21 Things You Must Know Before Going Wine Tasting in Valle De Guadalupe | Baja Wine Guide

Deckman's at El Mogor | Photo by Erika Beach

Deckman's at El Mogor | Photo by Erika Beach

21 Things You Must Know Before Wine Tasting in Valle De Guadalupe | A baja wine and food guide to make your trip the best experience!

Planning a wine tasting vacation or weekend trip to Mexico’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe (VDG) can be overwhelming with all the amazing options. Sometimes people get over excited about all the dining and wine tasting options that they over book their vacation. I’ve been traveling to the Ruta del Vino in Ensenada (Valle de Guadalupe) for many years and through my wine tasting experiences, I’ve learned a few things along the way. Before you begin making reservations for Valle de Guadalupe, I’ve created a list of 21 Things You Must Know Before Wine Tasting in Valle de Guadalupe. Make sure you read these 21 tips and it will make your decision making a lot easier!

L.A Cetto Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

L.A Cetto Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

  1. How to get to Valle de Guadalupe?

Valle de Guadalupe is located in Ensenada and it’s situated approximately 90 minutes from the United States border. Getting there and back may be a challenge to most people so make sure you plan ahead of time if you’re going to be driving yourself. Depending on the route you take, the roads are for the most part, well maintained and the drive is relatively easy. However, hiring a driver or tour company may be a better option.

El Cielo Winery and Resort | Photo by Erika Beach

El Cielo Winery and Resort | Photo by Erika Beach

 2. Purchase International Car Insurance with AAA

If you decide to take your own vehicle across the border, make sure you purchase International car insurance and drive during the day. Believe or not, your car is not covered in Mexico. Once you cross your vehicle across the border, it’s not insured. Call your car insurance provider prior to driving across the border and see if it’s covered or if they offer any additional coverage. You can also purchase international car coverage through AAA and they offer daily rates and monthly rates. You can purchase policies online and same day! Click for AAA International Car Insurance policy information.

Toll Booth in Baja

Toll Booth in Baja

 3. Toll Roads and Restrooms

If you choose to drive your own vehicle, make sure you take the toll route. The toll road is well maintained and easy to drive.  There are three toll houses on the way to Ensenada and each toll fee is about $2 U.S Dollars. They take pesos and U.S dollars. Another great thing to remember is that there’s clean restrooms with toilet paper at each toll house. Sometimes they have restroom attendants and a tip is suggested. However, a lot of times no one is there. Regardless, I always bring my own tissue or wipes.

Toll booth

Toll booth

 4. Bring Cash, But Not Necessary

If you bring cash to Mexico, your life will be a lot easier. No need to exchange for Mexican pesos, but it’s always recommended. However, everywhere in Tijuana, through Ensenada (Valle de Guadalupe) will take your U.S dollars and you will have no problem getting rid of them. However, understand that your change will ALWAYS be back in Mexican pesos. As of this writing, the U.S dollar exchange is approximately $18 Mexican Pesos per $1 U.S dollar.

Bodegas F. Rubio | Photo by Erika Beach

Bodegas F. Rubio | Photo by Erika Beach

 5. English is Spoken Everywhere

Obviously, the native language spoken in Mexico is Spanish. However, due to the U.S border being so close, mostly everyone speaks English. If they don’t speak English, they will speak back in Spanish, but for the most part everyone speaks English. So finding English speaking tours and drivers is very likely!

Malva Restaurant at Mina Penelope | Valle de Guadalupe | Photo by Erika Beach

Malva Restaurant at Mina Penelope | Valle de Guadalupe | Photo by Erika Beach

6. Avoid Peak Season for Less Crowds

When visiting Valle de Guadalupe make sure you check when the busy season is if you want to avoid crowds. Typically, Ensenada’s (Valle de Guadalupe) high season is during the summer, June through September. The summer time weekends get busy, as a lot of Baja locals and locals from the U.S make their way down to Ensenada. During the typical high season in Ensenada, it can be hard to find hotels and reservations at restaurants, but its not impossible. However, there’s an extra peak time in July and August, as the Vendimia festivals take place all over the Baja region. Most events take place in Valle de Guadalupe and Ensenada, so hotels can sell out and reservations at popular restaurants and wineries can get extra difficult.

Cuatro Cuatros Winery and Bura Bar | Photo by Erika Beach

Cuatro Cuatros Winery and Bura Bar | Photo by Erika Beach

Vendimia is one of the best times to visit the Baja wine region, so if you don’t mind crowds, make sure to go during this time. I’ve been down there during the high season and it has ben hard to get a reservation or it seems over crowded. Vendimia is one of my favorite times to visit Valle de Guadalupe and I don’t mind that it gets crowded. However, if you want to avoid crowds and are not picky about where you stay, then don’t miss Vendimia and go to all the fun events. If you choose to go down there during the busy season, go during the week to avoid crowds. But remember that most wineries and restaurants may be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. AND remember, if you hire a tour company, they WILL be able to help you with your RESERVATIONS! Click to see this year’s 2019 Pro Vino Vendimia Festival Calendar!

 7. Don’t wear Sandals

If I’m going to give you fashion advice, it’s going to be DON’T wear Sandals! There’s a lot of dirt and your feet will come back a hot mess. Wear booties, sneakers or if you have to, wear wedges. People dress very casual, I mean jeans, shirts and dresses with sneakers! I promise, you’ll thank me later for not have dirty toes!

English translation | Slide 1: “I’m going to the vineyards” | Slide 2: “When you return”

English translation | Slide 1: “I’m going to the vineyards” | Slide 2: “When you return”

 8. International Cell Coverage and the WIFI Situation

Before you take your bestie cell phone, make sure you check your international coverage. Upgrading for a month will be a lot cheaper than paying high cost for international roaming. If you choose not to get international coverage on your cell phone, make sure you click your cell phone data OFF on your setting and nothing will be charged.

I’m lucky in that my cell coverage is through T-Mobile and Mexico calls are considered local on my cell plan. So if you go down there a lot, I suggest you change your plan to T-Mobile for unlimited international calls and data in Mexico. Another thing to note is that WIFI is pretty poor down in Baja. I’ve tried to link into people’s WiFi, but I find it’s pretty slow. So, just get your own cell service.

Bruma Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

Bruma Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

9. Hire a Driver Because There’s No Uber

If you choose to hire a driver, the options are endless. Some driving services will pick you up in the U.S at a mutual location and others will pick you up at the border on the Mexico side. In addition, other driving services will only pick you up at your hotel and drive you around until the late evening. My suggestion is to always hire a driver while in Valle de Guadalupe, as drinking and driving is never a good option. In addition, wineries can be far from each other and it’s best to have someone who knows the area. Make sure you always ask your Tour company or driver if they can help with making reservations for you. They usually always know people and can get you into places that may seem booked. And do NOT use Uber because they don’t drive in Valle de Guadalupe. Better off calling a driver or a taxi. Click below for a list of several of my favorite drivers and tours companies for the Baja region!

Mexico border & Ensenada local pick upSibaria Tours and Baja Vino

Local hotel pick up - Sibaria Tours, Wine Eat Travel, and Baja Vino

U.S pick up - Baja Vino, and Wine Eat Travel, Baja Wine Food.

Sibaria tours at Cuatro Cuatros Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

Sibaria tours at Cuatro Cuatros Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

10. Stop in Puerto Nuevo for Lobster

On your way to Ensenada, ONE must thing to do is stopping in the village of Puerto Nuevo for Lobster. Located just past the city of Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo is home to over 20 Lobster restaurants and is known as one of the best places to have lobster. Click to read about two Puerto Nuevo Lobster Restaurants.  You can also stop in Puerto Nuevo on your way back to the U.S.

Puerto Nuevo Lobster House | Photo by Erika Beach

Puerto Nuevo Lobster House | Photo by Erika Beach

11. Stop at Cuatro Cuatros for the Best Ocean Sunset

Cuatro Cuatros winery and Bura Bar are in Ensenada, which is on the way to la Ruta del Vino (Valle de Guadalupe). I highly highly recommend that you call, email or do whatever you can to make a reservation. This place is very popular right before sunset, so if you think you’re going to get a table, you’re dreaming. It’s very difficult to get a table on the edge around sunset times and sometimes tables are reserved months before. My recommendation on getting a reservation at Bura Bar at Cuatro Cuatros is to get there right at noon and just enjoy the view and forget the sunset. The views are amazing and worth it. You can also have lunch and cocktails. Read more about Cuatro Cuatros and Bura Bar at Cuatro Cuatros Winery!

Cuatro Cuatros Winery with Syrah Queen Photo by Erika Beach

Cuatro Cuatros Winery with Syrah Queen Photo by Erika Beach

12. Dirt Roads in the Ruta Del Vino

One thing I learned quickly is that my sedan car does not do well in Valle de Guadalupe. I realized that dirt roads are the primary method of the infrastructure in Baja. The main two roads are paved, but once you turn to get off the highway, be prepared for long dirt roads. Be extra careful if it has been raining, as it will be flooded or even closed. My advice if you’re taking your own vehicle, take an SUV or jeep. However, regular cars will do fine, it just might mess up your alignment.

Dirt roads in Valle de Guadalupe with Sibaria Tours

Dirt roads in Valle de Guadalupe with Sibaria Tours

 13. Make Reservations Everywhere

A common theme to the prior tips is making RESERVATIONS! It’s so important to make reservations because appointments will book and you want to maximize your time and have a proper tasting. Most tastings take their time and with prior reservations, you can schedule a lunch or a specialized tour. Some wineries will NOT take visitors without a reservations, so call or email ahead.  

Fauna Restaurant at Bruma Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

Fauna Restaurant at Bruma Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

14. Plan Your Route and Limit Your Wineries

Number question I get is what wineries to visit. Although my list can go on and on, it’s more important to maximize your time while in VDG. My first suggestion is to limit your winery visits to 2-3 wineries per day. If you visit 3 wineries, make sure your number 2 winery is also your lunch. Many wineries have restaurants like, Vina de Frannes, Relieve, Bruma, Bodegas F. Rubio and Alximia, so you can make a reservation for a tasting and lunch. So pick what place you want to eat at and schedule the rest of your day around that. Otherwise, I suggest you plan on two wineries and scheduling a lunch at a restaurant in between. Click to read one of BEST places to eat in Valle de Guadalupe.

Vina de Frannes Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

Vina de Frannes Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

15. Winery locations may not be close to each other

As mentioned before, wineries can be far away from each other, which is another reason to plan ahead. Make sure you’re not trying to rush out of a tasting to get to another, as it can take you over 20 minutes. Some suggestions are to research ahead and see what wineries are close to your hotel or relatively close to each other. Below are three quick Valle de Guadalupe itineraries on wineries close to each other:

Option 1 -Monte Xanic, Vinedos de Reina (Lunch option 1), Bruma (lunch option 2 at Fauna and stay), L.A Cetto. Stay at Encuentro Guadalupe.

Option 2 - Emeve, Bodegas F.Rubio (lunch option), Vina de Frannes (wine taste and lunch option 2), Adobe Guadalupe (Wine taste and Stay)

Option 3 - Lechuza, Relieve (lunch option), Casa Frida (Air bnb and open late) and Vinas de la Erre (closes at 7pm).

Vinedos de la Reina | Photo by Erika Beach

Vinedos de la Reina | Photo by Erika Beach

16. Take Your Time – It’s not Fast Food

As mentioned above, the less wineries you visit the better. The biggest reason is that you’re on Mexico time, meaning your lunch or wine tasting may take longer. Every restaurant that I’ve visited in Valle de Guadalupe, takes their time and next thing I know, I’ve been dining for two hours. Dining in VDG is more of an experience rather than eating a meal. The staff at the restaurants and wineries take their time, so take in the view and enjoy the space.

Malva at Mina Penelope Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

Malva at Mina Penelope Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

17. Where to Stay in Valle de Guadalupe

So many choices as to where to stay, so again, research where you want to stay and then see what wineries are close to your hotel. Click to read on 31 places to stay in Ensenada (Valle de Guadalupe).

Agua de Vid Hotel and restaurant | Photo by Erika Beach

Agua de Vid Hotel and restaurant | Photo by Erika Beach

18. Where to Eat in Valle de Guadalupe

Deciding where to eat can also be stressful. Remember that a lot of wineries have restaurants on site, so for online for more info. Below is a list of some of my favorites places to eat in Valle de Guadalupe. Make reservation and Open Table is also available.

Duck tostadas at Cantera Cocina de Valle at Maglen | Photo by Erika Beach

Duck tostadas at Cantera Cocina de Valle at Maglen | Photo by Erika Beach

-          Fauna at Bruma Winery

-          Mixtura at Relieve

-          Deckmans at El Mogor

-          Malva at Mina Penelope

-          Latitud 32 at El Cielo Winery

-          Tras Lomita at La Lomita Winery

-          Animalon

-          Cantera Cocina de Valle at Maglen

-          Agua de Vid

-          Laja

-          Finca Altozano

Chef Drew Deckman at Deckman’s at El Mogor | Photo by Erika Beach

Chef Drew Deckman at Deckman’s at El Mogor | Photo by Erika Beach

19. Get Your Sentri or Global Entry Card to Cross the Border Quick

If your crossing in your own car make sure you get your Sentri card or Global Entry. Believe me, you’ll never regret it. If you have a Sentri card or your Global Entry Card, you can go in the fast lane at the border and cut your cross time by more than half. I cross often so I never leave my house without it. I’ve counted so many times where the wait time to cross the border is 2 -3 hours on a Sunday and the Sentri/Global Entry line was 20 minutes. If that’s not a win win, then I don’t know what else is! Click to sign up for Sentri or Global Entry and remember to register your car so it can cross in the fast lane. If you get Global Entry or Sentri, make sure to request the card, otherwise its pointless.

Tras Lomita Restaurant | Photo by Erika Beach

Tras Lomita Restaurant | Photo by Erika Beach

 20. Download the CBP Apps for Crossing Times

Another way to make your crossing the U.S border easier is to download the BWT CBP Border Wait Time App on itunes or Goggle so you can say current wait times at all U.S borders. Believe me this will also save you time. Click CBP Border Wait Times by US Customs and Border Protection to download app on itunes.

Download this free app on itunes or google.

Download this free app on itunes or google.

 21. Crossing Wine Over the Border

Another popular question I get is how much wine can I cross over the U.S border? Well, that depends on several things. California law states that California residents can only cross 1 liter, which is a bottle and a half of alcohol (Wine). I cross 2 bottles of wine every time I visit and I declare both of them at the San Ysidro/ Otay Border. It’s very important that you declare them and nothing will happen. Worst case scenario is that the border agent will take you to secondary and will tax you on that one extra bottle of wine. More than likely they will not do that because it takes a long time to fill out the form, so they would rather you be honest and only cross 2 bottles max. However, if your driver’s license is from out of state (non California residents) then you can cross up 5 cases of wine because your place of residency is outside the State of California. If you have more questions about How many bottles of alcohol you can cross over the U.S border.

Torres Alegre Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

Torres Alegre Winery | Photo by Erika Beach

Well, I hope you found these Valle de Guadalupe tips helpful and if you know anyone that is traveling to Mexico Wine Country soon, make sure you share this article with them. Thanks for reading and sharing!!!

Xoxo

With Love,

Erika Beach