Erin and I were quite excited to visit Mexico’s premier wine region – Valle de Guadalupe – where wine makers are making fine and world class wines.
The majority of wineries ask you to make reservations ahead of time. There is simply not the same amount of traffic as in Napa which makes it possible for walk-ins, so don’t be intimidated about calling ahead. In addition most tastings cost about $10 USD.
We learned California limits the amount of wine that California resident’s can bring back via an overland border to 1.0 liter. I’m ready to write my state senator. Seriously? They coudn’t even make it a rational 1.5 liters so each person can bring home a mere two bottles? They could at least do me the courtesy of limiting import to 750ml so I don’t feel I’m losing out on the other 250ml.
If you are not a California resident you are not subject to this ridiculous restriction.
I’ve visited several Caliornian wine regions: Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez Valley, a few Italian (Tuscan) appellations : Montalcino, Montepulciano, and even the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada.
The Guadalupe Valley wines remind me most of the wines from Santa Ynez Valley (close to Santa Barbara) in that the terroir comes through providing a distinctive taste across many of he fine wines – especially as it relates to Cabernet Sauvignon. There are a great many blends of grapes as their are no restrictions on what can be grown in the region.
Although both Monte Xanic and Baron Balche have premium limes that range from $75 to $250 USD per bottle, neither winery offers tasting flights of these reserve lines. You’ll have to buy your own bottle to sample these.
Monte Xanic has an awe-inspiring 50 foot tall wine cave blasted out of the side of the mountain the winery sits on. Make sure to ask to see this cave. Monte Xanic also has a beautiful man made lake where they host concerts next to.
I’d advise skipping Baron Balche, but encourage you to try all the other three I tried.
I also recommend going to Rancho Cortes for artisan fresh and aged Mexican cheeses.
We did not visit Vinos Pijoan, but we had three bottles ordered along with our dinners. We really like their wines and recommend you visit them.
Vinos Pijoan Silvana – a Sauvignon Blanc with a little Chenin Blanc and Viogner
Vinos Pijoan Domenica – Grenache
Adobe Guadalupe Gabriel 2010 – a Merlot 38%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Malbec 23%, Cabernet Franc 9%
Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – but you should spring for their Gran Ricardo
Vena Cava Tempranillo 2010 – this was served at a G20 meeting this year
Vena Cava Big Blend 2010
Vena Cava Sauvignon Blanc
La Villa de Valle offers a bucolic escape from Los Angeles in Mexico’s premier wine region – Valle De Guadalupe in Baja Norte, Mexico.
I left after a breif three night stay and feel completely rejuvenated. La Villa de Valle is one of the few places I’ve stayed where upon departure I feel compelled to plan return visits. There’s so much to see in this world, it’s a trade-off to visit the same place twice, but I plan to use La Villa de Valle as my “country house” when I need to relax away from the city.
The magic of the property comes from three of its principals: the owners of the property, the villa, and the winery – Phil and Eileen Gregory – and their partner in the on premsises restaurant Corazon de Tierra – Chef Diego Hernandez. For those of you who don’t already know, Chef Diego Hernandez is a culinary rockstar.
Phil and Eileen are present and good conversationalists. We spoke with Phil on a variety of topics during our tasting of his wines that ranged from winemaking to the Baja economy. We learned that Eileen conceptualized the Villa and was the mastermind behind the appealing interior décor.
The open architecture of Corazon de Tierra that brings the diner right into the garden where much of the vegetables are sourced and the topsy-turvy architecture of the winery and tasting room are designed respectively by Claudia and Alejandro d’Acosta Turrent two architects who are also husband and wife.
These five (5) amazing people have collaborated on creating a fantastic retreat in the valley.
I’ve been talking a lot, let me take a breath and explain that Phil and Eileen run three businesses on the property:
• La Villa De Valle (Bed & Breakfast / Inn)
• Corazon de Tierra (Restaurant)
• Vena Cava (Winery & Tasting Room)
Phil and Eileen are quite industrious as they purchased the property simply to relax and entertain friends, but soon found themselves opening their home to paying guests in 2006 after their friends talked about how difficult it was fine to find a place to stay while wine tasting in the valley.
The Villa is off of the Ruta de Vino (Hwy 3) and hardly any distance at all from Ensenada. The surprise for those used to California’s developed wine regions is that La Villa de Valle, like the other Valle de Guadalupe wineries, requires navigating a series of dirt roads. Right at the Highway 3 Kilometer 88 marker you’ll turn onto a dirt road (left turn if you’re coming from Ensenada and a right turn if you’re coming from Tecate). You’ll follow signs posted at each of the many intersections along the dirt road that eventually brings you to the property. If you didn’t leave your cares behind when you crossed the border, let go of them as you leave the paved highway.
The Villa is a two story building on top of the higher hill on the property. Therefore there are great views of the valley and mountains. There are plenty of places to grab a private seat outside on the patio or inside in the inviting lounge. There are five (5) rooms with balconies, and four (4) that are large enough for chairs and a tin fire place. We stayed in the fifth room and enjoyed standing on the verandah, but secretly wished we could be sitting. If you’re able to book a balcony you have the choice to enjoy the view in second-story privacy – though with only 6 rooms the entire experience feels private and romantic.
Erin and I like Eileen’s aesthetic. Therefore we felt comfortably at home lounging in the public areas. The premier place to lounge in my opinion howerver is around the pool. Couples can grab pairs of loungers under palapas or a day bed with reed shades. The pool is located below the main house at the end of a winding stair case “protected” by a 20-foot tall gate (lacking any wall or fence) that acts as an entry way to the pool area. The landscaping is beautiful, especially the use of local boulders to create personal spaces. There is a deep Jacuzzi (in fact you can stand and rest your arms on the side in one section). There is also a precious cactus that looks down on you as you’re soaking in the hot water.
Breakfast every morning is a treat as it’s served at Corazon de Tierra – a restaurant many come to simply to eat. Each morning the kitchen lays out granola, yogurt, honey, a selection of fresh cut fruit, and a selection of scones and other bake goods. Just as you’re thanking the heavens for the wonderful continental spread the waiter let’s you know the hot dish for the day. Twice we had delicious chilaquiles with eggs (the first day with a green sauce and the third day with a red sauce) and the reamining day eggs were served with a mushroom sauce. Then you get surprized by some house baked bread and butter. You’ll leave wondering why this doesn’t happen at your house.
Phil & Eileen can book many different things for you to do. Erin took advantage of a morning yoga class that two couples had arranged in the AMAHZING yoga studio beside the pool. I asked to have a driver, Raphael, through La Villa de Valle, take us around wine tasting in a mini-van for 1000 pesos M.N. I highly recommend this for two reasons. First, you don’t need to worry about drinking and driving. Second, if you don’t speak Spanish it’s great to have a local help you enjoy the experience. Most wineries have someone who speaks English, but our driver was more fluent than the majority of the people serving wine which lead to deeper conversations.
Okay. I’m still enjoying Baja and in Ensenada. I’ll write about my dinner at Corzon di Tierra. I also need ot post some photos to share with you how incredible this place looks.