The Coast News Group
Fernando Gaxiola is a spokesman for the wines of the Guadalupe Valley in Baja, seen at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. Photo by Frank Mangio
CommunityTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: A wake up call from Via Guadalupe Wines

Is there bias in the wine business?

You bet there is!

Taste and companionship are two big reasons why we have favorites in life. With wines as in our other close-to-the-heart precious subjects, you fall in love and you tend not to change your choices.

I believe that the wine experience should also include discovery.

I have written more than a few times about budgeting some of your wine dollars for new selections, and that brings us to the vineyards and surprisingly great wines coming from our friends to the south of San Diego, in the Guadalupe Valley, near Ensenada.

Back in the ‘90s, word was spreading about a pristine but primitive valley about a two-hour drive from San Diego that made some nice Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay, maybe a dozen or so vineyards, and if you were vacationing in Ensenada or Cabo San Lucas, or maybe on a cruise ship around Baja, you might see a few of the Baja wines.

Fast-forward to 2007 and the dozen or so wineries were now up to a few dozen and producing about 85 percent of the wines in all of Mexico. The valley caught the attention of TASTE OF WINE and a visit to see for myself.

The beauty of the valley was unmistakable with the perfect weather patterns and coastal breezes for plump, dynamic grapes. What I found was a setting perfectly aligned for Italian grapes such as Sangiovese from Tuscany and Nebbiolo from Piemonte.  A master from the old country, Camillo Magoni, was chief winemaker for LA Cetto, at that time the largest winery in Mexico.

His Nebbiolo spent three years in a barrel and sold for just $15.

Bracero in San Diego’s Little Italy is a hot spot for rustic, country style Mexican cuisine, and a showcase for Via Guadalupe wines. A favorite on the menu is “Nana’s Lentil Soup.” Photo by Frank Mangio
Bracero in San Diego’s Little Italy is a hot spot for rustic, country style Mexican cuisine, and a showcase for Via Guadalupe wines. A favorite on the menu is “Nana’s Lentil Soup.” Photo by Frank Mangio


Today, there are over 80 vineyards in Via Guadalupe with 20,000 plus acres under vine, and 12 luxury boutique hotels. It’s estimated that over 600 thousand visitors come to the valley to taste and purchase the wines.

Fernando Gaxiola knows as much about the wines of the Gudalalupe as anyone.

He is a tireless promoter of the wines and has connections with tour companies, restaurants and events in San Diego that allow him to present his Guadalupe Valley wine clients.  On a recent day, we met and spoke over a lovely wine dinner at the popular rustic-style Bracero in San Diego’s Little Italy district.

This restaurant, and Coasterra, a “Modern Mexican” food format on Harbor Island, have many great Baja wines on their wine menu.  I asked him what he does to promote the Guadalupe wines. “I am working hard to produce tours of the valley to show first hand where and how these wines are made and the quality of the producers.

We also present wine tasting at the biggest events in Southern California.  A name to know is Monte Xanic (shah-neek), with 50,000 cases of wine a year. They do a blend, the Don Ricardo, with only the best grapes from Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot ($50). I also recommend the Rafael from Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards and Inn, a blended wine of great elegance and intensity with Cabernet and Nebbiolo. ($40),” Fernando concluded.

Rafael was so flavorful, it landed in the TASTE OF WINE Top Ten Tastes for 2016. A Baja Wine Country day tour is planned for Feb. 4 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Cost is $189.  Call (619) 232-5040 to check on availability.  Visits are planned to three wineries: LA Cetto, Adobe Guadalupe and Baron Blanche.  Sit-down lunch is included. For more visit


Wine Bytes

Wiens Family Cellars in Temecula hosts a Reserve Zinfandel & Chocolate Dinner Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. Dinner will include a chocolate infused feature in each course. Price varies from $80 to $100.  Call (888) 98-WIENS (94367).

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas presents the Ultimate Valentine’s Trio: Wine, Cheese and Chocolate, Feb. 11 from 1 to 3 p.m. The event included six wines, five assorted chocolates and six cheeses. Price is $79. This is an “M” education and consulting production. Call (858) 442-2749.

The Del Mar Plaza has its Saturday Market, Feb. 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than 30 unique boutiques will have from baked goods to fine art. Wines and craft beer, plus live entertainment with the Mardels from 1 to 4 p.m.

Europa Village Winery in Temecula has an International Language of Love event, Feb. 11 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. It will be a multi-sensory journey with live music, wine and tapas-style food from Spain, Italy and France. Tickets are $79 a person, $71.10 for club members.  Call (951) 695-7175.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns and reach him at [email protected].  Follow him on Facebook.