Wine-loving folk in Baja, Mexico, speak with pride about the Valle de Guadalupe, a surprisingly lush, wide cut of land just off the coast from Ensenada. One of the more popular tales comes from the age of the Spanish occupation of Mexico itself, when it’s believed that conquering Spaniards took such a shine to the intense grapes being grown in the Valle that they stopped importing bottles from Europe nearly altogether. To save face and keep a sense of national pride about their own wines, the Spanish government had the vineyards destroyed, throwing the Valle out of the wine game altogether for a few hundred years.
Today the grapes are back. Many vines are still young, and growers in the Valle continue to experiment with varieties as they work to develop a local signature, but there’s no denying the sense of exploration and innovation happening a mere 90 minutes south of San Diego. Along with the dozens and dozens of above-board wineries, garagiste-style winemakers proliferate the Valle, turning a small crop of grapes into individual hand-labeled bottles that have intrigued many a wine-lover. And the region has become something of a travel destination in its own right; not just for wine, but food as well.