I love Baja for its ocean views, beautiful deserts, street tacos, bright sunshine, and friendly people.  Now, after scouting a future tour in the Guadalupe Valley Wine Route (Ruta de Vino), I love it for other reasons: gourmet restaurants, distinctive architecture, wonderful wines, and, again, friendly people.  Only three hours from Orange County, you will find yourself in a peaceful, classy, hip and tasteful wine region.  Let's call it "Napa: Mexico Style!".  Here's the link: Ruta del Vino

Luisa was one of the many delightful wine stewards that we met.  Here she is pouring some great reds from
the Adobe Guadalupe.  Many of the young people working at the wineries attended the nearby University
of Baja California in Ensenada.

Getting There:  The Valle de Guadalupe, aka, "Ruta del Vino", is easy to get to.  Just cross the border from San Diego, take the toll road (ENSENADA QUOTA), and follow the coast for just over one hour.  At the town of El Sauzal (just twenty minutes north of Ensenada), take Highway 3 northeast towards Tecate.  Within ten minutes, you are in the valley.  Notice from the map below that there are only two main roads converging at the northeastern end of the valley.  Most of the roads accessing the wineries are dirt roads in decent condition.  On your way back home, you can go back to the coast and take the toll road back to Tijuana and the San Isidro border crossing or continue north from the end of the valley to Tecate (about a one hour drive) for a less hectic scene at the border.

Notice how close the Valle de Guadalupe is to the coast.  It has a few little
towns, fifty wineries and about 120 hotel rooms.
Exploring the Valley: There are so many wineries and signs along the route that it can be overwhelming.  I'm not a wine expert but the tastings were impressive with a wide variety of red and white wines.  We loved the flavorful "Nebiolo" wines made by Cruz Winery.  I recommend doing a little research and picking a few places to visit.  A recent article from Sunset Magazine is a good start: The West's New Hottest Wine Region.  You could also hire a tour guide or company to show you the best places.  I was fortunate to meet Miguel Auza, an excellent guide with a love of wine, fine cuisine, and an insider's knowledge.  There are only about 120 hotel rooms in the whole valley so make your reservations early.  Here's a glimpse of what we discovered in this beautiful region.

Distinctive, cutting-edge architecture: Mexico is known for its innovative design and the Valle really shows it off.  Many of the wineries we saw featured recycled wood with exposed metal combined in super creative ways.  This "up-cycled", rustic look blended into the landscape beautifully.

The Casa Ocho hotel at the Bruma resort blended beautifully into the landscape.
The architect of Bruma used recycled materials found within a 200 mile radius.  Notice the exposed, weathered metal surfaces - a common theme in the Valley's resort design.

Decantos Winery was a beautiful example of the weathered steel, local stone and natural colors.
As with wineries in California, there were beautiful outdoor sitting areas.
Encuentro Guadalupe, the most dramatic hotel and winery, has dramatic exposed metal guest rooms perched on the bluff
overlooking the Valley.
Deckman's Restaurant takes rustic to the next level with its straw bale walls, adobe interior and indoor/outdoor seating.
Finca Altozano, with its wonderful seafood cuisine, captures that rustic ranch look with exposed wood, metal and corrugated tin.  I even liked the octopus here!
Adobe Guadalupe featured more traditional Mission Revival architecture with a beautiful dining room, kitchen, stables and
guest rooms.
Wonderful restaurants and cuisine:  I was really impressed with the ambience and food presentation at the restaurants we visited.  Guadalupe Valley has attracted some very well known chefs, some from Mexico City, and a good time to visit is during "La Festival de las Conchas (The Shell Festival)" where several restaurants feature a guest chef.  Many of the dishes feature seafood from the Baja coast including octopus (pulpo), scallops, oysters, barnacles, mussels and rock fish.  Also, the Valley specializes in country-style spit cooking over firewood ("asador campestre") and the flavors were delicious!

The rustic and elegant design of Fauna Restaurant at the Bruma resort was one of the
most beautiful I have ever seen.

Fauna Restaurant is sensitively tucked into the hillside and serves delicious food.
Many of the restaurants we visited had their own organic gardens whose produce was featured
prominently on the menu.
Deskman's Restaurant is a good example of the open-spit, country cooking style (asador campestre)
of Guadalupe Valley.  The quail and roasted asparagus were so tasty (muy ricks!).
Even  the barnacles were decorated with flowers from the organic garden.

Abalone with beets.

Why not decorate a fresh oyster with a flower?

Carob ice cream dessert with a beautiful presentation.

Octopus tostadas with flavored onions.

The duck looked under-cooked but it was delicious!

I almost like octopus now!

The whole experience - wonderful people, tasty wine & food, and that warm Mexico ambience:
In summary, I totally recommend a visit to this wonderful Baja wine region.  It's not just the wine or the food or the architecture.  It's the comfortable pace, the dirt roads, the friendly people.  I can't wait to offer a Baja Wine Tour with tour guide Miguel!  Check out these last few photos and I hope you get a chance to visit this special wine region just south of the border!

Maria and I at the Bruma resort at the east end of the Valle de Guadalupe.  Bruma is high-end and beautifully designed to fit into the landscape.

Not your typical hotel!  The resort at Bruma.

Wonderful guide Miguel sampling a local carrot at Laja Restaurant.

No visit is complete without a visit to the local "panaderia" (bakery).  These "conchas" (shells)
are ready for the oven.
My wife and I loved the Nebiolo wines of winemaker Cruz pictured above

My good friend Bob just picked a winery - this one is called Xecue - and we ended up buying a
few bottles.  By the way, you can only take one liter of wine per person back across the border - a limit
that we exceeded greatly thanks to a nice border patrol agent.