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We spent a few days in Baja California Norte visiting amazing Valle de Guadalupe wineries and checking out the biggest and most important Mexican winemaking region!
We visited about 40 wineries, ranging from major mass-production to small, family-operated businesses, and tried hundreds of wines. Here we’ll share with you our favorite wine tasting experiences.
1. Casa de Piedra
The Wine Tasting Experience
Casa de Piedra is a small production Valle de Guadalupe winery focusing on boutique wines. Their most popular line is Espuma de Piedra, a line of sparkling wines produced in the traditional champenoise method. Aside from their sparkling wines, you will have a chance to try their two other lines of red wines: Constraste and Vino de Piedra.
If having some of the most delicious wines in the region was not enough, the tasting experience at Casa de Piedra was also incredibly informative! Their staff person Abimael Valdovinos is very knowledgeable about Mexican wine history and wines in general – you will surely walk out of there a smarter person!
Casa de Piedra is also important in the context of Mexican winemaking due to its founder: Hugo d’Acosta. He’s the person behind “la escuelita” – a summer camp for small grape producers who want to venture into winemaking.
He’s a very polarizing figure in the Ensenada wine community, and we heard about his influence in Mexican winemaking from nearly every other producer we met.
Hugo d’Acosta might be the single most important figure in the Mexican winemaking renaissance.
To give you some context: Mexico was a major grape producer for decades before the winemaking boom, but the majority of the production was sold to mass-scale brandy producers such as L.A. Cetto and Domecq. In the 90s, the sales of Mexican brandy went down and these major companies stopped buying grapes from small producers.
Some of these producers moved into different agricultural businesses, while others moved into winemaking, many of them taking advantage of the free classes at Hugo d’Acosta’s “la escuelita” to get started in their new found careers.
You can also find more info about the Mexican wine regions and history of wine in Mexico on this post.
Our Final Tips
If you are planning your trip to Valle de Guadalupe:
- Book your tasting at Casa de Piedra in advance to get the full experience. Tastings are offered to small groups and you might not be able to have it unless you plan in advance
- Reserve some time to check out Conchas de Piedra, the restaurant next door – a sparkling and raw bar restaurant. The space is a collaboration between Hugo d’Acosta and the famous chef Drew Deckman. And most importantly: it’s oysters and sparkling, how can you go wrong with that?!
2. El Cielo Winery
We had an incredible day at El Cielo. We walked out with the impression that we had spent the day in a theme park, just entirely focused on wine!
Fellow “pata salada” friend Pierre Bonin, who managed several hotels in Vallarta for years, is currently the general manager of El Cielo. He spoiled us with a VIP tasting of their entire line of wines, a sneak-peak of the resort style villas they are working on (which should all be ready within the next months), and a delicious Mexican wine and food pairing dinner by chef Marco Marín.
You can select between taking just the presentation (which is free) or doing the presentation + wine tasting. The presentation is very extensive covering the history of the winery, the winemaking processes, and a walk through their operations and cava room.
El Cielo has three lines of wines:
- Astronomous – classic, old-world style wines, aiming to please wine connoisseurs
- Constellations – a line of modern wines, with more experimental blends
- Astros – a line of young wines, refreshing and straight-forward (your everyday wines)
We were also very impressed with the thoughtfulness that went into their tasting room. It’s a dimly lit cava, with plenty of space for several groups and comfy couches. The designer’s goal was to create a calm atmosphere with very little visual stimulation so your other senses are more stimulated. Let’s just say, he succeeded!
Our Final Tips
- If you are planning a special family dinner for a larger group, ask about their “underground enoteca.” It’s beautiful and decadent!
- Make sure you try their Perseus wine – a blend of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese that would get any traditional Italian wine person in the room fuming.
- Order the pork belly tacos and grilled octopus. They are out of this world!
3. Finca la Carrodilla
Finca la Carrodilla is all about the chill vibe and a beautiful space. It’s by far the most Instagramable Valle de Guadalupe winery – and who doesn’t like amazing photos?
The tasting is self-guided – they just pour you the wines and you can then decide if you would like to buy a bottle and hang out in the garden.
We’ve been interested in organic and natural wines for a while now, and even have a specific section in our shop dedicated entirely to organic and natural wines. With that said, we were glad to have a chance to check out Finca la Carrodilla.
Finca la Carrodilla is one of the few Mexican wineries following organic production standards, so we were very curious to try their wines for the first time. They have a very small line of 4 to 5 wines available for tasting.
We were VERY pleased with their Chenin Blanc and their Shiraz – some of the best we have tried in Mexico.
Our Final Tips
- It’s not advertised, but you can request a tour of the winery. It’s a great opportunity to learn a bit more about organic winemaking.
- Go early to secure a good table. The place is very popular and tends to get crowded – which makes it an amazing people watching spot.
4. JC Bravo
JC Bravo is one of the most underrated Valle de Guadalupe wineries. This is as much a “family business” as you can think of. The entire operation (harvesting, wine production, sales, tours, etc) is done by the Bravo family, and it goes back three generations.
You can choose between a tasting at the bar area, or ask for a tour of the winery. We did both (obviously) and were truly inspired by the family history.
Juan Carlos Bravo is one of the several grape producers who used to sell their entire production to LA Cetto. When the brandy business went south, he started over, learned winemaking at “la escuelita” and went on to produce great wines. Later on, his wife and son also learned winemaking and nowadays they all work together.
JC Bravo produces a 100% Palomino and a 100% Carignan – both absolutely delicious! Both wines are produced with grapes from 40+ years old vines, some of the oldest vines in the entire region.
Aside from having some of the oldest vines in the region, JC Bravo is the only winery we visited in Valle de Guadalupe that doesn’t use man powered irrigation in their vineyard, allowing the grapes to develop as naturally as possible.
5. Lechuza Winery
Lechuza is the perfect spot for a mid-day break. Their space is beautiful, including a small shop with boutique items, the vineyard and a garden with a seating area where you can enjoy the wines and the view.
They have one tasting option which includes their entire line of five wines. They also offer a few snack options – we went for the cheese board, which was all local cheeses and quite delicious.
Kristin, the owner and winemaker, produces a line of five wines – a rosé, a Chardonnay, a red blend, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Nebbiolo.
The three first wines and fresher and lighter, and the two last are the big stars. Both the Nebbiolo and the Cabernet Sauvignon have 24 months of aging in barrel and are definitely show stoppers!
The wine production at Lechuza is very limited, so the majority of the wines are sold directly to clients at the winery.
Honourable Mention: Clos de Tres Cantos
Even though the wines from Clos de Tres Cantos were not our favorites Valle de Guadalupe wineries (actually far from it), we had to add this winery to our list because of the space.
The winery was designed by renowned Mexican architect Alejandro d’Acosta (who happens to be Hugo d’Acosta’s brother). Built almost entirely with reclaimed local materials, the building and design are an architect’s dream!
If you are into design and architecture, definitely plan a stop here and call in advance to request a full tour of the space. Also, check out this article from Arch Daily with tons of technical details about the project.
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