakfast with homemade tortilla chips and salsa. Another must have at La Cocina de Doña Esthela is the pan de elote (corn bread muffins).
The house-made machaca (dried, shredded beef) is her award winning dish. The machaca is spiced with serrano chiles, bell pepper and garlic, scrambled with farm fresh eggs. It is served with a refried beans, freshly made warm flour and corn tortillas as well as house made queso fresco. While the machaca won an award, it’s her lamb borrego that is considered her house specialty and signature dish. I think it’s safe to say, anything you order at La Cocina de Doña Esthela will please your eyes and taste buds.
Museo De La Vid Y El Vino
Next, head to Museo De La Vid Y El Vino on the main Ruta de Vino. This beautiful and contemporary building houses the history of wine making in Baja as well as the story of the beginnings of wine making from around the world. This is a must visit before you head off for wine tasting in the Valle.
Las Bodegas de Santo Thomas
After a visit to the museum, head to the oldest winery in Baja; Las Bodegas de Santo Thomas, which dates back to to 1888. Santo Tomas offers one of the best wine tours in the Valle. It is a great first stop for any wine tasting tour, and you will learn the history wine making in Mexico as well as how Santo Thomas produces it’s varietals. Tours are offered daily at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. The tour is offered in English or Spanish and told visually via chalk drawings on their fermentation tanks as well as by the guide. Our guide was Salvador, who had an impressive knowledge about wine, wine making and wine tasting. The tour ends with a sensory experience in an extremely dark room that allows you to personally imagine the wine process. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I also don’t want to give away the fun surprise.
Wine tasting after the tour makes the process of sipping the wines so much more enjoyable. With an new understanding of wine making in Valle de Guadalupe, what would be a run of the mill tasting, has so much more depth.
After wine tasting at Santo Thomas, head just across the highway to Malva. Roberto Alcocer is the head chef. As many restaurants in Valle, Malva is an outdoor dining experience. Not only is the seating outdoors, but the kitchen has been created as part of the experience. The theme here is the same as other restaurants in the area: local, sustainable and fresh. Chef Alcocer’s food philosophy is based on three things: Mexico, Baja and his personal experiences. The chef says, “Every plate I develop is built on these three things”.
Opting for the chef’s tasting menu is a wonderful way to experience the food and flavors of Malva. Fresh oysters are often on the menu as well as other local seafood. Chef Alcocer also sources many of the herbs, fruit and vegetables from his own garden. He also raises or sources the meats served at the restaurant from Baja California. Dessert is a must at Malva. They always picture-worthy and delicious.
Baron Balché is one of the older wineries in Valle de Guadalupe. The winery has an underground cellar where the wine tour and tasting takes place. The winery currently produces twenty thousand cases a year and ages in barrels from Chile. Balché means sacred drink in Mayan, and their premium wines include Mayan symbols on the labels. The wine tasting experience is enhanced as it takes place in the underground cellar with views of their aging barreled wine.
After your wine tasting at Baron Balché, head to Adobe Guadalupe to check into your hotel. Adobe Guadalupe is a boutique hotel, winery and riding stables. It is a hacienda style B&B that welcomes guests with open arms. The owner lives in one wing of the property and when you arrive you will truly feel like you have been welcomed into a friend’s home. The hacienda is a horseshoe shape that surrounds a beautiful courtyard with a fountain as the centerpiece. There are seven spacious rooms with high ceilings and wood slatted doors that open onto a shared garden patio. The hacienda has several shared spaces such as a dining room, study and great room with an enormous fire place. The B&B is opulent and homey at the same time; showcasing beautiful art that has been collected by the family.
Located on the property, is a beautiful tasting room. A wine tasting is included in your stay and offered twice daily. This is a wonderful opportunity to taste the boutique wines as well as learn about Adobe Guadalupe and the fascinating story that brought them to Valle de Guadalupe.
La Terrasse San Roman
La Terrasse San Roman is located at AlXimia winery and the perfect spot for dinner on your perfect day in Valle de Guadalupe. Chef Martin San Roman is a legend in the world of Baja-med cuisine and can also be found at Asao in Tecate and Dobson’s in San Diego. Try and arrive just before sunset to appreciate the sweeping view of the Valle’s mountains and vineyards. Like a majority of restaurants in the Valle, La Terrasse San Roman offers outdoor dining.
Born in Mexico City, Chef San Roman graduated from L’Ecole Lenôtre in Paris, France. Chef brings a fusion approach to La Terrasse’s Baja Provençale cuisine and applies traditional rural French recipes and preparation methods to locally-sourced ingredients from Baja California. The menu features regional organic produce, local and imported cheeses, woodfired pizza, raclette, fresh local seafood and steaks from Sonora.
To accompany the delicious creations of Chef San Roman are the wines of Alximia, a family born wine-making project and the winery. The blends tend toward non-traditional varietals and the family prides itself on intellectualizing the wine making process.
Getting There: From San Diego, you can cross the Mexico border at San Ysidro and follow route 1. The highway hugs the pacific coast and passes Las Playas de Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, Puerto Nuevo, the famous K-38 surf spot and just before reaching the port town of Ensenada, you’ll head inland on highway 3 for a perfect day in Valle de Guadalupe.
What & Where:
La Cocina de Doña Esthela is located at Rancho san Marcos el Porvenir. From Highway 3 heading north, turn right on the dirt road where signs point to Hacienda la Lomita. +52 646 156 8453
Museo De La Vid Y El Vino; www.museodelvinobc.com
Las Bodegas de Santo Thomas; www.facebook.com/BodegasdeSantoTomas
La Terrasa San Roman Dinner
You Might Also Enjoy:
- Lunch at Rancho la Puerta: Dining at one of the Best Spa’s in the World
- Celebrating The Queen’s of Baja’s Culinary Landscape
- Valle de Guadalupe Food and Wine: Casa de Piedra and Conchas de Piedra
This was part of a Travel Writer’s Academy media trip, and I was a guests at the above locations, but as always, all opinions are my own!
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