Baja California Wine Country: Guadalupe Valley by Steve Dryden

By: Steve Dryden

Guadalupe Valley is located about fifteen miles north-east of Ensenada on the Tecate-Ensenada Highway 3. As you drop over the coastal foothills and arrive in the village of San Antonio de las Minas on the west end of the valley you might think you’ve arrived in Napa Valley in 1960. This “garden of Eden” is the home to about nighty percent of all grape growing and winemaking in Mexico. Valle de Guadalupe’s climate combined with it’s creative and innovative residents is leading the renaissance driving Mexican wines into notable arrival upon the tables of connoisseurs worldwide. And this is just the beginning.....

Commercial grape growing began here in the early 1900’s with the arrival of the Russian (Molokan) farmers and has slowly progressed into a region that produces excellent table and wine grapes. Several individuals and companies have improved grape production and quality using modern viniculture techniques, drip irrigation systems, cloned and grated vines, research and development of specific grape varieties and by using intuitive and creative improvisations. Today, the valley is home to over twenty official wineries, several home-based operations and hundreds of winemakers experimenting and blending Mexican wines into bottled treasures of pleasure.

Hugo D’ Acosta, a renowned and popular winemaker, is one of the leaders in the movement to create superior wines and to educate interested individuals into the world of grape growing and winemaking. He has established a winemaking educational facility in the village of El Porvenir where students learn the trade and share information, passion and excitement which is fueling the new wave of Mexican winemakers and winemaking. Hugo works as a consultant for several wineries and is a major player in driving the quality of Mexican wines and winemaking towards the highest possible levels in the national and international markets. Viva Mexico!

This year Mexican wines made another leap forward when Camillo Magoni, the winemaker for L. A. Cetto winery, was selected as the top winemaker in the world by the Dutch wine magazine, Vinbladet. Individuals with passion, drive and a love for making Mexican wines such as Hugo, Camillo and others are encouraging and inspiring wine artisans in the region to bring the level and quality of Baja wines even higher. The transformation is taking an interesting twist as the small boutique wineries rise up and the bigger wineries focus on making quality reserve wines. If the Mexican wine industry can work together in friendly competition it will benefit the industry and build a positive and enjoyable regional economy benefiting all Mexicans and international wine consumers. The time has arrived to embrace each other and work as a team allowing for our fullest potential and letting Mexican wines capture the world!

Guadalupe Valley is becoming an international tourist destination with the addition of several new motels, hotels, bed and breakfast inns. The region is also blessed with superb culinary options ranging from traditional Mexican cuisine, classic French, Moroccan, Spanish, and an international blend of local, regional, and international dishes. Several new restaurants are being planned creating even more culinary delights. The valley is home to several artists who offer original paintings, hand-painted tiles, sculpture, ceramics and pottery. Visitors can explore two local museums, hike or mountain bike to hot springs and a waterfall, purchase crafts from native artisans, taste wine or just relax and take in the nature beauty of the area.

Exploring the Baja wine country is a unique adventure in itself because most of the wineries are hidden throughout the valley and accessible by dirt roads. Maps can be obtained in The Baja Times, at local wineries or in the regional wine newsletter, The Guadalupe Grapevine, offering complete directions, maps and updated information. This valley offers the opportunity to visit scenic and undeveloped habitats, meet wonderful folks, discover Mexico’s premier wines and beautiful vineyards, enjoy numerous culinary treats, and relax in a country setting.

Despite the growth and recognition of Mexican wines the area stills faces some challenges. Water availability is of great concern because water is limited and the city of Ensenada still pumps massive amounts from the valley into the city. Another factor is the conflict between new land development for housing and agriculture! Illegal water wells and subdivisions are creating some problems for the future of the wine industry. The general attitude here in the valley is that most don’t want this area to become another San Diego suburb like the Baja coast between Tijujana and Ensenada is rapidly becoming. Progress and economic development should and must be managed to ensure the future of Mexico’s wine industry and to allow for practical and balanced growth. The Mexican government and locals need to work together to protect this special valley. This valley is special and unique because it is a rare ecosystem, habitat and growing zone where “world class” wine grapes can grow to their fullest potential with a little help from dedicated vineyard managers and winemakers. Land development for housing can be accommodated in many other areas of Baja without destroying a valuable economic asset for Mexico like the Guadalupe Valley wine country. Anyway, this is just the beginning and with a balance of land management issues Mexico has a bright new star: Mexican wines from Guadalupe Valley.

Steve Dryden is a natural resource manager, tour director and travel writer living in Guadalupe Valley where he guides private wine tours. He can be reached at (619) 300-4976 U.S - (646) 118-9801 MX cell or sbdryden@hotmail.com


About The Author

Steve Dryden is a global wine, culinary and travel writer based in the United States and British Columbia. His current project: BC2BC ~ exploring 4000+ wineries from Baja California to British Columbia. Steve is a grape grower and winemaker using Nebbiolo fruit from Washington State. Follow his adventures via WineFoodGuide.com

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