You wouldn’t have thought it, but Mexico is getting a reputation for wine. Really? Wineries in Mexico? Next, you’ll say you can snow ski in Mexico. (you can) Valle de Guadalupe, which is located in Northern Baja and very close to Ensenada has turned out to be a great climate for growing grapes, and wineries are popping up all over the valley. While it’s no Napa Valley, there are some great wines coming out of the area as well as some amazing restaurants that could compete at a global level. The Ruta del Vino is definitely worth a visit if you are a wine lover.
Getting to the Valle is pretty easy. It’s about an hour and 45 minutes from San Diego. You can take the 5 freeway to the border at San Ysidro and then take the toll road (Carretera Escenica) South towards Ensenada. Continue on the toll road past the 3rd toll booth, and just before Ensenada, you will see a sign for Ruta del Vino – Route 3. (Wine Route) This is the main road where all the wineries and restaurants are located off of.
What to Expect
Before you go, you should know what to expect when you get to the Valle because it’s a bit different than most wine tasting locations.
- The roads can be very bumpy – while the main road into and out of the Valle is paved, most wineries are located off the Route 3 on dirt roads. Depending on the time of year, these roads can be muddy or incredibly bumpy. In the dry months, they feel like you are driving across a washboard, so be prepared to bump around a lot. It is certainly not recommended you take your fancy new sports car on them. Drive in an SUV or try one of the tour vans.
- The food will blow your mind – the restaurants popping up over the Valle are amazing, to say the least. The area is attracting high end chefs who will delight your senses with their specialties.
- The winery architecture is spectacular – you wouldn’t expect it while driving down these bumpy roads in Mexico, when you get to the wineries, you will discover amazing architecture in how they were built.
- The prices are not what you’d expect – being in Mexico, you’d think the wines were inexpensive, but they are actually priced pretty close to California wines, and some can get quite expensive. There are some bargains out there, but don’t expect to wine taste for free or get ridiculous deals on wine.
- The trip back home can be long – the San Ysidro border crossing is the busiest port of entry in the nation, so depending on the time of day, it could be a 2-3 hour wait getting across the border. If your passport has been renewed after 2007, it has an RFID chip in the cover which allows you to take the Ready Lane across the border and it’s a bit faster than the standard lanes. You can find directions on our Leaving Mexico page. Also, remember when going back across the border, Customs only allow 1 liter per person of alcohol duty-free. (That’s only 1.5 bottles of wine!) If you bring more and are caught, you may have to pay duties on the overage.
Remember if you are crossing the border to visit the Valley de Guadalupe, your U.S. auto insurance is not recognized in Mexico so purchase a short-term Mexican auto insurance policy.