Wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe

The Valle de Guadalupe, located in Baja California between Ensenada and Tecate. Is Mexico’s primary wine-producing area. The first commercial winery on the scene was Domecq in 1972. L.A. Cetto and Santo Tomás are two other major producers with national distribution in Mexico. However, a map of the valley shows 54 of them, and I suspect that there’s a few more that aren’t on the map.

Visiting these wineries and doing tastings is a fun activity, but there are some logistical issues that are addressed in this article.

First, if you want to stay overnight in Valle de Guadalupe, there are a few hotels and bed and breakfasts, with some of the B& B’s run by wineries. They are all expensive. The one exception I’ve been able to find is Glamping Ruta de Arte Y Vino, which has a collection of renovated Airstream camping trailers. They rent for USD $45 a night. (Note that, because of the proximity to San Diego and Southern California, a lot of businesses in the area quote prices in dollars.) There’s some posadas and B& B’s in nearby San Antonio de las Minas, most of which can’t be found in Trip Advisor or other accommodation listings. So, you’ll probably end up staying in Ensenada, where high-quality and reasonably priced hotel rooms are available.

That leads to a “gotcha”; Valle de Guadalupe is one a a very few places in Mexico where there are no taxis whatsoever. There are van tours, but they’re pricey; do you want to spend money on this, or tasting and procuring wine? There are passenger vans that leave from Calle Sexta and Miramar in Ensenada every half hour, and the one-way fare is a dollar. Other that the frequency, this isn’t a very satisfactory way of getting around. For one thing, wineries tend to have long driveways, and for another, do you really want to be carrying around a lot of full wine bottles? Once you get over five or so of them, they get heavy.

So, the better transportation options are Uber, which people in the area use a lot. I was quoted a price of 1,300 pesos ($65) for a car and driver for a day; this includes a driver twiddling his thumbs while you’re doing the tasting. However, I was able to rent a car from Hertz for 1,000 pesos ($50) plus about 150 pesos for gasoline.

The next “gotcha” is, don’t expect to find many bargains. A lot of the tourists in the area are from Southern California or Mexico City, and they have bid up the prices. Tastings generally cost from $9 to $15, and they don’t usually waive the tasting fee of you buy bottles. I did see some signs on the road for “degustaciones gratis” (free tastings), but I didn’t investigate any of them. With only a couple of days to spend, I had to restrict my visits to wineries that were recommended to me. They all had high-quality products, but the prices were in the $20 to $30 range, and generally closer to $30.

So, here’s the rundown of where I went:

Viñedos Malagón: If you like dry reds, this is your kind of place, but it’s also pricey. I highly recommend their 70% grenache/30% petit syrah. Their grenache/petit syrah/cabernet sauvignon/merlot is very good. They also have a 100% grenache. This place also operates a B & B; it’s pricey, too.

Bodegas F. Rubio: Very helpful staff. Tasted a 92% palomino/8% chenin blanc, and a 50% cab/30% merlot/20% malbec. I bought their 2014 malbec without bothering to taste it.

Bodegas Hacienda La Lomita: Tried their 2015 tempranillo/barbera/shiraz and their 2014 cab/merlot/syrah.

Villa Montefiori: The lowest price/performance ratio of the places listed here, and another friendly and helpful staff. Tried 70% cab/30% merlot, 70% shiraz/30% merlot, and 75% cab/25% sangiovese.

Finca la Carrodilla: The best physical surroundings of the places I visited. I sampled their 2015 shiraz/cab/tempranillo, 2014 cab, and 2014 tempranillo.

Vinicola Adobe Guadalupe: Came away with their 2013 45% merlot/40% cab/15% malbec and 2013 50% nebbiolo/50% cab. They have a hotel on the premises.

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