baja california

When you think of drinks and Mexico, tequila is probably the first thing to come to mind, not wine. But yes, Mexico does have its own wine route, in Baja California, and it’s getting so much exposure, some are calling it the next Napa Valley.

Wine has been made in the northern reaches of Baja in the Guadalupe Valley for centuries – the first vineyards were planted by the Spaniards at the Santo Tomás Mission in 1791 – but in the last two decades the quality has started to rise, putting this part of the world on the map of wine enthusiasts.

Wineries along the Ruta des Vino, less than two hours from San Diego, are making a name for themselves, especially when it comes to pairing wine and travel. Which is maybe why many refer to it as the “next Napa,” the  most popular destination for wine lovers in the U.S.

Wine Enthusiast magazine named Baja one of its Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2014. With the knowledge that you can pair your wine with seafood and tortillas, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Mexico is alluring, and with a glass of locally produced wine to go with it, even more so.

Granted, some wine writers have said that calling it the “next Napa Valley” might leave a bit to be desired, but even if Baja isn’t blowing up the wine charts yet, there’s no denying that there’s a movement afoot. According to the Mexican Winemakers Council, volumes of Mexican wine have doubled since 2000, and the value of what’s sold has tripled. Seventy-five percent of the vineyards in Mexico are in Baja California, so it’s no surprise that the Baja California tourism website has an entire section dedicated to Baja Wine Country.

What can you expect if you head off to Baja to drink wine? According to the Baja California tourism site, there are over 35 wineries in this area. If you’re looking to visit, take note of Wine Enthusiast’s heed: “The Guadalupe Valley’s wineries are mostly boutique operations with unreliable hours, so call ahead for appointments.”

As for the wine, you can expect most of the grapes that tend to grow in warm weather climates, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Malbec. For whites, you’ve got Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc among others.

Don’t want to do your own travel planning? There’s even a travel operator set up to organize trips to the Baja wine country, aptly titled Baja Wine Food.

Is Baja the next Napa Valley? Maybe you’ll just have to go and check it out for yourself.

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Image: Gabriel Flores Romero