When I decided to ring in this New Year drinking a glass of wine in beautiful Napa Valley, I never knew that subconsciously I had started off the year seeking the perfect wine experience. Since then, in addition, I have taken two small trips to Valle de Guadalupe even though it seems to be the hardest place to get to. My previous wine experiences in Temecula, Malibu and Napa Valley were beautiful but, they didn’t compare to my experience in El Valle de Guadalupe. These other experiences were either too expensive for me or not the kind of ambiance I was looking for. El Valle de Guadalupe was inhabited during WWII by migrants from Russia traveling to the United States. Russian migrants never actually made it over, they stayed and found the perfect environment to grow vineyards, and produce wine.
El Valle de Guadalupe lies hidden, 45 minutes from the beaches of Rosarito and North of Ensenada. The beautifully located valley, occupied by 2,664 Baja Californians is the perfect place for the wine, romance and relaxation. Getting to this hidden gem can be quite challenging to say the least. But, worth every minute of hectic aggressive Tijuana driving and curvy and winding Rosarito roads. This breathtaking valley provides wine lovers with a radiant view of vineyards and wine tasting that is guaranteed to make the taste buds pop. The wine tasting experience, a la Mexicana, is a must for all wine lovers North of the Tijuana border and other parts of the world.
The adventure starts even before you get to Valle de Guadalupe. Crossing dirt roads and driving next to family owned vineyard and wineries is part of the adventure. Along the way people will be selling olives, honey, olive oil, and other naturally grown items. I picked up a few of these things before I started my wine tasting experience. The family owned wineries and vintage hotels create an intimate wine experience that will make wine tasters feel right at home.
Getting to Valle de Guadalupe is probably hardest part, besides crossing back from Tijuana to San Ysidro. Traveling from Los Angeles to Tijuana can take from 2-4 hours, depending on what time and day you are heading out. Heading out before noon if it is a weekday, and weekends around 8 am is probably the best option.
GPS your trip and make sure you are taking the least congested freeway. In my case it was the 15 freeway, this freeway also leads you to Temecula, another beautiful wine tasting location. Another tip for your drive is to take your favorite music playlist or podcasts and fill yourself up with patience. If you’ve made it passed the border, congratulations, you will now have to find your way around!
Since street names are not very visible in Tijuana you will often get directions that go like this, ” Make a right after the Pemex, (gas station) passing the Oxxo ,(Mexico’s 7-eleven) then give a right by nude bar and turn right into a driveway, the house is blue”. Since i
I arrived to Tijuana after dark, I realized that finding any house with those directions was going to be impossible.
Be My Hotel, was my next stop. This $60 dollar a night hotel room is where you can get the most bang for your buck. I highly recommend this hotel. The unique paintings on the walls, continental breakfast, nice clean rooms are a few of the details I really liked about this place . After staying for the night at this cute hotel, I head out on my quest to find El Valle the following morning. The hallways of this hotel even had a Frida quote, ” Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
Favorite Places to Visit in Tijuana
Anyone traveling to Valle should stay a night in Tijuana, it definitely is worth the visit and breaks up the driving portion into segments. Crossing the U.S./ Mexico border can become a hectic drive and staying in Tijuana for one night can give you some breathing room in between.
Favorite places to visit in Tijuana.
Plaza del Zapato in Tijuana is a perfect location for a fun night out. La Plaza del Zapato is filled with locals enjoying freshly brewed beer, live music from banda to rock music, dj music all in one. If you are into the bar hopping scene, this is the place to go. Taking a taxi to this location can range from as little as two dollars to five depending on where you are staying.
Border Psychos Tasting Room. I was impressed by the high quality beer that we had at Border
psycho’s tasting room. Tijuana also has a up an rising Beer Brewing Scene, they have many beer brewing festivals throughout the year. So, if you are a beer drinker , this may be the right location for you. The food was perfect and had a good vegetarian selection. I was also impressed by the big selection of vegetarian restaurants in Tijuana. The two times that I have gone the staff is always welcoming and friendly and I actually can’t wait to go again. This delicious brewery has other locations around Mexico. Visit their website so you can plan your next visit here!
The Mercado Hidalgo is another one of my top things to do in Tijuana, it is filled with mom and pop restaurants, candy stores, booths that sell produce, dry fruit, nuts and other locally grown fruits and vegetables. My idea of just stopping here to have breakfast later turned into stopping and buying candy, buying cocos, buying piñatas, and what should have been a 1 hour visit later turned in to being there over 2 hours. Here you will find handcrafted cookware as well as herbal pharmacies and lots of piñatas. Here is a fun video on things to do en El Mercado Hidalgo.
Plaza Rio –is my favorite Tijuana shopping center. I feel the quality is better, the styles are cuter, they have my size ( Size 5) and the prices are better. I end up with three cute pairs of shoes for about 75 dollars. Since I have a hard time finding my size in California I always save my shoe shopping for Plaza rio Tijuana. They also have restaurants, a Comericial Mexicana and a movie theater. For a list of stores in Plaza Rio Tijuana visit their webpage.
Favorite Wineries and Places to Eat in Valle de Guadalupe.
- Chateu Camou impressed me on all levels. As soon as I arrived I was greeted and asked what kind of tasting I was interested in. The wine was amazing! Tasting samples started at $150 pesos, which is the equivalent of $7.50 dollars, for four tastings. The wine samples range from $150 pesos to $400 pesos and bottles start at about 6 dollars. The girl giving the tasting took her time, answered all my questions and was very knowledgeable about the wine. After the tasting, I received a small tour of the wine cellars, which were beautiful, and then she me outside to see the picnic area. The picnic area is nice and relaxing and overlooks some of the vineyards, this is a good location to unwind and enjoy the scenery. They did not have a vegetarian menu, but I told the cook that I wanted a vegetarian option and he hooked it up. They served me a Portobello mushroom with cheese and a salad. Here you can find more information on Chateau Camou. Since, many of the wineries in this valley are family owned, they sometimes close early on Sundays,open late on weekends and have a few days during the week that they are closed. Make sure you check schedules before your arrival.
- Torres Alegres- was probably one of my other favorite places to visit. The staff was great! They did a great job of showing me around and making me feel right at home. Deluxe tasting was$250 which is the equivalent of about $14.75 cents. The wine was great and the ambiance was more of a small farm feel. Outside, there are a few benches over looking the vineyards and a small person grilling food. You can ask the person giving you the tasting to let you taste in the picnic area. If you are looking for a wine and dine experience this would probably not be the place to go to.
- Los Cetto-By far one of my favorite places to visit-This winery was beautiful, it has some of the best wine I have had in this valley, the tasting is about the equivalent of 5 dollars for 4 tastings. You can actually buy some bread, cheese and wine and have a small picknick outside overlooking the vineyards. The tasting experience is intimate and the staff is very knowledgeable about the wine. This is probably one of the busier wineries and has a lot more traffic than Torres Alegres. They also have small tours to show you along the vineyards ( I got in trouble for trying to give myself a tour and was told that I was trespassing). To plan your next visit to this beautiful winery visit their website.
4. Encuentro Guadalupe– This is the place to go if you are looking for a beautiful view of the valley and want something good to eat. This is the first place I ever visited and it was beautiful. It is very eco friendly , so you will see places to recycle everywhere. They have small bungalows that you can rent and stay in if you are planning to stay a few nights in this beautiful valley. To plan your stay you visit booking.com or book here.
Tips for crossing the U.S./ Mexico Border.
The hard part about traveling to this beautiful place is going back home. Unfortunately, there is going to come a time when you have to go back home . First and foremost;
- Take your passport-the old days are over when you would just tell the border agent that you are a U.S. citizen. They now have to scan your passport.
- Leave at the appropriate time- Crossing before 12 am would be the best option. If you have the option to cross over to the U.S. on a day that is not Saturday or Sunday, even better. But, if you have to cross on the weekend , make sure it is at the right time. You can also check certain websites to see how long the wait is at different borders. Here is the website I like to check.
- Crossing through Mesa de Otay- This border crossing area is closer to the Tijuana airport and I think can cut down your crossing time by about two hours.
- A passport card so you can travel on the Ready Lane– Passport cards are just like a passport but, they can only be used to re-enter the United States at land border crossings and se-ports of entry form in Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean and Bermuda. For more information on the passport card visit the webpage. Applications are done in person and renewals can be done by mail. If you frequently cross the border this is a good idea.
- Crossing through Tecate- Tecate is about one hour from Tijuana but, crossing times can range from 30 minutes to one hour and a half. If you are willing to make the extra drive, crossing through this border can be another option.
Traveling to Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe can be a fun and adventurous experience however, make sure that you are willing to expect some detours along the way. Taking these tips with you as you plan your trip can also be beneficial in deciding when to cross, where to stay and where to eat if you are vegetarian. The media can often times discourages from visiting places that we are curious to explore, and we can especially get discouraged from crossing the U.S/ Mexico border but, my two recent trips have been nothing but fun! Tijuana is also a fast growing city that is becoming more and more appealing and I also can’t wait for my next visit. Hope you plan your next tr soon too!