Drive from Southern California to Mexico for a weekend road trip...
Swelling from five to 150 wineries in two decades, Baja California has undergone a major growth spurt.
Avant-garde architecture, award-winning restaurants and soaring land prices have seen Baja California named ‘the new Napa’.
It may lack Napa’s wine pedigree, of course, but passionate boutique producers, mouthwatering food and irresistible joie de vivre make Guadalupe one of the most exciting food and wine destinations in North America.
Drive from San Diego (2 hours) or LA (4 hours). If flying, the closest airport is Tijuana.
Where to taste the local wines
Mexican wines are unknown quantity to many. The warm sunshine and maritime influence here tend to yield fruit-forward wines with a saline edge.
There are endless options for wine tasting in Guadalupe but Mexican sommelier Pedro Poncelis’ crush pad is a good place to start for an introduction to the 500-year history of Mexican winemaking and touring tips for the valley.
Top Baja California bars and restaurants
Baja California’s gastronomy is sublime. A plethora of fresh seafood and produce from the peninsula have inspired a dynamic farm-to-table culture and unique Mexican-Mediterranean fusion. Food is so inextricably interwoven into Mexican culture that you’ll be hard pushed to find a bar that doesn’t serve tacos on the side.
Top restaurants are your best bet for pre-dinner drinks with extensive local wines, beers and dangerously long lists of tequila. Wherever you are, it’s unlikely you’ll leave on an empty stomach.
One of Baja California’s best-kept secrets is its fantastic oysters. Enjoy them chilled or grilled and served with Hugo d’Acosta’s excellent sparkling wines at this outdoor vineyard bar. Other bright and fresh dishes on offer include clam ceviche and scallop tiradito (pictured top). Chef Drew Deckman also owns a sophisticated grill in Mogor winery, Deckmans.
Good for: seafood lovers & bubble seekers
Local chef Diego Hernández has trained with some of Mexico’s greats and this is his own highly-acclaimed culinary creation. The eccentric interior reflects the colourful cuisine with dishes that change daily depending on what’s in season and ripe from the garden. The tasting menu offers an array of imaginative dishes such as cactus sorbet and parsnip tamales.
Good for: gourmands & couples
This outdoor grill and open-air kitchen embodies the laid-back charm of Guadalupe. Take a seat at the bar, restaurant or bonfire and indulge in some of the smokey BBQ classics like charred octopus and roast lamb. Chef Javier Plascencia has his own farm on-site and is one of the drivers behind Baja’s impressive farm-to-fork dining scene.
Good for: outdoor & casual dining
There’s nothing glamorous about Doña Esthela’s, but that doesn’t stop locals from queuing around the block to get in. Dishes are generous in size and flavour, serving traditional Mexican plates including her Machaca con Huevo (tender, slow-roasted beef with eggs), voted Best Breakfast in the World in 2015. This is home cooking at its finest.
Good for: groups & the budget-conscious
Food trucks are spreading like wildfire in So Cal, and it’s catching on in Baja Cal too. Tasty trucks in Guadalupe include Adobe, Troika and Lupe but most locals’ favourite is this tostada cart in Ensenada. Crispy tortillas topped with crab, scallops and sea urchin – each more mouthwatering than the last. Don’t skimp on the homemade hot sauces.
Good for: bargain street food & quick bites
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