Discovering Baja California Wine Country, Mexico

///Discovering Baja California Wine Country, Mexico

Discovering Baja California Wine Country, Mexico

The oldest winery on Baja’s Wine Route dates back to the late 19th century. Nowadays, the growing region has over 50 producers of all sizes. Here’s a look at the wine country and three of its wineries. 

OVERVIEW

Baja California WineThe Baja California Wine Country in the northwest corner of Mexico is comprised of three valleys: Guadalupe, Calafia and San Antonio de las Minas. This coastal, largely rural region has a long tradition of wine making – the oldest winery opened in 1888 – and keeps growing, slowly gaining international recognition. There are currently over 50 wine producers, ranging from small, family-owned shops to large-scale operations.

Visiting the area reminded me of wine tasting in Sonoma, California, thanks to the landscape and presence of boutique wineries. The main difference (and concern) was the number of bottles I could take home and the overall availability of the wines outside Baja.

Generally, travelers entering the US can bring one liter of alcohol per person duty-free, which translates to one 750 ml bottle of wine. Also, many of the wines are hard to find elsewhere. While they have been distributed in Mexico and even Europe, it hasn’t been the case with the US and Canada until recently, due to trade policies. Even now, they are not easily found.

Despite the fact that you are likely to taste more wine that you could bring with you, Ruta del Vino (Wine Route) is well-worth a visit. The mountainous setting is serene, the atmosphere laid-back and welcoming, and the wines excellent.

I had mostly reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, blends) and many were served with cheese and/or bread with olive oil. There were no crowds, I didn’t feel rushed, and the winemakers were easy to talk to – in English and Spanish. In addition to wineries, the valley has quality restaurants and lodging, museums, art galleries, and natural sites.

WINERIES

I stopped at these three wineries in the town of San Antonio de las Minas. They differed in size and atmosphere, but all provided a quality experience.

Vitivinícola Tres Valles

The artisan winery was founded in 1999 and draws inspiration from the region’s history. The names of their wines (four types of red and one white) come from the language of the Kiliwa, an indigenous people of northern Baja California (e.g. kuwal means red and kojaa wine). Labels have images of spiders and snakes from the area, and outside the tasting room are statues of the same, made of wine barrels and metal parts.

Our wine tasting was preceded by a tour of the wine cellar, which you enter through a narrow stone staircase. The tasting room is cozy and features bottles hanging from the ceiling.

Jetting Around’s choice: 2010 Jalá (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Grenache Noir)

Barrels of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon at Tres Valles winery

Barrels of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon at Tres Valles winery

Names of the wines at Tres Valles come from the language of the indigenous Kiliwa people

Wine names come from the language of the indigenous Kiliwa people

View of the valley from the tasting room. The spider made of metal parts and a wine barrel is a nod to the region's natural history.

View of the valley from the tasting room. The sculpture is a nod to the region’s natural history.

Viña de Liceaga

Established in 1983, this larger winery has a spacious tasting room, an outdoor patio, and a forest of shade trees. You enter the property through white-washed stone gate and proceed to the main entrance through a gravel driveway.

Liceaga specializes in red wine, mainly Merlot- and Cabernet-heavy blends, as well as a line of grappa (a type of brandy) named Aqua de Vid. The winery also hosts events, such as cheese festivals and dinner events with live music.

Jetting Around’s choice: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon 

Liceaga has a spacious tasting room and restaurant

You can enjoy wine and views of the property from the shaded patio

You can enjoy wine and views of the property from the shaded patio

La Casa Vieja

The winery is located in an adobe ranch home from the 1800’s, hence the name (meaning “the old house” in Spanish). Casa Vieja has been producing wine since 2006 and features a wine bar, restaurant, and shaded patio. There’s also a gift shop selling jewelry, textiles and natural body care products. Art events throughout the year showcase local talent.

It is easy to relax in the snug tasting room, which is painted orange and has simple light wood furniture. You may be greeted by a parrot  and asked by the owner to pin your hometown on a map hanging in the corner. White and red wine is served with excellent cheese, olives, bread and olive oil.

Jetting Around’s choice: El Chango Viejo 2011

On the way to a wine tasting at Casa Vieja

On the way to a tasting at Casa Vieja

The tasting room is inside  an adobe home from the 1800's

The tasting room is inside an adobe home from the 1800’s

Wine at Casa Vieja is served with cheese, olives, bread and olive oil

Wine is served with cheese, olives, bread and olive oil

GETTING THERE & LINKS

  • The area is only about 70 miles from the US border near San Diego and there are guided tours available.
  • You could combine your visit with a stay in Ensenada, a port town about a half hour’s drive from the valley. It is easily accessible by bus from Tijuana/US border, and renting a taxi in Ensenada to the wine country costs around 450 pesos ($35), round trip.
  • More information is available on Discover Baja California.

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Sources consulted: Discover Baja CaliforniaU.S. Customs and Border Protection, Moon Travel Guides

Which wine countries have you visited? What was your experiences like?

By | 2017-03-04T18:31:55+00:00 January 15th, 2013|Around Cities|38 Comments

About the Author:

avatar
Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.

38 Comments

  1. avatar
    Matthew Lucas January 16, 2013 at 1:31 am

    I love this! I have been to Mexico quite a bit but never to the wine country. Now I can’t wait to go! Great post!

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 16, 2013 at 1:44 am

      I couldn’t wait to write the post after visiting the wine country! It was such a fun experience – the wine was excellent and the people so friendly, including our cab driver. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Glad you liked the post, Matt! :)

  2. avatar
    Kaitlin January 16, 2013 at 5:05 am

    I’ve tried a few delicious glasses of red from Mexico but haven’t made it down there yet, it looks like a beautiful area

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 17, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      Hi Kaitlin. Go if you get a chance! :) It’s so laid-back, yet the wine could rival that from some of the bigger (and more expensive) wine regions.

  3. avatar
    Johanna Bradley January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am

    It’s an area I always wanted to visit anyway, Pola. The wine is just a bonus. (a nice one!)
    Johanna Bradley recently posted..Sunday Post : SimplicityMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      I pretty much went FOR the wine, haha. ;) It’s lovely out there, especially the mountains + ocean combo.

  4. avatar
    Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter) January 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    A post after my heart – my wine bottle shaped heart! Neat to discover a new wine region so close to the U.S. Will need to be on my schedule some day soon!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter) recently posted..The Highlights of Food and Wine in 2012. Mostly Food.My Profile

  5. avatar
    @mrsoaroundworld January 22, 2013 at 6:55 am

    You know how to get me, don’t you! Lovely post and discovery – I didn’t even know there were wines there!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..A lux weekend in Paris with @AvenueStoryMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 22, 2013 at 7:17 pm

      Haha, I guess so! ;) Having a wine country in that climate zone makes all the sense, but I didn’t know about it wither until recently. Too bad it doesn’t get more publicity…

  6. avatar
    D.J. - The World of Deej January 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I can’t recall ever having a Baja wine. Perhaps that needs to change, especially given your trusted seal of approval!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Check-In FloridaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 22, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      Well, thank you for the kind words, Deej! And you know, not being to recall doesn’t mean it didn’t happen haha. ;)

  7. avatar
    the lazy travelers January 22, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    i need to stop reading posts about wine when i’m trying not to drink during the week. this is torturous because you made it all sound so PERFECT.
    the lazy travelers recently posted..no travel requiredMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 22, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      You’re welcome. ;) haha

  8. avatar
    Francesca January 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    You really have me wanting to go to Baja wine country! It might have to wait a few months ;-) but I’d love to go one day. Beautiful pictures, as usual!
    Francesca recently posted..How I went from a backpacker to an RV camperMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      It can be a fun trip – I hope you’ll get to go! :)

  9. avatar
    The World Wanderer January 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    These wineries are just beautiful! I love wine tasting wherever I go, and at home, so this is something I will have to add to my list.
    The World Wanderer recently posted..Feeling Tiny at the Colossi of Memnon.My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      They really are! I had a great time. :)

  10. avatar
    Craig Zabransky January 24, 2013 at 5:55 am

    this is SO on my list – a wine tour in Mexico. And I can personally vouch for tasting some quality Mexican wines too… I drank them often when I called Mexico City home…

    stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted..My Fourth January AnniversaryMy Profile

  11. avatar
    Traveling Ted January 25, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Way to bring recognition to the wines of Baja. They are along the same coast as Napa, so it makes sense they would also have good wine, yet many are not aware.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Exploring Huelva and the Doñana National ParkMy Profile

  12. avatar
    Jaillan Yehia (@SavoirThere) January 28, 2013 at 12:13 am

    I love a good wine tasting especially in a scenic outdoor setting with sunshine and plenty of bread and cheese to go with it; sounds like bliss! I must admit I had never associated Mexico with wine in my mind before now, so thanks for educating me, another one to add to the wish list!

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 29, 2013 at 1:53 am

      And I’m in total agreement with you about enjoying wine outdoors, with a view…

  13. avatar
    Leah Travels January 28, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Is it wrong that I’m craving wine at 8:13 am on a Monday after reading this?
    Leah Travels recently posted..My Four Must-Dos Prior to International TravelMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 29, 2013 at 1:50 am

      I think it’s perfectly ok. ;)

  14. avatar
    Rose Scott January 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Who knew Mexico had a wine country!! Cheers :-)
    Rose Scott recently posted..Vegan baking tips – Is it really possible to bake a cake without cracking eggs?My Profile

  15. avatar
    Miret January 29, 2013 at 2:32 am

    Looks like you had a very fun time! :-)
    Miret recently posted..Foodie travel photo of the dayMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 29, 2013 at 3:00 am

      I really did! :) I’d love to go back there and try a few more wineries.

  16. avatar
    Tawny of Captain and Clark February 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    What’s not to love about this post? It looks like you had an incredible time! I think you’ve convinced me to pour a glass of red right now. :)
    Tawny of Captain and Clark recently posted..Experiencing Life in an Indian Slum.My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 4, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Great times indeed. Cheers!

  17. avatar
    Agness April 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Wine? Someone said wine? I would get killed for a glass of this Mexican wine, seriously!
    Agness recently posted..Magnificent Scenery of Fenghuang Plus Tips on How to Explore It (My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around April 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      So I guess I shouldn’t tell you it was awesome… ;)

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