Valle de Guadalupe's Tale of Wine, Rebellion, and Legacy

Valle de Guadalupe is a wine region in Baja California, Mexico, often mistaken as Valle de Calafia. Located near Ensenada and Tecate, it thrives with vineyards, olives, and fruit trees. Dominated by agriculture, the valley's economy is boosted by alternative tourism.

Valle de Guadalupe's Tale of Wine, Rebellion, and Legacy
Sunset over Valle de Guadalupe: where ancient traditions meet modern winemaking.

Valle de Guadalupe (“Guadalupe Valley”) is a wine region located in the state of Baja California, Mexico. It is also mistakenly known as Valle de Calafia, a name that has been used to promote the products of this region nationally and internationally. The correct name is Valle de Guadalupe, established thanks to the mission that the Franciscans established on one of its plateaus, the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe del Norte, which was destroyed by the native natives in approximately.

Valle de Guadalupe is located 25 kilometers north of the city of Ensenada, in the state of Baja California, 85 kilometers south of the city of Tecate and approximately 15 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. It is adjacent to the cities of Rosarito, Tijuana, and the border with the United States; in an extension of the rocky-mountainous area of Tecate. 353 hectares, on the banks of the Guadalupe Creek and with an elevation above sea level of 1,100 hectares, it includes several zones such as El Porvenir, Francisco Zarco, and the town of San Antonio de Las Minas.

This is a valley of fluvial origin, through which runs the Guadalupe stream. It is flanked by hills intersected by numerous ravines, which reach altitudes of 600 m.a.s.l. to the northwest and up to 1300 m.a.s.l. to the southeast. Over time, Valle de Guadalupe has been dominated by agricultural activities such as vineyards, olives, fruit trees, and vegetables, which have boosted its economic development. Another activity that is compatible with these activities is alternative tourism, which is viable for the economy and the progress of its inhabitants, and favors the conservation of the natural heritage.

The scarce rainfall is compensated in part by atmospheric humidity, which is very high on the Pacific coast of the state; marine fog covers the xerophytic scrub for hours during the day and is an important climatic factor in the valley. At night, this humidity condenses in the form of dew, and is a critical source of water for the biota of the region; the humidity enters the valley during the day and is counteracted by the extreme heat, returning to the coast at night.

Crops are grown along the banks of streams and in the valley, mainly Mediterranean crops (vines, olives, citrus, fruit trees, and carob trees), and vegetables (eggplant, chili peppers), crops adapted to the Mediterranean climate of the area. Flowers, corn, tomatoes, and alfalfa are also grown, and agriculture is the most significant activity for the local economy, with industrial activity depending on agricultural products such as grapes and olives.

The soil of the valley is regosol, a sandy soil that does not present distinct layers. They are clear and are quite similar to the rock that underlies them when they are not deep, there are also rocky lithosol soils, especially in the eastern part of the valley, its texture is coarse. These soils are shallow, and their capacity for agricultural use is conditioned by their depth and stoniness. In the case of Mediterranean crops, this is an excellent soil for their production.

The soil of the hills surrounding the valley, with medium slopes (piedmont), is a feozem with lithic phase and lithosols; with a dark, soft surface layer, rich in organic matter and nutrients. They are fragile and scarce soils, so when developing crops on the slopes of the hillsides, these soils are easily eroded by the effect of irrigation.

The Guadalupe Valley is made up of at least three important population centers, whose regions are identified as the delegations of Francisco Zarco, El Porvenir, and San Antonio de las Minas. The predominant crops in the valley are still of the Mediterranean type: vines, olives, vegetables, and fruit trees, and another significant activity is the wine industry. Ensenada has a Mediterranean climate, with little rainfall in winter; temperatures are warm and there are many hours of sunshine. It takes advantage of a climate of warm, sunny days, optimal for reaching grape maturity, and cool nights to promote aroma and acidity in the wines.

The presence of vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe dates back to the 17th century, when the Jesuits opened the first winery: Bodegas de Santo Domingo. It was not until 1997, however, that Hugo D'Acosta, a visionary winemaker, decided to market Mexican wines: concentrated and complex, full-bodied and aromatic. His wines became famous: they were the perfect blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon. Since then, the quality of the wines from Northwest Mexico has increased over the last decades.

Rows of vineyards in the heart of Baja, telling tales of time, tradition, and taste.
Rows of vineyards in the heart of Baja, telling tales of time, tradition, and taste.

Activities in Valle de Guadalupe

The tours that take place in Valle de Guadalupe include visits to different wineries, explanations about the winemaking process, and tastings of different red, white and other varieties of wine. You can also enjoy the products of the region, such as cheeses, olive oil, bread, olives, jams, among others.

You can visit the community museums in the area that explain how the winemaking tradition began in Baja California. In the Valle de Guadalupe Russian Community Museum you can learn about the pre-Columbian, Spanish, Russian, and Mexican heritage of its inhabitants; the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) Community History Museum highlights the heritage of the Kumiai culture, as well as the influence of Russian immigrants in this region.

The best way to fully enjoy “The Wine Route” is to visit only four wineries per day and eat at one of the restaurants in the area. Tours to the Wine Route are available all year round and there are also private departures for two people or more; the one-day itineraries start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 7:00 p.m.

History of Valle de Guadalupe

The Kumiai were semi-nomadic groups with a language corresponding to the Yumanohokan linguistic trunk, their territory corresponded to the area we know today as Valle de Guadalupe. It was in the eighteenth century in 1795 when the Kumiai received the first visit from someone different from their ethnic group: Second Lieutenant Ildefonso Bernal and Captain José Joaquín de Arrillaga.

In 1834 Father Félix Caballero, president of the Dominican missions, founded the mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe; it was key to the future of the lands. Although the region already had wild grapes, the fruit was not suitable for producing wine, and the religious needed to produce consecration wine; to solve the situation, they cultivated seeds of European origin. The main source of income for the friars was cattle raising, as well as the cultivation of olives, grapes, and other fruits.

In 1840, the mission was destroyed by the Kumiai Indians of the Nejí ranchería commanded by their leader Jatñil, who for some time was allied with the missionaries. The attack was because Father Caballero tried to catechize the natives by force, which annoyed Jatñil. The mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was abandoned after the attack and never functioned as such again.

In mid-1844 the property lost its religious character, and the federal government distributed the land to Mr. Juan Bandini, of Peruvian origin, Simón Rancé, a native of the region, and José Mateys Moreno. The latter being the first legal owner of the ex-mission of Guadalupe. After the establishment of the Russian immigrants in the Guadalupe Valley, at the end of the Porfiriato until 1937, they planted wheat and made their fabrics. The then President of the Republic, General Lázaro Cárdenas, supported the immigrant communities, giving them the right to keep the properties.

However, the government promoted the creation of ejidos and the exploration of large estates, generating claims and land seizures. This led to the creation of the El Porvenir ejido and the Francisco Zarco colony, which motivated the Russian immigrants to apply for their nationality and not lose their land. Once their plots were assigned, most of the Russian landowners sold their properties and over the years their community disappeared.