– The wine was crisp and bright and felt like wearing a gauzy cotton dress on a hot night: breezy and perfect.

A wine-tasting trip a stone’s throw from Los Angeles isn’t all that surprising. It’s just that we had driven due south, not north. We were on a design and wine trip in the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s wine country. It’s much closer to LA than Napa Valley, and how this lovely destination had escaped our radar for so long is inexplicable.

The Guadalupe Valley, about eighty miles southeast of San Diego, has a unique microclimate comparable to California wine country’s: granite-rich soil; dry, hot days; and cool nights. The region has been producing wines since the late ’80s, when the boutique winery Monte Xanic started creating Mexican wines from imported Colombard and Cabernet Sauvingon grapes. (A group of Russians originally brought the grapes here at the turn of the century.)

The easiest way to get to the Guadalupe Valley is to walk across the border from San Diego, which is surprisingly easy if you go through PedWest, the newer, less congested port of entry. From there, you can hire a local driver or ride service to bring you to the valley. Better yet, hire a guide—a local who knows the fabric of the region and has a sense of where it may not be safe to drive. As we traveled south toward Ensenada, our guide, a woman from Tijuana named Illya Haro, spoke rapidly about the culture of the seaside towns we drove past. Once we headed inland, the landscape turned into a textured quilt of greens and golds and earthy browns. The valley looks like Toro and Napa merged, except with fewer houses—vineyards in geometric rows that run into the mountains and amazing views under an unrelenting sun. Nothing is overrun here. Nothing hints at mass-produced. The roads are bumpy and lined with fruit stands. The air is dry and smells like freshly cut wood. The cell service goes out and comes back and goes out again.

And the Guadalupe Valley gives you something that’s increasingly hard to find: the feeling that you’re the first to see it. (That is not the case, given how the region has grown in popularity over the past several years: There were six wineries in the mid ’90s; there are now more than 130.) We met vintner Hugo d’Acosta and a handful of other locals, sat on Adirondack chairs, sampled a glass of his chilled white, and numbers be damned: It felt as if we were visiting one of the last untouched places on earth.


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