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California’s state health officials discourage nonessential travel to Mexico due to concerns of the spread of COVID-19 on both sides of the border. But Baja hoteliers, travel industry workers, restaurant owners are offering several safety measures when visiting Baja, enabling you to safely travel and enjoy your visit.
A short 90 minute drive to Baja south of San Diego to Valle de Guadalupe offers a great escape, in a mostly very safe environment, and provides you with Mexico’s premier wine region.
Over the past several decades, the region has experienced an explosion of growth, transforming into a gastronomy haven. Baja California's Valle de Guadalupe now produces nearly 90% of all the wine that comes from Mexico and boasts over 100 distinct vineyards – some featuring architecturally striking wineries, quaint tasting rooms and very delicious food.
Baja has a hot, dry Mediterranean climate, with similarities to wine regions in California, such as Napa Valley, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara/Santa Rita, but with a profound maritime influence; most of its vineyards are within 15 miles of the Pacific Ocean.
Valle de Santo Tomas was the epicenter of winegrowing in Baja at first, but winegrowing quickly spread to the adjacent valleys including Valle de Guadalupe, Valle de Ojos Negros and Valle de San Vicente due to the ideal growing conditions these other valleys have. Days are long with plenty of sunshine during the summer months, which allows the grapes to fully ripen. Many microclimates exist in these four major valleys. Additionally, all valleys enjoy the cooling breeze from the Pacific Ocean which allow the vines to cool and rest at night.
Now the bulk of Baja wine country runs from Valle de Guadalupe, about 20 miles northeast of Ensenada, to Valle de San Vicente, about 55 miles south. It’s more than twice the length of Napa Valley.
The grapes of Baja
Most of the world’s great wine grapes are planted in Valle de Guadalupe and other valleys near Ensenada, some of them brought to Mexico from Spain in the 16th century.
Because there are no labeling laws, terminology can vary. There is Grenache and Garnacha, Carignan and Cariñena, rosé and rosado. You’ll also find uncommon blends and styles, like a 50–50 blend of Nebbiolo and Tempranillo, Italian blend of Montepulciano, Mourvèdre and Sangiovese or Blanc de Noirs, a still white wine made from Carignan.
Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted white wine grape, though largely because of L.A: Cetto extensive holdings in the area. The producer sells hundreds of thousands of cases of Chenin as a varietal wine, as well as in blends with Colombard. Other common white wine grapes include Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted red wine grape in the Valle, but more and more Tempranillo, Merlot and Grenache grapes have become increasingly popular.
How to get there
While it’s possible to visit without your own car, it’s very useful to have one, particularly if you plan to stop at a couple of wineries – there are plenty to choose from here, but they are pretty spread out, and public transport within the valley can be a little tricky. If you’re traveling in a group, driving to Baja in your own car for a couple of days probably works out much cheaper than the day tours anyway. Make sure you by Mexico Auto Insurance as your US-based insurance carrier won’t provide you with proper coverage in Mexico. For more information visit www.amugomexinsurance.com
You MUST taste the food
With miles of fertile soil growing the freshest ingredients (as well as the best fish market on the peninsula just 22km away), world-renowned chefs, such as Javier Plascencia and Diego Hernandez, are flocking to the region. This means only one thing: the culinary scene in Valle de Guadalupe is fast becoming one of the best in Baja California – and maybe even Mexico. While you’re here, be sure to try Finca Altozano, Bruma, Tres Galline and Deckman’s en el Mogor, where hearty farm-to-table food with a
creative twist is king.
Staying the night
The Valle de Guadalupe has seen a huge influx of super trendy, luxury ecolodges in recent years, due to its stunning surroundings and off-the-grid location. If your budget allows, staying the night in one of the stunning boutique hotels here (some of which also have their own vineyards) is definitely worth it. Not only will you wake up to beautiful views, but most of the hotels here also organize personalized wine-tasting tours, as well as horseback rides, hot-air balloon flights, and guided bike and trekking tours around the valley. Adobe Guadalupe, Encuentro Guadalupe, and Hotel Boutique Valle Guadalupe are some of the best.
Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit
While it’s great to visit all year round, April-May (spring) and October-November (autumn) are the best times to enjoy Mexico’s wine region. During these months, the intense desert heat dies down and, instead, clear skies and cool breezes grace the valley. It’s also shoulder season for tourists, meaning crowds will be fewer and hotels and top restaurants easier to book....