Where to Eat and Drink in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe
La Cocina de Doña Esthela for a traditional breakfast
Not all breakfasts are worth waking up early and driving down a rugged dirt road, but the birria de borrego (wood-roasted lamb) at Doña Esthela undoubtedly is. Locals and visitors flock to Esthela’s unassuming house for her traditional Sinaloan fare, including queso fresco made on premises with fresh milk, shredded beef machaca with eggs, flaky flour tortillas and warming café de olla spiked with cinnamon and dark brown sugar. Many Esthela regulars prefer to order their roasted lamb with consomé on the side (this preparation is called borrego tatemado), so that the meat can be dunked into the rich juices at will.
Look for signs for “La Cocina de Doña Esthela” from Highway 1 and turn right. (Closed Mondays.) +52 646 156 8453
Corazon de Tierra for a six-course tasting menu and wine pairing
Corazon de Tierra sits at the top of a hill overlooking vineyards and a lush garden filled with herbs, fruits, vegetables and olive trees. The restaurant’s six-course tasting menu ($75 per person; $120 with wine pairing) is dictated by what the chefs have gathered from the garden and brought in from local farms each day. This could translate into grilled local Kumiai oysters with Swiss chard and bacon, or a smoked shrimp tostada with farm crème fraîche and Ensenada sea urchin—a nod to the nearby Baja port city where Corazon chef Diego Hernandez was born and raised. Adjacent to the restaurant is the six-bedroom boutique hotel Villa del Valle, as well as the Vena Cava Winery and permanent food truck Troika. If you can’t score a reservation at Corazon, head to the outdoor bar next door to the restaurant, grab a glass of Henri Lurton Cabernet Sauvignon or a pale ale from Baja’s own Wendlandt Brewery, then peak your head into the truck window and order an octopus tostada and plate of roasted suckling pig (lechon).
Rancho San Marcos S/N, El Porvenir, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., +52 646 156 8030, www.corazondetierra.com
Finca Altozano for al fresco barbecue
Baja celebrity chef and restaurateur Javier Plascencia opened this open-air grill in 2012, back when Valle was just getting noticed as a destination-worthy wine region. The atmosphere at Finca Altozano is relaxed and inviting, thanks to views of rolling vineyards and chefs cooking everything from octopus to quail on the outdoor Santa Maria-style grill. Don’t miss the raw bar, which showcases the region’s finest seafood including local oysters and chocolate clams. (Pro tip: they will roast a whole goat or pig for you if you call in advance.)
Carretera Tecate - Ensenada Km. 83, Ejido Francisco Zarco, Valle De Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., +52 (646)156-8045, fincaltozano.com
Deckman’s en el Mogor for a romantic dinner in a vineyard
Michelin-starred chef Drew Deckman, who hails from Peachtree City, GA, decided to “bring the table to the farm” with his seasonal campestre-style restaurant. Deckman’s is on the grounds of the El Mogor farm, which provides the restaurant with its lamb, eggs, herbs, vegetables and gorgeous wines. As is the way in Valle, the seafood is sourced from local fisheries, and the cheeses come from nearby producers. Diners eat al fresco underneath trees and suspended twinkle lights. It’s safe to say the atmosphere here is muy romántico, especially when the sun is setting over the vineyard.
Ensenada-Tecate Highway Km. 85.5, San Antonio de Las Minas, 22766 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., +52 1 646 188 3960, deckmans.com
Conchas de Piedra for bubbles and bivalves
If your idea of doing Baja right is popping bottles of locally-produced rosé and slurping down black “pata negra” clams and grilled oysters, head to Casa de Piedra winery and check out Drew Deckman’s new raw bar, Conchas de Piedra. The project is a collaboration with Casa de Piedra winery and showcases owner Hugo D’Acosta’s Mexican méthode champenoise wines.
Carretera Tecate Km. 93.5, San Antonio de las Minas, 22766 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C. (Behind Casa de Piedra's winery.) +52 646 188 3960, facebook.com/Conchasdepiedra/
Encuentro Guadalupe for eco-friendly glamping
This architecturally stunning hotel bills itself as an “antiresort,” but we like to think of it as glamping at its finest. Book one of the modern, minimalist eco-lofts, which have a view of the valley and vineyard below. They’re just a quick walk from the infinity pool and two restaurants, Origen and Convivia Cantina Arsenal. Head to Convivia for the spiked “anti-raspados” (shaved ice), in flavors like mango and chile de arbol with mezcal, or to the tasting room for exceptional wines made on the property.
Km. 75, Carretera Tecate- Ensenada, Valle de Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., +52 646 155 2775, grupoencuentro.com.mx
Laja for the OG Valle de Guadalupe dining experience
Chef Jair Téllez opened Laja in 1999, when Valle was still pretty much considered the middle of nowhere and “tasting menu” was not a part of the region’s lexicon. Laja sources its produce from the restaurant’s garden and its seafood from local waters, including creamy sea urchin paired with lime, cilantro, cucumber and smoked corn.
Km. 83, Tecate, Vivienda Popular, Ensenada, B.C., +52 646 155 2556, lajamexico.com/
Adobe Guadalupe for a hacienda with Aztec horse stables
This winery doubles as a tasting room, six-bedroom bed and breakfast and a stable for majestic Aztec horses. The hacienda-style architecture is enchanting, as are the wines made from eclectic blends of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Viognier and Grenache. The Adobe Food Truck, which parks on a patio outside the tasting room, offers small plates like patatas bravas and a spread of local cheeses, alongside sandwiches stuffed with pesto and sausage, ribeye and duck confit.
Parcela A-1 s/n, Rusa de Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., +52 646 155 2094, adobeguadalupe.com
Cremería Los Globos for locally-made cheeses
This brick cheese store is in San Antonio de las Minas, the gateway to Valle de Guadalupe. Aside from regional cheeses, the shop sells locally-made olive oil, bread, salsa, jam and wine. The aged Real Del Castillo cheese is a must, as is the fresh goat and Ramonetti. Get a sampling of queso to nibble on in the car as you drive from one winery to the next.
Avenida Juárez 931 Bustamante, 22840 Ensenada, B.C., +52 646 120 5092
La Lechuza for wine tastings
The sommelier at The French Laundry, Erik Johnson, sought out La Lechuza wines to pour at the legendary Napa Valley restaurant. Ray and Patty Magnussen started La Lechuza winery in 2005 and currently produce some of the best wines in the region, including full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignons, Nebbiolos, Merlots, Tempranillos and Grenache rosés. The winery does tastings by appointment only, and they’re hosted by the winemakers themselves. If you can’t make it for a tasting, you can sample the Magnussen’s exceptional wines at Deckman's En El Mogor, Laja and Finca Altozano.
Km. 82.5, Carretera Tecate-Ensenda Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada, B.C., +52 626 947 6315, vinoslechuza.com
Hacienda La Lomita and Traslomita for a garden dinner
Pass La Cocina de Doña Esthela and continue down the dirt road until you see signs for La Lomita winery. Here, you’ll find a tasting room and an enchanting restaurant, Traslomita, hidden away in the winery’s garden. Traslomita chef Humberto Aviles has garnered the attention of locals and visitors alike with ahi tuna tostadas topped with crunchy chicharron, octopus and cheese burritos, and crisp-skinned chicken grilled over mesquite. Because no meal in Valle is complete without a glass of wine, try La Lomita’s Págano (Grenache) or Sacro (Cabernet-Merlot blend).
Fracc. 3 Lote 13, Camino vecinal Parcela 71, San Marcos, 22750 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., +52 646 156 8466, lomita.mx
Las Nubes for red wine with a panoramic view
“Las Nubes” means the clouds, a name that refers to the winery’s stellar location on a hillside perched high above the valley. Owner and winemaker Victor Segura makes standout reds, including “Nimbus,” a velvety blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo. The tasting room offers a panoramic view unlike any other in Valle.
Callejon Emiliano Zapata S/N 22750 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., +52 646 156-8037, vinoslasnubesbc.com/ingles/index.php#
Clos de Tres Cantos for stunning architecture
This visually-arresting winery is built from recycled materials, including discarded wine bottles, laja stone and reclaimed wood. Natural light pours through the barrel room, where wines like the exceptional Nada (a blend of Tempranillo and Petite Sirah) come to life.
Rancho Santa Lucia, San Antonio de las Minas Km. 81, Ensenada, B.C. +52 646 206 1333
Viñas de Garza for the boutique winery experience
Wine Enthusiast calls Viñas de Garza “one of the valley’s prettiest wineries,” and who are we to argue? This boutique winery is known for exceptional blends like the luscious, jammy Colina Norte (Tempranillo, Carignan and Grenache) and the smooth and rich Amado IV (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Zinfandel).
Rancho Mogorcito, Carretera Tecate-Ensenada Km. 87, Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada, B.C. +52 646 175 8883, vinosdegarza.com/
Cuatro Cuatros for even more glamping
Located 20 minutes from the heart of Valle de Guadalupe and 15 minutes from Ensenada, this boutique hotel, vineyard and tasting room faces the popular surf spot Salsipuedes Bay. This is luxury camping at its finest: cabanas come with bathrooms, showers, heaters and king-sized beds.
El Tigre, Carretera libre Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 89, El Sauzal de Rodriguez, 22760 Ensenada, B.C., cabanascuatrocuatros.com.mx/en/