The vineyards of the Valle de Guadalupe are so heavily drenched in hype that on first visit anyone but the most optimistic – or wine-soaked – visitor will be disappointed. The region is clearly on the right track, though, as illustrated by growing international acclaim and the pioneering work of French-trained winemaker Hugo d’Acosta since the 1990s.
The villages of San Antonio de las Minas in the southwest and Francisco Zarco and El Porvenir in the northeast are the centres of the valley’s production. Wine has been produced here since the Spanish introduced it in the sixteenth century, though modern production began with Molokan Russian immigrants who settled in Baja in 1904. Only a handful of current residents claim Russian ancestry, but you can get grips with their legacy at the Museo Comunitario Ruso Del Valle De Guadalupe in Francisco Zarco, which preserves a small collection of Russian bits and pieces in a restored Russian home dating from 1905. Ask here about the Panteón Ruso, the old cemetery nearby, where you’ll find fifteen ageing Russian tombstones.
In August, some of the vineyards host the ten-day Fiestas de la Vendimia (wwww.fiestasdelavendimia.com) where tastings and wine-themed competitions are held in the valley and in Ensenada; for information about tickets ask at the latter’s tourist office or check the website.
Though you can show up at the major wineries without a reservation, it is best to call ahead everywhere before visiting, especially if you’re coming in the warmer months (July–Sept).
Mexican wine tasting
Mexican wine tasting
Once derided for its watery grapes and poor vintage, Mexican wines have gathered a loyal following since the late 1990s, when producers such as Hugo d’Acosta started to focus on small-production, high-quality boutique wines such as Casa de Piedra in the Valle de Guadalupe. These are five of the best:
Vino de Piedra, Casa de Piedra Tones of black fruit lace this blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Viñas de Camou, Chateau Camou Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Monte Xanic Smooth, dark red wine with a peppery aroma.
Special Reserve Chardonnay, Chateau Camou One of the best white wines in the valley.
Gabriel, Adobe Guadalupe Another exquisite red wine blend (55 percent Merlot) produced by Hugo d’Acosta.