This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.

If you happen to be visiting San Diego, there’s certainly plenty to do. But may I suggest a small diversion from your itinerary?

valle de guadalupe

Go to Mexico. Specifically, the Baja region that juts off from the country on the west coast. Even more specifically, go to wine country in Valle de Guadalupe. Allow me to convince you.

1. The Wines are Great

l a cetto

I know, you’re a wine snob who’s had the very best from Napa to Bordeaux, but please believe me when I tell you that you shouldn’t die without trying wines from Valle de Guadalupe. Just because the rest of the world doesn’t yet know about the crisp Chenin Blanc from L.A. Cetto, the refreshing Rosé at Casa Frida, or the fruit-forward Tempranillo at El Cielo doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them out for yourself. You’ll be an intrepid explorer, stumbling upon wines that haven’t yet made it mainstream! Just think of the satisfaction you’ll have, coming home and bragging about the wine you consumed in Mexico!

2. It’s Easy to Get To

baja california

Valle de Guadalupe is less than two hours from San Diego, and much of the road follows the gorgeous rocky coastline.

You have a few options about how to get around.

  • You can drive your car from the US. No special licenses or insurance required.
  • You can walk across the border and rent a car. You may be required to pay for liability insurance.
  • You can take a tour. I went on a travel blogger event with Five Star Tours.

I have to say, I liked not having to navigate, being on a tour, but after visiting Valle de Guadalupe, I would drive next time. The roads are well-maintained along the coast, though some of the roads in the valley were a bit worn, especially after the heavy rains the region has gotten recently. Still, I felt safe and like driving would be no issue.

Returning, however, can be tricky. I’d say avoid the San Ysidro border crossing, as it’s the busiest in the world. Otay Mesa may take you less time to cross. The links here will take you to a page that tells you current wait times at each border crossing.

3. It’s Affordable

casa frida

Um, hello? One of the best reasons to go to Mexico, particularly in an area that isn’t so riddled with tourists like Cancun, is its affordability.

At L.A. Cetto, our guide let us sample several wines, and then asked how much we would expect to pay for one.

“$30!” someone shouted out.

“20!” said another.

He smiled and told us that the fine bottle he was holding cost just $6. Unbelievable! The wine you can get for that price stateside isn’t worth drinking, but this definitely was. The only drawback is that Americans can only bring back one liter (essentially one bottle)! All the more reason to stay a few days and consume your affordable and delicious wine.

Our last stop on the tour was at Sol de Media Noche, a market that sold dips and sauces, homemade cheese, and of course, wine. I bought a bottle of marvelous chocolate red wine, a huge loaf of homemade multigrain bread, and a chunk of jalapeno cheese.

Guess what I paid.

$14 for all! I wished that we had more time to shop so I could take advantage of such savings. Alas, I’ll have to go back to do it.

4. The Food’s Fab Too

baja cuisine

You’re going to need something to soak up all that alcohol, aren’t you? I know you’re thinking about tacos and burritos, but let me just inform you: Baja is on top of haute cuisine. We ate the most amazing street tacos at Casa Frida, generously covered with perfectly-seasoned carnitas and just a hint of pickled vegetables. I wish I’d gotten a chance to sample more of the local fare. Again, an excuse to return!

I realize that when you think “wine country,” you probably don’t think of Mexico. But as more people discover this hidden gem, the rest of the world will wake up to the fact that Baja, Mexico produces some damn fine wines.