I love wine. It’s a culture. It brings together some incredibly interesting people, and in some incredibly interesting places around the world. There’s history, pride, humility, and constant innovation in the wine making business. And there’s a lot of sophistication, community, and, for lack of a better phrase, drunken fun, in wine tasting.

When you think of the West Coast and wine, what comes to mind? Napa Valley is likely rolling off your tongue. But what’s equally as exciting as places that have made a name for themselves in the wine industry is the up-and-comers. It keeps you traveling, guessing, experiencing new things. As a self-proclaimed “wino forever” living four hours north of one of the West Coast’s lesser known wine regions, Valle de Guadalupe, I thought it my duty to hope in the car and head south.

Valle de Guadalupe is a village located in Mexico’s Baja California. It dates back to the 1800s, and its agricultural richness has led people to purchase land in hopes of building better futures for themselves and their families. The result is a constant work in progress with unpaved roads leading to rustic, al-fresco wineries and restaurants, and eco-friendly hotels and haciendas that offer some of the freshest, cheapest, and most delightful tastes the mouth can find.

Valle de Guadalupe

Where to Eat: One thing is for certain: driving on dirt roads in the evening is an adventure. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s a setback. Google Maps is okay, but really, if you want to get to Corazón de Tierra, you better ask around. Corazón de Tierra is the most noted restaurant in the valle. Chef Diego Hernandez’s food is no taco stand. It’s very modern without losing that Mexican soul. You’ll get a six-course tasting with wine pairing.

Deckman’s is the best of the best thanks to Michelin starred chef Drew Deckman. The rustic, outdoor space has a very approachably refined feel. Each plate is, undoubtedly, a sensory overload — beautiful on the plate, delicious to the palate. You might just want to clap with happiness and appreciation.

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Valle de Guadalupe

Where to Drink: If you like big, bad wines, The Valle is for you. You’ll find varieties from Spain, Portugal, southern France, central and southern Italy, Greece and California. Such red varieties include:  Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano and Aglianico. As for whites, you can expect: Fiano, Viognier, Chasselas, Chenin Blanc, Vermentino, Colombard and Palomino.

Go to Lechuza Vineyard for vintner-to-visiter fun. You’ll get a tasting, sure, but then Kristin, the owner, will gladly pour you a big glass of her finest and take you through the vineyard and into their unique wine cave for a history lesson and more sips.

Monte Xanic is the oldest vineyard in the valle, but it’s quite state-of-the-art. Come here for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in a grandiose space that’s absolutely breathtaking.

Up the road from Hotel Boutique you’ll find the aesthetically appealing Decantos. It’s a multi-story structure featuring a stunning outdoor balcony that overlooks the well-manicured grass below, where communal-style picnic tables are filled with people eating and drinking.

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Valle de Guadalupe

Where to Stay: Hacienda Guadalupe is the result of a couple’s love for winemaking and the promise of success in The Valle. It offers a laid-back type of luxury that feels very authentic to Mexico with its classic Hacienda architecture of dark wood and leather. The rooms are reasonably priced, with some featuring private patios that overlook the desert mountains. For something way more modern, but equally as enchanting, try Encuentro Guadalupe, which has 22 minimalist, box-like independent rooms situated on a hillside, with each boasting floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor sitting area.

Hotel Boutique is something right in the middle of the two previous lodging options. It’s a modern and refined hotel that used to be a hacienda and is now more like a shimmering resort that features an al-fresco second-floor restaurant, panoramic terraces, vineyards, a gorgeous pool, and horseback riding.

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