So 2017 was the 4th year in a row I spend New Year’s in my favorite city, San Diego. I shared with you a lot of stories on Instagram during my trip and all the food that was enjoyed. San Diego truly is a very special city to me for personal reasons, also because a few of my favorite people in the world live there. This year was different though, we also took a mini 24 hour trip to Valle de Guadalupe AKA Mexico’s wine country in Baja California (Mexico). This gem is about 2 hrs south of the Tijuana Border and although it is still very new and developing, it does NOT disappoint.
The way there was a bit tricky, considering we were traveling with 2 of the most laid-back people you will ever know. Well past the Mexican border, my husband sarcastically asked my cousins if they’d forgotten the house keys, per usual. Obviously expecting a quick laugh and a reassurance that keys had not been forgotten. Well, both of my cousins looked at each other and questioned the other if they were the ones who had the keys. My cousin’s husband who stayed behind in San Diego, coordinated us to pick up a copy of the house keys from the housekeeper who lives somewhere between Tijuana and Ensenada. Disaster averted. The highway is a beauty, overlooking the ocean and all. I was a bit scared, not going to lie because heights are not my thing but this truly is a gorgeous scenic road. Anyway, we arrive at Valle de Guadalupe and one of my cousins is guiding us to the house, except she takes us the wrong way and back into the highway, all with a cranky toddler in the car. Trips are always an adventure with this crew.
Ok, now I’ll get to the part you care about, the food and wine. The first night we went to a restaurant called Fauna. We arrive and I was immediately obsessed. Fauna is the definition of rustic meets high end. The restaurant is basically 2 long rustic wooden tables, part of them lays inside the restaurant, the other part in their beautiful patio. We got to pick our seats, and I chose at the head of one of the tables because it was overlooking their gorgeous semi-open kitchen. In a matter of minutes, David, the owner and chef came to greet us and take our drink order. I told him I wanted wine, and all he asked was for me to describe what I like in a wine. He brought me a glass that perfectly embodied what I described. My husband and cousins had the same experience. The menu is relatively small, which can be a good thing when it comes to ordering. The food here is served family style, and it surpassed my (high) expectations. We ordered octopus with beans, served with fresh tortillas, kampachi aguachile (my personal favorite), duck sopes, duck breast (cooked to perfection), papada de cerdo (pork dewlap), butternut squash, lamb and caramel semi-freddo with raw milk ice cream. This quickly made it into one of my top 5 restaurants of all time. You can tell they put a lot of care and thought into the food they cook, and that translates into the dish. Highly recommend this place to anyone who goes to the valley, it is a true dining experience. If I ever went back to restaurant cooking, this would be the place I’d like to work at. I wish I had taken better photos of this place, but it was dark and I forgot my camera. A good reason to return, right?
Waking up the next morning was truly a dream. The day was overcast and in the 70s, the definition of perfection if you ask me, I am more of a cloudy vs sunny kinda gal. We enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee at the house, overlooking the vineyards. We started our outing at a restaurant called “El Cielo,” which reminded me of a beautiful hacienda. It is very open and green and surrounded by vineyards. The vines were dry because we went in January, but the scenery is still beautiful. Our breakfast was good at El Cielo, they offered green juice which was a plus because my body was truly craving it. We all ordered chilaquiles and they were good. We decided to skip dessert and head on to a winery.
We went to a place called ‘Decantos Vinicola,” because of their unique way of making their wine. This place is an absolute jewel. The architecture is stunning, again featuring the natural rustic style I’ve noticed throughout the valley mixed with modern style. You have several seating options, both inside and outside.They have the absolute best view of the valley, in my opinion, you get to see the vineyards as well as the mountains. We tried a few of their wines but not their food. They have a big lawn where I saw people lying down drinking and reading, kids playing and even a couple having engagement photos taken.
We made a quick stop at the coffee shop inside Finca Altozano, to pick up some coffee for the road back. Pleasantly surprised to see that they offered several non-dairy milk options, and the coffee was delicious. I truly regretted not making time to eat at the Finca, it looked beautiful and the menu looks amazing too. Something else to come back for.
My takeaway? Although I was only here for 24 hours and I know I missed a lot, it was enough to leave me hooked. Guadalupe Valley still has a lot to develop, but as it is, it has already become a hub for great chefs from all over. I can’t wait to see it grow. Another thing I noticed is that everywhere we went, including the wineries, kids were welcome and all over. Everywhere we went had plenty of space for them to run around and a family-friendly vibe.