7 Essential Eats in Baja Wine Country

By agringoinmexico on June 18th, 2015

View of Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe from the L.A. Cetto winery. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

Valle de Guadalupe in 7 courses & pairings

Baja California’s wine country is ripe with top chefs, great wines and culinary delights.

Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe is one of Latin America’s largest wine producing regions. It supplies 90 percent of the product consumed in Mexico. The Ruta del Vino was settled by Jesuit missionaries in the 19th century and cultivated by Russian immigrants in the early 20th century.

Today, there are more than 50 vineyards, a winemaking school, numerous boutique hotels and dozens of dining options.


Campestre kitchens - such as Chef Ryan Steyn’s El Jardin - are seasonal, unpretentious and open-air. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

Lacking its own culinary heritage a la Puebla, Oaxaca or the Yucatan, there are no rules in Baja California, and this is firmly demonstrated in the “Valle.”

Year-round restaurants and seasonal campestre kitchens – outdoor restaurants – present rustic, imaginative dishes from the region’s bounty of fresh seafood, beef, game and produce. And many Valle eateries are helmed by Baja’s top chefs and have been recognized as Latin America’s finest, garnering top spots in Pellegrino’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Here are seven courses with wine pairings from the Valle de Guadalupe that ExtremeFoodies recommends for your next – or first – visit to Baja’s Wine Country…


Bodegas F. Rubio’s sea snail aguachile with jalapeño, tomatoes, red onions, micro greens and green onions. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

1. Sea snail aguachile - Bodegas F. Rubio

Bodegas F. Rubio is a new family-owned vineyard and wine producer that features a year-round “deli.”

Brother Alexandro Rubio thoughtfully prepares his aguachile (chili water) of sea snails with jalapeño, tomatoes, red onions, micro greens and green onions from their garden. The snails are the perfect balance of chewy and tender and the aguachile of jalapeño provides just the right amount of heat, not overwhelming the main ingredients.

Pair with Bodegas F. Rubio’s Palomino/Chenin Blanc blend.


La Terrasse San Roman’s slow roasted pork in hibiscus sauce with greens and a wine reduction. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

2. Slow roasted pork in hibiscus sauce - La Terrasse San Roman

Parisian trained chef Martin San Roman opened La Terrasse at ALXimia Winery in 2013.

In his outdoor kitchen, he prepares his “Baja Provençale” cuisine -- classic country French recipes incorporating locally sourced, distinctly Baja ingredients.

A perfect example is his pork in Jamaica (hibiscus) sauce. Slow roasted for 12 hours, the pork is ladled with a sweet hibiscus and red wine reduction and served on a bed of fresh greens.

Created to pair perfectly with ALXimia’s Libis, a Petit Verdot, Zinfandel and Syrah blend.


Finca Altozano’s Borrego de Rancho Cortes a la Caja China. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

3. Borrego de Rancho Cortes a la Caja China - Finca Altozano

Finca Altozano is top chef Javier Plascencia's restaurant in the Valle de Guadalupe.

Hisborrego de Rancho Cortes a la Caja China is young lamb cooked in a China box – a roasting box that contains and cooks the whole animal. Seasoned and served with serrano chilies, potato and a sprig of rosemary from the herb garden, the tender meat practically falls off the bone into a waiting handmade corn tortilla.

This savory yet delicately flavored dish pairs nicely with a Shiraz from Emevé, available from Finca’s wine list.


El Jardin de Adobe’s Mexican Foie Gras with pomegranate and rendered fat. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

4. Mexican Foie Gras - El Jardin de Adobe

El Jardin de Adobe is South African chef Ryan Steyn’s seasonal campestre kitchen located in the shade of olive and pepper trees at the Adobe Guadalupe vineyard.

Chef Ryan prepares a buttery and generous slice of Mexican foie gras with a caramelized layer of rendered fat on top. The foie is perfectly creamy with a very mild liver taste, and the rendered fat adds substance and texture. The pomegranate provides a bittersweet snap to the whole affair.

Pair with Adobe Guadalupe’s limited run Jardin Secreto Chardonnay.


Santa Brasa’s whole wheat risotto with grilled carrots, asparagus, nuts and garden greens. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

5. Whole wheat risotto - Santa Brasa

Tijuana Culinary School graduate Jaime Galindo teamed with Chilean Master Chef Carlos Vargas in 2013 to create the menu and run the cocina for their seasonal campestre kitchen, built around the gardens from which their produce is sourced.

They serve a variety of grilled meats and seafood as well as a hearty whole wheat “risotto” with grilled carrots, asparagus, nuts and garden greens.

The dish pairs well with Santa Brasa’s Dama del Valle house Chardonnay.


La Terraza Parrilla’s Baja oysters with shallots, chives and local olive oil. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

6. Baja oysters with shallots, chives and olive oil - La Terraza Parrilla

The Torres Alegre y Familia Vineyard’s seasonal campestre kitchen, La Terraza Parrilla, offers a small and intriguing menu of tapas, grilled fish, steak and pasta.

The local Kumiai oysters with shallots, chives and olive oil swim in a very mild brine: the perfectly balanced mignonette sauce complements without overpowering. The view from the rooftop patio atop their winemaking facility offers spectacular views of the valle’s rolling hills and mountains.

Pair with the family’s Crus Garage Sauvignon Blanc.

Convivia’s ceviche of yellowtail and pulpo. / W. Scott Koenig, www.AGringoInMexico.com

7. Ceviche of yellowtail and pulpo - Convivia

San Diego chef Flor Franco is helping bridge the culinary gap between Southern California and Baja. Her Valle restaurant Convivia at “anti-resort” Encuentro Guadalupe offers a variety of creative tapas.

The yellowtail ceviche is mixed with light chili aioli and features vegetables from Flor’s garden. Convivia’s bar offers a number of mixed libations and the view from its foothills location of the Valle is spectacular.

From the bar’s extensive Valle wine menu, pair with a Monte Xanic Chenin Blanc.

Meet the author

Valle de Guadalupe

W. Scott Koenig (aka El Gringo) has traveled extensively around Mexico since the mid-’90s. His blog, AGringoInMexico.com, reports on Mexican destinations, culture, events and cuisine. He also blogs for Baja.com and has been published in the Baja Times (Baja’s largest English language newspaper), Destino magazine in Los Cabos, and the Oaxaca Times. In 2013, he was invited as a guest of the Mexican government to attend and report on the Interna…... More