Rays of sunshine reflect off pools of pearl-blue water sitting accumulating beneath lime green-colored grape vines. A blanket of fog that had rolled in overnight from the Ensenada coast begins to burn off as the sun rises from its slumber, revealing the beauty of the Valle de Guadalupe — the heart and soul of Mexico’s wine producing region — a mere 90-minute drive from San Diego.
Unbeknownst to many outside oenophile circles, Mexico has been producing wine for centuries — the first country in North America to do so — albeit in fits and spurts over the course of its history. The country’s earliest grape vines were planted by Spanish missionaries who landed ashore in what was then New Spain in the 16th century.
While long under the wine-world radar, since the 1980s, Mexico’s winegrowing regions have experienced a renaissance in the reception and quality of its vino output, and Mexican wines are making a long-overdue statement on the international stage and are now the recipients of some of the most prestigious awards from competitions held in Europe and the United States.
Protected by the Valle’s rolling mountains and proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the more than 100 wineries in this Baja oasis are embraced by perpetual sunshine and a Mediterranean-like weather system that invites an authentically local style of winemaking.
While staple grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, and Merlot are planted, winemakers here are nonconformists.
Nowhere is that more evident than at El Cielo Winery and Resort whose postcard-worthy vineyards nestled amongst olive trees, rust-colored dirt roads, and enveloping mountains continue to produce award-winning wines made from 15 varietals which are hand-picked before being aged in French, American or Hungarian Oak barrels.
El Cielo’s four lines of wine — Astros, Astrónomos, Constelaciones and Estrellas — are emblematic of astrology as an homage to the twinkling night sky of the Valle de Guadalupe.
The sprawling 79-acre vineyards are in plain view of El Cielo’s newly opened Mediterranean villas, housing 56 suites and two Presidential Villas, which add a whole new dimension to luxurious accommodations in Valle de Guadalupe.