Mexican’s don’t typically consider Baja California to be part of Mexico. It’s viewed as an outlier, a distant cousin — as much a part of the Mexican zeitgeist as the Aleutian Islands are to America. This sense of isolation from traditional Mexican mores has fermented into an intoxicating regional personality, and today our beloved Baja is “La Reina del Baile” ( Queen of the Dance, Spanish equivalent of “Belle of the Ball”).
Nowhere is this achievement more evident than in the eclectic Valle de Guadalupe, a vine swaddled oasis east of Ensenada. The saga of this valley plays out like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Novel: First there were the indigenous Kumeyaay, then the Spanish friars they successfully resisted, then the first generation of native Mexicans post statehood in 1810, then came the Russian Molokans fleeing the turbulence of the 1917 Russian Revolution, and now you’ve got American millennials and aging hipsters parading around uncorking magnums and throwing baby showers. All of the aforementioned players have vitally contributed to the valley’s wine profile; the whole shebang is distilled and bottled, waiting patiently to fuel the next phase of the party.
My first trip to 'The Valle” came about in the unassuming manner that pivotal life experiences often do; unintentionally and by default. It was September of 2013, and my parents had invited me down for the weekend at a beach house they rented in the gated coastal community of Las Gaviotas. I worked up the nerve to ask if I could bring along a beautiful young woman I had recently begun dating — they cheerfully agreed, and it was the first time they met their future daughter-in-law. After a couple of sun soaked days scouring the nearby beaches and seafood scene, my dad proposed that we return home by driving inland from Ensenada and crossing the border at Tecate. I didn’t have the faintest clue that we would be traversing the “Ruta Del Vino” en route.
Today, I know the Ruta del Vino as a world class wine region loaded with character and distinct Baja charm. I know that Doña Estella serves up the best Borrego Tatemado (Roast Lamb) you’ll ever taste, and that the underground vault at El Cielo will transport you to a hidden world of elegance and charm. I know where you can glamp in a bubble surrounded by vines, and also where to find the koalas and camels. And perhaps most importantly, I know that the rest of the world is developing a ravenous appetite for the bounty of Guadalupe Valley — and I know how to vanquish that hunger.
The Valle is an entirely unique spectacle in the world. Taking after the fine wine it produces, it draws nearer every day to reaching it’s peak potential — a process that will be measured in years rather than flavors of the month.