In addition to its many other selling points — incredible fishing, surfing, hiking, eating, and dirt biking — Baja is a very promising wine region. Baja wine country is centered in the Guadalupe Valley, about 70 miles south of the San Diego/Tijuana border crossing. The valley, which is home to around 50 wineries, starts just inland from the Pacific, which is an ideal location: at night, the cool ocean breezes offset the hot daytime temperatures. This Mediterranean climate has proven hospitable to a number of different grapes — from cabernet sauvignon to tempranillo to syrah to nebbiolo to chardonnay and chenin blanc. Though wine grapes were first planted in Baja in the 17th century, it is only in the last few years that the local wine industry has started to blossom, and the region is still a long way from figuring out which grapes work best. Like Baja itself, the Baja wine industry is still in its Wild West phase — which is part of the charm.
For American wine enthusiasts, Baja’s emergence as a source of serious, pleasurable wines is a mixed bag for drinkers. First, the bad news: even though the vineyards of the Guadalupe Valley are barely two hours south of San Diego, Baja wines are almost impossible to find in the United States. Apart from a few retailers in San Diego and LA, Mexican wines have no presence on the American market. And unless you reside in one of the few states that permit out-of-state merchants to ship wines directly to consumers, you can’t order Baja wines (or any other wines) from those stores.
Now, here’s the good news: if you want to experience Baja wines, you can easily take a trip south of the border and eat and drink your way across the Baja wine trail (just don’t plan on carting a case or two of wine home: you are only allowed a maximum of one liter of alcohol when crossing the border into the United States). And even though the Baja wine industry is still in its infancy, they’ve got the wine tourism thing down pretty well already. When you next go to Baja, here are some wineries that you should definitely visit.