Let’s put a cork in the cliché that Valle de Guadalupe is “The Next Napa.” Baja’s booming wine region is what Napa would be if it let down its hair and got a little tipsy.
The Valle is just a 90-minute drive southeast of San Diego but a world away. It’s where winemakers throw out the rule books and blend whatever they want – because they can. It’s where chefs create gourmet magic – on a campfire. And it’s where hotels are cutting-edge, literally – one has rooms clinging to the side of a mountain.
A perfect getaway for thrill-seekers and chill-seekers, the Valle is unlike any wine region you’ve ever been to. So grab your passport, jump in a car you won’t mind getting a little dusty and get ready to let your hair down.
WHERE TO STAY
Glamping has never been so glam. CuatroCuatros’ 14 tricked-out cabañas are set amid 140 acres of vineyards, olive groves, mountains and a natural preserve, but have all the amenities of a luxury hotel. Private terraces, fireplaces, premium bedding, botanical bath products, A/C and minibars take rustic chic to a new level. Spend the day horseback riding, whooshing down a zipline, indulging in spa treatments and, of course, tasting wine. Catch an ocean-view sunset from the cliff-side bar. Full breakfast served. (From $189.) +52 646.174.6789, cabanascuatrocuatros.com.mx/en
Closer to the heart of wine country, but on another planet, is this Travel + Leisure Design Award-winning “anti-resort,” with 20 futuristic metal-shed lodgings built into a mountainside. Watch the stars from your private terrace, complete with fireplaces. Shuttles bring you back down to earth, or at least to the lobby bar. (From $300.) +52 646.155.2775, grupoencuentro.com.mx
Set on the vineyards that produce some of the Valle’s top-quality wines, Adobe is the top choice for an ultra-romantic, hacienda-style getaway. Six meticulous rooms face a serene interior courtyard, while a multi-course gourmet wine dinner is served in the elegant main house dining room. Breakfast and reserve VIP wine tasting in the Adobe cellar are included. Horseback riding and massage available. ($275.) +52 646.155.2094, adobeguadalupe.com
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK
Behind (Tras) a winery (Lomita, as in Hacienda La Lomita), it’s one of several Valle restaurants where the garden is the dining room. Fresh, organic produce comes from Lomita’s sister winery, Finca La Carrodilla, and chef Sheyla Alvarado is considered a rising star in Baja. Don’t miss the smoky, crispy-skinned chicken, suckling pig taco and grilled octopus. +52 646.156.8469, facebook.com/traslomitabaja
Helmed by Cali-Baja super chef Javier Plascencia, Finca Altozano is an indoor/outdoor campground-style smokehouse. Everything’s grilled, from the bread to local mushrooms and the carne. Leave the flannel home, though – Finca is a see-and-be-seen scene. +52 646.156.8045, fincaaltozano.com
Some of the best bites in Baja can be had from upscale camiones de comida (food trucks), which serve everything from tapas to tacos to tortas. Three to check out: Adobe Guadalupe, on the patio outside the wine shop; TROIKA, by Vena Cava Winery at La Villa del Valle hotel; and chef Javier Plascencia’s latest venture in a hipster Airstream, Lupe at Finca Altozano.
One of the Valle’s pioneering wineries, Monte Xanic’s stunning, multimillion-dollar facility is an architectural marvel. Sip the sophisticated whites and reds (particularly the sauvignon blanc and Gran Ricardo cabernet-based blend) at the tasting bar or on the patio overlooking a lake. +52 646.155.2080, montexanic.com.mx/home-en
Hacienda La Lomita
Owned by forward-thinking 30-something Fernando Pérez Castro, La Lomita makes quality, affordable whites, red blends and the oh-so-drinkable Cursi rosé. (Do a tasting before lunch so you know what to order at TrasLomita.) High on a hilltop, the modern adobe-style property offers stunning Valle views. Eclectic art lines the winery walls. +52 646.156.8466, lomita.mx
A brand-new app from San Diego-based TripBucket helps you navigate the roads, wineries, restaurants and more. Search “Baja Wine Country” in the Apple and Android app stores.