By Pola Henderson Via Baja.com
The Baja Wine Country in the northwest corner of Mexico is comprised of three valleys: Guadalupe, Calafia and San Antonio de las Minas. This coastal, largely rural region has a long tradition of wine making – the oldest winery opened in 1888 – and keeps growing, slowly gaining international recognition. There are currently scores of wine producers, ranging from small, family-owned shops to large-scale operations.
Visiting the area reminded me of wine tasting in Sonoma, California, thanks to the landscape and presence of boutique wineries. The main difference (and concern) was the number of bottles I could take home and the overall availability of the wines outside Baja.
Generally, travelers entering the US can bring one liter of alcohol per person duty-free, which translates to one 750 ml bottle of wine. Also, many of the wines are hard to find elsewhere. While they have been distributed in Mexico and even Europe, it hasn’t been the case with the US and Canada until recently, due to trade policies. Even now, they are not easily found.
In spite of the fact that you are likely to taste more wine that you could bring with you, Ruta del Vino (Wine Route) is well-worth a visit. The mountainous setting is serene, the atmosphere is laid-back and welcoming, and the wines are excellent.
I had mostly reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, blends) and many were served with cheese and/or bread with olive oil. There were no crowds, I didn’t feel rushed, and the winemakers were easy to talk to – in English and Spanish. In addition to wineries, the valley has quality restaurants and lodging, museums, art galleries, and natural sites.
I stopped at these three wineries in the town of San Antonio de las Minas. They differed in size and atmosphere, but all provided a quality experience.
VITIVINÍCOLA TRES VALLES
The artisan winery was founded in 1999 and draws inspiration from the region’s history. The names of their wines (four types of red and one white) come from the language of the Kiliwa, an indigenous people of northern Baja California (e.g. kuwal means red and kojaa wine). Labels have images of spiders and snakes from the area, and outside the tasting room are statues of the same, made of wine barrels and metal parts.
Our wine tasting was preceded by a tour of the wine cellar, which you enter through a narrow stone staircase. The tasting room is cozy and features bottles hanging from the ceiling.
Barrels of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon at Tres Valles winery
Wine names come from the language of the indigenous Kiliwa people
View of the valley from the tasting room. The sculpture is a nod to the region’s natural history.