*WARNING* SAPPY STORY ALERT: One year ago, I got a text from Joe on a Friday at lunchtime saying, “Hey, do you want to go to San Francisco with me this weekend?” I swear I had to re-read that text 50 times before it made any sense. I mean, it seemed absolutely crazy to jet off to Cali on what would only be our second date. Scratch that…it was absolutely crazy! But, after toying with the idea, Joe eventually convinced me to just say yes. We left early the next morning, rented a convertible, and drove up the California coast to Napa Valley. We spent our time drinking lots of wine and learning more about each other. I’m so glad I agreed to that crazy adventure because that was the weekend I started to fall in love with him. Life has been so happy and the adventures have been non-stop ever since!
So, to celebrate our “Wineiversary” this year, we originally talked about going back to Napa Valley. However, those plans had a slight course adjustment when we met a man in Chile who opened our eyes to a new wine region: Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico. We had never even heard of this mysterious place that boasts blue skies, gourmet food, and fine wine (how could that even be possible?!), but it seemed like a great chance to try someplace new. After doing some research, we decided this was the perfect place for us to celebrate one year of love, laughs, and excitement!
Getting To Valle de Guadalupe
Valle de Guadalupe is part of the Mexican state of Baja California and is about a two and a half hour drive straight South from San Diego. The drive across the Mexican border is much safer and simpler than common perceptions may suggest, but before you go, there are a few important things to know:
- If you’re renting a car, make sure to tell the rental car company that you will be driving to Mexico. Most companies only allow certain car models to cross the border and will require you to purchase Mexican car insurance. This usually runs at around $30 USD/day on top of your rental fee and can be purchased directly through the rental company.
- Crossing the border into Mexico is a very quick process. We only stopped to pass through a barricade and didn’t even have to show our passports. Returning back into the U.S., however, is much more time consuming. We waited in line for about two hours to cross the border. Granted, this was a Sunday afternoon when traffic tends to be slightly heavier than usual. Still, a longer wait time to get back into the U.S. is a typical experience, so just make sure to factor in some extra time on your return. You can also check real-time wait times for each border crossing at this handy link.
- Tijuana is nowhere to be worried about. In fact, we even stopped for lunch on the way back at a cute restaurant called Erizo on Sonora for some ceviche and mezcal.
- Make time to stop in Puerto Nuevo for lobster! Puerto Nuevo is at about the halfway point between San Diego and Valle de Guadalupe. Although it may not look like much, Restaurant Puerto Nuevo #1 is an AWESOME place to stop and eat. Get the Lobster Special—it’s about $25 USD for three fresh, grilled lobster tails, rice, beans, and tortillas. Ugh..that’s a meal I’m still thinking about! Take a stroll down the street once you’re done to grab some kitschy souvenirs from the street vendors before hitting the road for the rest of your road trip to Valle de Guadalupe.
Where To Stay
Glamping has been on my list of “Things to Do” for quite a while, so when I came across Campera Hotel Burbuja on Airbnb, I couldn’t resist making a reservation! The “hotel” is brand new in 2017 and there are currently 5 bubbles located in the middle of a vineyard. They also have plans to add more bubbles and even a restaurant onsite in the future. And seriously, these things are just like fully functioning hotel rooms. Starting at $165 USD/night, each bubble comes with air conditioning, a comfy bed, and a full bathroom that includes a shower. The bubbles are also surprisingly private. Each one is separated by a large stack of hay bales and the front is a no-walk zone that faces a vineyard, so no one can see in. I have to say, it is pretty surreal to lay in your bed and gaze at the stars, and then wake up in the morning overlooking a luscious, green vineyard!
How To Get Around Valle de Guadalupe
Since you’ll likely be consuming copious amounts of wine, it’s a good idea to think about alternative means of transportation because #safetyfirst! UberValle does exist and can provide you with a personal Uber driver for the whole day upon request. Be warned though: Ubers are few and far between in the Valle. If you’d rather not rely on trying to snag one, there are other personal driver services that you can book ahead of time like Boca Roja.
Wineries To Visit
The Ruta del Vino—main highway through Valle de Guadalupe—is peppered with signs for wineries and restaurants. It is fun and easy just to drive down the highway and make a stop off for a tasting at any winery that catches your eye. There are a handful of wineries in the region that require reservations, but you can get into the majority of them right away. To narrow the list down, here are some of our favorites:
The first winery we stopped at upon arrival, this place has an architecturally cool building and fun swing chairs. Fun to ease into the wine drinking marathon by swinging and watching the world go by with a glass in your hand.
This hacienda-style establishment includes a hotel, winery, and a horse breeding facility. The tasting room includes a food truck parked on site so you can grab some tapas as you sip.
I’m a sucker for bougainvilleas! The walk up to this winery from the parking lot is a sight for sore eyes with tons of fuchsia and magenta bushes lining the stone pathway. Here, you can choose between full white wine or full red wine tastings if you have a preference for one over the other (I’m a white wine gal, myself!).
This was my personal favorite…and not just because we opted for the chocolate pairing option with our wine tasting! El Cielo has a great atmosphere and interesting cellar tours provided in both English and Spanish. The wine tastes really great. Each variety at El Cielo (spanish for “The Sky”) is cleverly named after a different constellation or astronomer. I love a good theme! We may or may not have bought three bottles from this place to take home.
This winery has a beautiful view from their covered patio over their massive vineyard. If you’re ready for a snack, the ceviche is so delicious and fresh.
Another one of our faves. Each wine tasting comes with a complimentary tour of the cellars and the tour guides are great. Added bonus, their shop has a great selection of hats—a must have fashion piece for all Valle de Guadalupe visitors. You can cruise the Valle in style!
Where to Eat
Valle de Guadalupe is an up-and-coming foodie’s paradise. Many world-renowned chefs have already laid down roots here, so it’s easy to see why people are flocking to this region for culinary adventures!
This restaurant is completely open air and the food uses all ingredients from the region. Finca Altozano has an awesome laid-back atmosphere, perfect for a long, relaxed dinner. The grilled octopus is a must-try and the carajillo—an after-dinner drink made with 43 Liqueor, French Press Coffee, and ice—is a delicious way to cap off the meal.
This restaurant is located in a trendy building on top of a hill. It offers a 6-course menu with wine pairing that changes frequently according to local harvests. Corazón is more on the pricey side, so is a great place for a fancy dinner. Plan to go earlier in the evening in the daylight hours so you can enjoy the view.
Deckman’s is the open-air, sustainable Valle concept of Michelin-starred chef Drew Deckman. This is a super popular spot, so be sure and book a reservation here well in advance.
This is a cute, understated winery with a full menu. Great for a quick bite, Castillo Ferrer has an on-site fruit garden. Their orange juice is to die for if you need a break from wine…or want something to drink alongside it 😉
Valle de Guadalupe is definitely somewhere I will be recommending to any and everyone I meet. Its tasty wines, exquisite cuisine, and friendly people are a breath of fresh air that should celebrated globally. Cheers until next time, Valle!