The Definitive Guide to the Valle de Guadalupe

The Valle de Guadalupe, in the state of Baja California, supplies 90% of Mexico's wine. The region has gained an international reputation over the past decade for its hearty varietals and unique blends. Although Dominican missionaries first planted vines here in the 19th century, Mexican winemakers are not burdened by staid tradition as they are in other wine regions such as Italy and France. Oenological experimentation is what it's all about here, and the area has a long history as the country's center of wine production.

Adobe Guadalupe. Photo Miranda García

And where there's wine, there's food. "El Valle" is home to three of S. Pellegrino's Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants as well as a number of other fine dining establishments, seasonal "campestre kitchens", and gourmet "delis" – in-house kitchens that serve small plates – located in several of the area's wineries. The hallmark of most Valle restaurants is the use of fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients.


Valle de Guadalupe. Photo Miranda García

As a destination for Southern California daytrippers and weekenders, the Valle can't be beat for its proximity and intriguing culture. Though this guide is by no means definitive – there are over 100 wineries and 50 restaurants in the region – our intention is to direct you to some of our favorite spots. Use it as a starting point for your own Valle adventures.

When asked why San Diegans and Los Angelinos should visit the region, Fernando Peréz Castro of vineyard Finca La Carrodilla and Lomita recently replied, "Forget about the fence that is dividing us. This is our local wine – so it is also your local wine. The wine speaks to your land, your weather, your lifestyle, and the food you eat. This is your wine region too, so embrace it!"

BEFORE YOU GO

You will need a passport for crossing the border back into the U.S., and it's now required when crossing as a pedestrian into Mexico at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. A passport card with an embedded RF chip enables you to use "Ready Lanes", which can save hours of waiting at "la linea" on your return trip to the U.S. Additionally, many Baja California hotels offer or sell a "Fast Pass", which enables you to use the medical lane at the San Ysidro crossing, also typically faster than the "all traffic" lanes.

San Ysidro crossing. Photo José Luis Sánchez

Additionally – whether you're visiting for a day or a week – it's a good idea to get your FMM tourist visa on your way in. Visas for up to 8 days are free of charge, and you'll pay $25/US for one that's good for 180 days anywhere you travel in Mexico, so you can use it on return trips.

Make sure to notify your bank and credit card issuers that you'll be in Mexico. Smaller establishments in the Valle – and throughout rural Baja California – are cash-only (effectivo solamente), so make sure you hit the ATM before you leave. Better yet, change your dollars for pesos at exchange rate houses in Tijuana, where you'll usually get a better deal than you will at most restaurants and wineries.

Photo SanDiegoRed

With a very favorable exchange rate – about 17 pesos to the dollar at time of writing – your money goes a long way south of the border. Most businesses in Baja California, and just about every establishment in the Valle de Guadalupe, accept both US dollars and pesos.

The climate in Baja California is similar to that in Southern California, so expect hot but dry days and cool nights in the summer, and mild days and cold nights in the winter. Bring an extra layer of clothing year round, as temperatures drop quickly as the sun dips behind the mountains to the west. Even the Valle's best restaurants are fairly laid back, so the dress code is decidedly casual.

While some wineries have public tasting rooms, many of the smaller boutique and artisanal wineries require reservations. Most of the region's top restaurants require reservations as well. We've indicated which ones throughout this guide, and you can also check the wineries' and restaurants' Facebook pages or websites for more information.

Wine tasting at Alximia. Photo W. Scott Koenig

To best enjoy your Valle visit, don't overdo it and try to visit every place on your list in a single day. Typically, breakfast, a visit to three wineries, and a late lunch/early dinner will ensure that you get a taste of the Valle and have good reason to return for the places you missed. It's Mexico, after all, and the key to absorbing the experience here is to slow down and take it all in.

HOW TO GET THERE

Driving in Baja California is less daunting than you might think. Make sure you're armed with a Mexican insurance policy for the duration of your stay. Single and multiple day, as well as six month and annual policies, are easily purchased online through providers such as Baja Bound, AmigoMex, and Oscar Padilla Insurance.

Uber now offers Uber Valle. You can park your car in one of the several lots in San Ysidro, walk across, and order an Uber Valle using their smartphone app. Your driver will take you to the wineries and restaurants of your choice, and wait as you enjoy your tastings and meals.

YTS Transportation Services offer a driver and van from San Diego to the Valle de Guadalupe. Vans hold up to 14 guests, so split between you and your friends, the service is affordable and convenient. They also operate a medical tourism service to Tijuana, and their medical pass offers a speedier trek back across the border into the US.

You could also just rent a car if you are feeling a bit adventurous and visit the Valley on your own. Either rent them on the U.S. side or in Mexico, where the exchange rate will probably benefit any dollar-earning tourist. There are both local and international car-rental brands in Tijuana, so you don't have to worry about quality of service and cars available.

Not sure what wineries and restaurants to visit? A tour is a great way to get to know the Valle, and most operators offer itineraries that include a variety of single and multiple-day experiences. Baja Test Kitchen, Turista Libre, Let's Go Clandestino, and Baja Wine + Food are just a few from which to choose.

The Valle de Guadalupe is accessed via the La Mision exit off Highway 1, or closer to Ensenada from the Highway 3 exit in El Sauzal. The Valle itself is bisected by these two paved highways, which are connected by a series of dirt roads. Roads on either side of the Valle lead to some of the area's best wineries and restaurants and can be accessed by low profile vehicles; 4WD not required.

Dirt road in Valle de Guadalupe. Photo W. Scott Koenig

WHERE TO STAY

One of the Valle de Guadalupe's many charms is its lack of chain restaurants and hotels. Many of the vintners and chefs in the region support sustainable growth, and their advocacy helps ensure that the Valle's limited resources aren't depleted by large-scale development.

That said, during the Valle's high season (June-September), it can be tough to find lodging, but Ensenada is only 30 minutes south of the Valle de Guadalupe and offers a solid base for wine country exploration.

VALLE B&Bs

Winery Adobe Guadalupe also offers one of the Valle's best B&Bs. The property's six rooms are tastefully appointed and guests have access to Adobe Guadalupe's pool and communal rooms — including a fairly extensive library and shared kitchen/dining room. Overnight accommodations also include breakfast and a wine tasting.

Adobe Guadalupe. Photo Miranda Garcia

Lodging in the Valle ranges from rustic B&Bs to luxurious eco-resorts. One of the Valle's newest projects, Bruma, combines both. Located on the eastern edge of the L.A. Cetto winery, Bruma is a 200-acre eco-luxury retreat that will ultimately offer a working winery, ranch style villas, and a 40-room boutique hotel and spa. Several of the villas will feature private swimming pools.

Cabañas Cuatro Cuatros offers a number of canvas tent cabanas on raised platforms. This is "glamping" - glamorous camping – at its best. Tents include a working toilet, sink, and shower as well as portable heating and air conditioning units. The property's 1500 acres also include a restaurant, a bar set on a cliff with an ocean view, and zip lining for more adventurous guests.

Cabana at Cabaãs Cuatro Cuatros. Photo W. Scott Koenig

One of the Valle's most popular B&Bs is La Villa del Valle, operated by American expats Phil and Eileen Gregory. Phil explains, "When we moved here, I wanted to lie around in a hammock and drink Mexican beer. But my wife had bigger ideas, so we opened a winery, restaurant, and hotel."

From one of the B&Bs six guest rooms, the Gregory's excellent winery, Vena Cava, award-winning restaurant Corazon de Tierra, and food truck Troika are all within walking distance.

Celebrity chef Javier Plascencia, who operates the restaurant Finca Altozano, opened, with his family, B&B Finca La Divina earlier this year. The ranch style house is situated around a spacious pool area with an outdoor kitchen. Its three rooms can be rented individually, or a larger party can book the entire house. Breakfast is served in the morning.

A more rustic, affordable option is the charming Rancho El Parral, a hacienda located just up the road from Alximia Winery at the Valle's southern end. Staying here feels like being a guest in someone's home. You can enjoy a home-cooked Mexican breakfast of huevos rancheros in the property's tranquil gardens.

VALLE HOTELS

The Hotel Boutique at the northern end of the Valle has 21 comfortable guest rooms, a pool, and an excellent restaurant, Fuego Cocina. Here, executive chef Mario Perralta creates exquisite dishes of Baja California cuisine such as prepared Japanese oysters and grilled octopus with runner beans. The property is perfect for kids who can roam around and enjoy the playground next to the restaurant's organic garden as parents enjoy a glass of wine and snack of tasty botanas.

Hotel Boutique. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Located just across the street from the Museo de la Vid y el Vino, Hacienda Guadalupe opened their wide, welcoming doors in 2008. This boutique style hotel also produces a line of wines from its own vineyards that pair very well with the ingredients used for their menu of Baja California cuisine at their onsite restaurant. There is also a pool and Jacuzzi and a store in which to shop for regional products and souvenirs.

Encuentro Guadalupe's chic "eco-pods" are perched on a mountainside on the western edge of the Valle de Guadalupe, affording one of the best views in the area. This is a high-end, fairly expensive option, and a popular spot for visiting gringos. Encuentro also offers on-site dining at restaurant Origin and offer an excellent selection of local artisanal wines from vineyards that don't house their own tasting rooms.

In the "it's not perfect, but it's inexpensive" category is El Meson del Vino off Highway 3 across from the Mogor Badan winery. The property needs a bit of attention, but its several private cabins, small motel, and attentive staff makes it a viable option for those on a budget. The property's restaurant serves excellent Mexican breakfasts.

ENSENADA HOTELS

During high season, the Valle's B&Bs and hotels fill to capacity every weekend well in advance. Ensenada is just thirty minutes south and is a fine alternative destination.

The port city boasts several exceptional restaurants, including S. Pelligrino's Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants winner Manzanilla, where chef Benito Molina and his wife Solange offer a tasting menu that includes oysters, abalone, and other oceanic delights as well as grilled specialties such as local quail and dry-aged ribeye steak. Additionally, the seafood market Mercado Negro and a host of street stands – such as Anthony Bourdain favorite La Guerrerense – offer some of the freshest mariscos in Baja California.

The Hotel Coral and Marina is right off the main road heading into town, and the most modern hotel in Ensenada. The property and grounds are colorful, thoughtfully decorated, and well maintained. Suites are comfortable and tastefully decorated and views from ocean-facing rooms are fantastic. The full service C Spa offers massage and other services and carries locally made, artisanal beauty and skin care products.

Hotel Coral & Marina, Ensenada. Photo W. Scott Koenig

At approximately $100/US per night, the Misión Santa Isabel is an affordable, historic property close to the malecón and puts the best of Ensenada within walking distance. There's also a small lap pool to enjoy during hot Baja California summers.

Though a bit dated, the Estero Beach Resort is located on the ocean and offers a number of guest suites and access to resort activities and amenities.

WHERE TO DRINK/TASTE

So you've got your passport, tourist visa, plenty of cash, transportation, itinerary, and lodging. Now it's time to enjoy the best of the Valle de Guadalupe for the reason you came in the first place – its excellent grape varietals and blends. Wineries in the Valle run the gamut from small, family owned boutique operations to Mexico's largest producer.

Wine tasting at Adobe Guadalupe. Photo W. Scott Koenig

There are over 100 types of grapes grown in the Valle, predominantly hearty red varietals that grow well in its arid climate — including Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Barbera, Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The southern end of the Valle enjoys ocean breezes and the cover of the seasonal marine layer, lending itself nicely to the growth of more temperamental white varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Viogner.

Prior to the 1980's, most Valle de Guadalupe wines were fairly rote and of the table variety. Monte Xanic's Hans Backoff began creating better quality vinos later in the decade, and pioneer Hugo D'Acosta introduced European winemaking techniques at Santo Tomás in 1988 — establishing winery Casa de Piedra and vintner school Estación de Oficiós El Porvenir, better known as La Escuelita, in 1995.

La Escuelita. Photo W. Scott Koenig

During this era, the region's wines flourished and started to garner both national and international awards. Most winemakers in the region now incorporate French, Spanish, Italian, and Alta Californian techniques.

The difference between Baja California and the wines of other countries is the level of experimentation and trial and error in producing them, as well as the dominant minerality inherent in the region's soil. There are no rules in the Valle and the winemakers gleefully take full advantage of this fact.

SMALL/ARTISINAL WINERIES

Bodegas F. Rubio was founded in 2011 by Tijuana businessman Francisco Rubio and operated by his sons Alberto, the vineyard's oenologist, Francisco, sales and marketing, and chef Alex Rubio who helms their exceptional deli. Their reds are aging very nicely in the bottle and include an excellent reserva blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec, as well as their robust Herencia Tempranillo. Walk-ins are welcome.

After a successful stint in Hollywood as a special effects producer, Jo Ann Knox-Martino left LA for a simpler life in Baja California. She studied at La Escuelita, and opened Cava Vintango — her small production artisanal winery nestled in the Valle's western mountain range. She's won several awards for her wines, which include Solo Tango, a rich blend of Zinfandel with just a touch of Nebbiolo. Tastings at this very personable and small winery are by appointment only.

Cava Vintango. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Finca La Carrodilla, run by Lomita's Fernando Peréz Castro, produce their organic wines using biodynamic practices, where natural methods are used to balance all of the organisms on the ranch, from vines to their organic garden and farm animals. Standouts here are the single varietals, including the Shiraz, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their young wine, Canto de Luna, blends all three and shows promise. Walk-ins are welcome, but if you're with a larger group, make sure to book an appointment in advance.

Native Southern Californian Ray Magnussen and his family moved to the Valle de Guadalupe and now produce some of the area's best Chardonnay and Merlot at Lechuza winery. Their newest wine, The Royal Blush – named after daughter Kris Magnussen's infant son – recently won "Best Blush" at the Festival of New Wines and Shellfish in Ensenada. Tastings are by appointment only, and the experience is that of hanging out and drinking great wine on the front porch of a cool and friendly Southern California family.

Ray Magnussen of Lechuza Winery. Photo W. Scott Koenig

MEDIUM/BOUTIQUE WINERIES

Adobe Guadalupe is one of the Valle's most iconic wineries. At the welcoming Spanish colonial cum Persian style hacienda, owner Tru Miller breeds and keeps a stable of rare Azteca horses, available for guests at her B&B to ride. The Jardín Romántico Chardonnay is a "new world" white, fermented in stainless steel and very refreshing on hot Valle days. Walk-ins are welcome at the public tasting room, and groups can be hosted in the wine cellar by appointment.

Alximia is the brainchild of Ensenada's Alvaro Alvarez, a theoretical mathematician who applied his analytical mind to the creation of wines awarded throughout Mexico. The eco-friendly, domed winemaking facility resembles a UFO that's landed in the middle of the country. Their Senda combines Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo and is one of the winery's best selling blends. Walk-ins are welcome.

Decantos is one of the Valle's newest hot spots and the place to see and be seen. The circular facility is ringed on one side with a welcoming terrace that affords a great view of the surrounding area. It's an ideal perch where you can enjoy a refreshing shrimp ceviche from their deli, which pairs nicely with the Decantos Malbec. Winemaker Alonso Granadas uses gravity during every step of wine production and their young wines, dating only back to 2014, are aging well in the bottle. Walk-ins are welcome.

Decantos Winery. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Dr. Victor Torres of Torres Alegre y Familia is the only Mexican to have graduated from the University of Bordeaux in France with a Ph.D. in Oenology. In order to receive his degree, the university asked that he not publish his new findings in winemaking techniques, which strayed from the school's strict standards. Ultimately, Bordeaux changed the way they make white wine due to Dr. Torres' research. The family-owned winery's line of Cru Garage wines realize the "maximum expression" of each single varietal, and pay homage to the renegade French winemaking movement of the same name. Tastings are by appointment only.

Italian expat Paolo Paolini of Villa Montefiori brings his country's winemaking expertise to the Valle de Guadalupe. He bought a parcel of land here in 1997 and planted vines from Italy and France. A champion of the Nebbiolo, Paolo recently commented "…the grape here produces a wine that is darker, heavier and bolder than in Italy." Bolder yet is Montefiori's Nerone, and they are the only Valle winery currently producing this single varietal based on the Agliánico grape. Walk-ins are welcome.

LARGER/COMMERCIAL WINERIES

Located in the Valle de Santo Tomás just south of Guadalupe, Bodega Santo Tomás is purportedly the first winery in Mexico. Founded in 1888, the Dominicans initially made sacramental wines, but quickly moved into commercial production. Now, Santo Tomás wines are found in groceries, tiendas, and convenience stores throughout Mexico. The winery's Tempranillo, Barbera, and Cabernet are the stars here. Walk-ins are welcome.

L.A. Cetto is one of Latin America's largest wine providers. The company produces 1,000,000 cases of the stuff annually. Founded in 1926 by Don Angelo Cetto, an Italian immigrant, the winery is currently run by Luis Alberto Cetto, the third generation of winemakers. Cetto produces a wide range of wines from economy to premium, so there's something for every budget and taste. Their Nebbiolo Reserve is a standout. Walk-ins are welcome.


Monte Xanic, founded by vintner Hans Backoff, and now managed by his namesake son, has one of the most beautiful facilities in the Valle de Guadalupe. Thick ropes hang from the front of the main building and sway in the wind, giving the impression of a dreamy hallucination. Their Sauvingon Blanc has notes of pear and grapefruit, and the Gran Ricardo blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot to robust effect. Monte Xanic's huge wine cave is akin to visiting the set of a villain's lair in a James Bond film. Tastings are by appointment and walk-ins are also welcome.

Monte Xanic. Photo W. Scott Koenig

WHERE TO EAT

The Valle de Guadalupe is home to two of S. Pellegrino's Latin America's Top 50 Restaurants –and also where you can find the region's only Michelin-starred chef. The name of the game here is fresh, sustainable, locally procured ingredients and wood-fired cooking. The rise of Baja California cuisine in the past several years has led gastronomes from all over the world to the Valle for good reason.

Chef Martin San Roman at La Terrasse San Roman. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Many of the Valle's restaurants harvest produce from their very own gardens. Local farms supply quail, lamb, and other meats. Ranches located in the state of Sonora, just south of Baja California, are considered sources for the best beef in Mexico. Additionally, the Valle's proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez guarantees that the freshest seafood is always on the menu.

Dining experiences in the Valle de Guadalupe range from simple fondas – humble Mexican eateries that prepare traditional Mexican dishes – to multi-course tasting menus paired with Valle wines at high-end restaurants. With over 50 restaurants now in the Valle, it can be daunting to choose, but here are some of our recommendations.

BREAKFAST

La Cocina de Doña Esthela is the most popular place for breakfast in the Valle de Guadalupe. Esthela's traditional Sinaloan preparations are so satisfying and generously portioned, that there's often a line out the door on the weekends. Her machaca (dried, shredded beef) and eggs or borrego tatemado (blackened lamb stew) are well worth the wait. Breakfasts are served with house-made flour and corn tortillas and a crumbly farmer's cheese. The machaca and eggs won FoodieHub's World's Tastiest Breakfast in 2015. Reservations are not required or accepted.

Machaca and eggs at La Cocina de Doña Esthela. Photo W. Scott Koenig

In 2014, acclaimed Mexican chef Martín San Román opened La Terrasse San Román at the Alximia winery. As you enter the Valle from the south, the restaurant's location in San Antonio de las Minas makes it a great place to start your day. Trained at L'Ecole Lenôtre in Paris, chef San Román also offers his "Baja Provençale" cuisine during lunch and dinner. The terrace here may very well be one of the best places to kick back with great food in the Valle. Reservations are recommended, but not required.

CASUAL DINING & SMALL PLATES

Should you decide to visit Bodegas F. Rubio for a wine tasting, don't miss their deli, where chef Alex Rubio creates satisfying small plates including a savory lamb quesataco (where the traditional tortilla is substituted with a round of griddled cheese), yellowtail tiradito, and smoked adobado pork ribs so tender they fall off the bone. Reservations are not required.

Often overlooked by north of the border daytrippers, Sol de Medianoche offers free cheese and wine tastings in their newly expanded shop in the small town of El Porvenir. Añejo, chipotle, and a young farmer's cheese are presented on a rustic wooden tasting "plate". Their shop sells all of the cheeses, as well as marmalades, house-made breads, and their good table wines.

Cheese tasting at Sol de Medianoche. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Several small restaurants, known as Coyote Colectivo, have opened around Sol de Medianoche's shop and offer birria de res (a beef stew from Guadalajara), tacos de costilla (pork rib), and other Mexican favorites, at very affordable prices.

The Troika food truck is located on the property of winery Vena Cava and is an excellent place to lunch before or after a wine tasting in the vineyard's unique cave, constructed of upturned boat hulls. Top chef Diego Hernández of restaurant Corazon de Tierra founded Troika, so it's not your typical food truck. Small bistro-style plates including truffle fries, steamed clams and mussels, lengua (beef tongue) sliders, and sopes of lechón (suckling pig) are offered. Reservations are not required.

Troika Food Truck. Photo W. Scott Koenig

MUST TRY RESTAURANTS

Nestled in a remodeled barn on the estate at Rancho Olivares, Almazara specializes in grilled lamb procured from nearby Rancho Sierra Blanca. The rustic restaurant prepares meats on a large Santa Maria Grill. The sirloin of lamb is perfectly cooked and served in a generous portion. The back patio is an ideal spot in which to dine, "down on the farm" style. Reservations are recommended, but not required.

Lamb sirloin at Almazara. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Chef Drew Deckman adheres to the use of only the most sustainable ingredients at his Valle restaurant, Deckman's en El Mogor, located at the Mogor Badan vineyard. Deckman spent a decade in Germany where he earned his Michelin star at restaurant Vitus. The chef and his staff do all the prep, cooking, and plating on a large brick hearth that acts as countertop, stove, grill, and oven. Guests are served raw seafood specialties and grilled meats in a rustic "dining room" constructed from hay bales, reclaimed wood, and corrugated tin. Reservations are suggested, especially during the summer season.

Chef Drew Deckman at Deckman's en El Mogor. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Finca Altozano is celebrity chef Javier Plascencia's rustic Valle restaurant. The chef and his staff take full advantage of their caja china – a roasting box that cooks the whole animal – for their lamb, pork, and other locally sourced meats. The large wine storage barrels on the perimeter of the property have been converted to observation towers and provide a great spot from which to enjoy a glass of Baja wine and watch the sun set over the Valle. Reservations are essential at this popular Valle de Guadalupe restaurant.

La Esperanza is chef Miguel Angel Guerrero's Valle restaurant at L.A. Cetto. Here, the chef prepares his trademark "Baja Med" dishes and grilled specialties. If the chef has returned from one of his recent hunting trips, there's a good chance you can order venison tartare or grilled and prepared as a burrito or tacos. One side of the restaurant is entirely open to Cetto's vast vineyards and the western mountain range. Reservations are recommended and walk-ins are also welcome.

La Esperanza. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Young chef Giannina Gavaldon opened restaurant Olivia el Asador del Porvenir in her parents' stone constructed home after graduation from the renowned Cordon Bleu culinary school in Los Angeles. Grilled meats are the specialty and chef Gavaldon's beef bone marrow is a highlight. The bone is split vertically and grilled to perfection, flavored with only a pinch of local sea salt. Her lengua (beef tongue) tartare is also on the menu and is served with crunchy house-made tostadas. Reservations are recommended, but not required.

THE VALLE'S BEST SPLURGES

Chef Diego Hernandez's Corazon de Tierra is one of S. Pellegrino's Latin American 50 Best Restaurants. Chef Hernandez's menu of Baja California cuisine varies daily depending on the availability of local and sustainable seafood, meat and poultry. The restaurant features regionally diverse dishes — such as de-boned quail in a red wine stock reduction and an amuse-bouche of smoked tuna and dried sea urchin. Give yourself several hours to enjoy their five-course tasting menu. Reservations are required.

Oysters at Corazon de Tierra. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Laja, the Valle's other S. Pellegrino's Latin American 50 Best Restaurant, is one of the first and still finest dining establishments in Baja California's wine country. Hermosillo-born chef Jair Téllez opened the restaurant in 2001, and the menu pays homage to the bounty of Baja California. The seasonal menu is served in a minimalistic, unpretentious setting and produce is grown in the restaurant's garden. The bread at Laja is made in-house and diners can choose from either a four or eight course tasting menu. Reservations are required.

At restaurant Malva, chef Roberto Alcocer and his staff prepare Baja California cuisine in the shade of the restaurant's hilltop palapa. Nestled on the Mina Penélope vineyard, Malva's casual environment belies a menu featuring refined and artistically plated dishes. Octopus rubbed with chile de arbol is grilled and poised atop grits surrounded by swirls of chili sauces and a white crema of buttered popcorn. A salad of roasted, pickled and puréed carrots with greens, beets and onion ash is beautifully arranged along a plate's edge. Reservations are required.

Grilled octopus at Malva. Photo W. Scott Koenig

EVENTS

The annual Fiestas de la Vendimia throughout the month of August celebrates the Valle de Guadalupe's harvest. Most Vendimia events are held at individual wineries and restaurants and fluctuate year to year. Other events such as the Noche de Cofradia in Ensenada and the Concurso de Paella and Muestra de Vino in the Valle are perennial. Tickets and lodging for all events should be booked well in advance and sell out quickly.

The Noche de Cofradia in Ensenada. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Restaurants and wineries feature special events and dinners throughout the year. Deckman's en El Mogor holds Bounty of the Baja multi-chef events on a regular basis, featuring talent from Baja California, the US, and Mexico. Alximia and its restaurant La Terrasse San Roman throw an annual Christmas bash, which has featured caroling by members of the San Diego Opera in the past.

For the latest on events in the Valle de Guadalupe, follow the websites and resources mentioned at the end of this guide.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

There is more to do than just eat and drink in the Valle de Guadalupe. Cuatro Cuatros offers Desert Nest, a 5-part zip line experience across the mountains and canyons on the western edge of their property. The Hotel Boutique features helicopter and hot air balloon rides over the Valle, as horseback riding. Adobe Guadalupe offers riding on their beautiful Azteca horses to guests of their B&B.

Helicopter tours of the Valle de Guadalupe. Photo W. Scott Koenig

You can learn all about the history of the Valle de Guadalupe's wine culture at the Museo de la Vid y el Vino. Interested in learning how to make your own wine? The school La Escuelita offers a four-weekend course on winemaking with the end result being a barrel of your very own vino.

In the early 1900's, around 100 Russian families were granted land in the Valle by the Mexican government and planted vines of their own — many of which still flourish at winery Bibayoff. The Museo Russo is located in a former Russian residence and contains photographs, tools, and other artifacts that provide a glimpse into what their lives were like here.

Museo Russo. Photo W. Scott Koenig

Visiting the Valle de Guadalupe with children? The Zoológico Parque del Niño offers a small zoo, playground, and activities for children. And the Viniphera Spa is a great way to unwind and receive a variety of massage and therapeutic treatments.

For more information on the Valle de Guadalupe, we recommend the following English language websites and publications:

1.agringoinmexico.com

2.thevalledeguadalupe.blogspot.mx

3.borderlinesfoodandtravel.com

4.sdfoodtravel.com

5.bajabound.com

6.discoverbaja.com

7.Todos Santos Magazine (available at restaurants in Ensenada & Valle de Guadalupe)

Nicholas Gilman, Editor. Fernando Gaxiola, Fact Checker. Miranda Garcia and W. Scott Koenig, photos. Miranda Garcia and Daniel Esparza videos.

Special thanks to the Tourism Ministry of Baja California, SECTURE, for helping us out with the visit to some of these great destinations in the Valle, accommodations and transportation. They are doing great work in letting the world know about one of Mexico's best regions to eat, drink and live.

Visit them at DiscoverBajaCalifornia.com

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