Between Vineyards, Food Truck and Haute Cuisine
We have finally arrived at one of the most prestigious wineries in Mexico, whose wines are not only sold in the country, but also exported to the United States.
Vena Cava labels can be found on the menus of restaurants such as Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York, both ranked among the best restaurants in the world.
The winery was founded in 2005 by Phil and Eileen Gregory, who fell madly in love with the region and decided to start a new life by dedicating themselves to growing grapes in the Valley.
Vena Cava has been conceived with a spirit of sustainability, both in the cultivation of its organic vineyard -without pesticides or chemical fertilizers- and in the construction of the site. In fact, when you arrive at the winery, the first thing that catches your eye is the architecture.
Here, among the vineyards, stands a structure whose colorful entrance is guarded by the prow of a ship. Coincidence? Not at all!
The place was designed by Alejandro D’Acosta – an architect revered in the Guadalupe Valley – who used two characteristic elements of his work: boats and recycled local materials.
I could also find these common traits in other projects of his: Conchas de Piedra and Galera, in the Guadalupe Valley and Mexico City, respectively.
The Wine Tasting at Vena Cava
Enrique welcomes us and takes us to the tasting room. I feel like I’m entering the bowels of a ship with that huge hull that serves as a ceiling. Seeing our astonished look, our guide tells us that there are five abandoned fishing boats from Ensenada that have been recovered for construction.
The wine label itself is inspired by a boat ticket. After learning that Phil and Eileen have traveled the world sailing, I understand that their winery is an inevitable allusion to their two great passions.
Vena Cava produces nineteen labels in total, some from different projects, but today we will taste the seven main ones.
We start with the sauvignon blanc, a natural wine slightly opaque, with hints of green apple, pear and freshly cut grass.
Next comes Ambar (amber), an orange wine that is actually a natural white wine fermented with whole grapes. A very floral wine with hints of tangerine. It is worth noting that Vena Cava is the first vineyard in Baja California to produce an orange wine.
The rosé wine, 50% grenache and 50% syrah, has notes of raspberry and cherry, very fresh and mineral, not sweet at all (to my delight) with some acidity.
Their claret is a (light) red wine made from cabernet franc grapes. It is somewhat sweet, but not as fresh as a rosé nor as warm as a red; it has notes of pepper, spice, butter and caramel.
Tempranillo is perhaps my favorite. A light wine, but tannic and woody, with notes of plum, chocolate, pepper and butter.
The cabernet sauvignon, also in my top list, is fruity, mineral, slightly sweet and well balanced. It is easy to drink. Its aroma is intense, between red fruits and tobacco.
We finish with a flourish. Finally it is time for their extra brut rosé -I am a big fan of sparkling wines-, made using the traditional or champenoise method. Elegant, with plenty of brightness and notes of tropical fruits, perhaps guava.
La Villa del Valle: Lodging Among Vneyards
As we leave the tasting, another Enrique takes over to guide us through the estate. Between the vineyards and the rocks, there is a house that overlooks the area. It is the residence of Phil and Eileen, and it has been transformed into an exclusive boutique hotel with six rooms.
The villa looks like it came straight out of Tuscany and, as a big fan of Italy, I can’t help but think of the Florentine countryside. The warm light, the cypress trees, the red-tiled roof, you would think you were in Florence, but the cacti remind us that we are in Mexico.
We continue through the house. The interior is cozy, with wooden furniture, books and various art objects.
The tasting at Vena Cava is included for hotel guests, as well as the glass of wine and canapés at tea time.
I can picture myself here perfectly. I’m sure I could spend several days going back and forth between the pool and the lounge, with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other.
- Explore the hotel and book your stay here:
We go out to the large garden of La Villa del Valle. Strolling along the small paths surrounded by olive trees and lavender, our attentive guide tells us that they produce their own olive oil and honey here.
Soon we arrive in front of some metal structures, once the hulls of small boats. Enrique now explains that this is an art work created as part of an artist residency program to promote contemporary art in Valle de Guadalupe.
A couple of works from this initiative are Pia Camil’s large rainbow, and Tania Candiani’s metal boats that turn into a huge stringed musical instrument when the wind blows.
Good news! This is just the beginning of the project to also have an art route in the Guadalupe Valley. Surely new works will soon appear in the region!
Food Truck and Haute Cuisine
After the tasting and the pleasant ride, my stomach is already craving food.
This time I won’t have the chance to visit Corazón de Tierra, the restaurant of Grupo La Villa that has earned a spot among the best restaurants in Latin America.
Luckily, there is a food truck on site, and not just any food truck! Troika is a gourmet food truck, offering cuisine with fresh local ingredients.
It’s an easy choice. We sit at one of the long green wooden tables, located in front of the lake, where we are surrounded by the breeze and bird song.
Let’s eat! We start with the oysters with onion, yellow chile, pickles, habanero and hibiscus flower salt. Then, we follow with the fish aguachile accompanied by tortilla, grilled onion and habanero chile. Even the roasted beet salad – which I’m not normally a fan of – is absolutely delicious.
To finish, more for lack of space than taste, some delicious octopus tostadas and french fries with truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, cilantro aioli and ginger sauce.
Every Saturday and Sunday from May to October, the place hosts a dj. This will be a great excuse to come back to enjoy the place and drink some glasses of wine under the sun.
Now I understand why I was told that Vena Cava was one of the must-see places in Valle de Guadalupe. What is certain is that several of their labels are now part of my personal list of the best Mexican wines.
- Facebook / Website
- Address: Rancho San Marcos S/N Francisco Zarco, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico.
- Tasting: Tasting of 3, 4 or 5 wines. For the premium tasting of 5 wines, a minimum of six people with previous reservation is required, and includes cheese board, lavender honey, bread and olive oil. Hours: Monday to Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
All photos are the intellectual property of Karla Acosta
How to get to Valle de Guadalupe
To get to the Guadalupe Valley, you first need to take a flight to Tijuana (e.g. Aeromexico, Interjet, Volaris, VivaAerobus, etc.). You should know that the Tijuana airport is also accessible by bus from downtown San Diego.
To find a cheap flight to Tijuana as well as the best domestic flights in Mexico, I recommend using our flight comparison tool in partnership with Skyscanner. It’s the guarantee of paying the best price!
From Tijuana to the Guadalupe Valley (1h30), there are two main routes:
- Escenica Tijuana-Ensenada/Mexico 1D (which runs along the coast), then Transpeninsular Highway/Rosarito – Ensenada/Mexico 1
- Mexicali-Tijuana/Mexico 2D, then Ruta del Vino/Mexico 3
Rent a car in Mexico
Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Baja California and make the most of your stay!
While it’s not super useful to visit the city, having a car is a must to discover the rest of the country.
To rent a car, personally, I always use Rentalcars.com, for a few reasons:
- You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
- Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
- Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort
Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:
🚗 Rent a car
🗽 Book entrance tickets and guided visits
🏄 Book your sports activities
🌍 Take a travel insurance
🙎 Book a tour
✈️ Book your flight
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