At El Cielo Winery and Resort on the Baja Peninsula makes award winning wine in a world-class setting.
By Brandon Lomenzo Black, Images: Courtesy El Cielo Winery
Rays of sunshine reflect off pools of pearl-blue water sitting accumulating beneath lime green-colored grape vines. A blanket of fog that had rolled in overnight from the Ensenada coast begins to burn off as the sun rises from its slumber, revealing the beauty of the Valle de Guadalupe — the heart and soul of Mexico’s wine producing region — a mere 90-minute drive from San Diego.
Unbeknownst to many outside oenophile circles, Mexico has been producing wine for centuries — the first country in North America to do so — albeit in fits and spurts over the course of its history. The country’s earliest grape vines were planted by Spanish missionaries who landed ashore in what was then New Spain in the 16th century.
While long under the wine-world radar, since the 1980s, Mexico’s winegrowing regions have experienced a renaissance in the reception and quality of its vino output, and Mexican wines are making a long-overdue statement on the international stage and are now the recipients of some of the most prestigious awards from competitions held in Europe and the United States.
Protected by the Valle’s rolling mountains and proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the more than 100 wineries in this Baja oasis are embraced by perpetual sunshine and a Mediterranean-like weather system that invites an authentically local style of winemaking.
While staple grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, and Merlot are planted, winemakers here are nonconformists.
Nowhere is that more evident than at El Cielo Winery and Resort whose postcard-worthy vineyards nestled amongst olive trees, rust-colored dirt roads, and enveloping mountains continue to produce award-winning wines made from 15 varietals which are hand-picked before being aged in French, American or Hungarian Oak barrels.
El Cielo’s four lines of wine — Astros, Astrónomos, Constelaciones and Estrellas — are emblematic of astrology as an homage to the twinkling night sky of the Valle de Guadalupe.
The sprawling 79-acre vineyards are in plain view of El Cielo’s newly opened Mediterranean villas, housing 56 suites and two Presidential Villas, which add a whole new dimension to luxurious accommodations in Valle de Guadalupe.
Villas residents are treated to unobstructed views of the scenic beauty that surrounds El Cielo’s; as impressive as its irresistible wines.
On property, two scenic lakes adorn meandering pathways featuring natural and drought tolerant landscaping. Foliage includes lemon trees and bougainvillea as well as fragrant and culinary herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano.
After a day of wine tasting under pale blue skies and soft sunshine, you’ll feel refreshed and revitalized after cooling off in the pool. Lounge chairs arranged near swaying palm trees and just steps from the water, invite you to relax and absorb the cool breeze traversing the Valle from the Pacific coast.
Complimented by its very-own restaurant on the grounds of its winery, Latitude32 (the degree of latitude in the Northern Hemisphere where Valle de Guadalupe lies), provides a gastronomic fusion and cultural tie between the regions of Baja California and the Yucatan Peninsula.
The restaurant is situated on the second floor terrace overlooking row upon row of vineyards and rugged, sun-drenched mountains which seemingly glow in the evening. It’s also noted for its certified angus cuts and locally caught seafood from the Pacific Ocean — a distinguishing feature of Baja cuisine.
Like its other restaurant, Polaris, located inside the resort, seasonal ingredients such as peppers, cilantro, celery, figs, limes, and oranges are all grown in El Cielo’s organic garden and incorporated into the repertoire of dishes featured at both locales.
Under the direction of highly-touted Executive Chef, Marco Marin, local ingredients are employed to create sublime plates that pair deliciously with one of El Cielo’s red or white wines.
Fresh tuna crusted with sweet black pepper spice, served with citrus salad and pureed plantain and paired with a bottle of either Capricornius (chardonnay) or Hubble (merlot) is but one masterpiece, displaying the regions’ varied culinary bona fides.
No longer considered off-the-radar, the proximity of the Valle to Southern California invites a most pleasant and affordable weekend escape that feels worlds apart from home yet is close and logistically easy to get to.
While this present chapter of Mexico’s winemaking reputation continues to be written, history is being made harvest after harvest. Just a few days at El Cielo Winery & Resort will provide an everlasting impression of world-class cuisine and award-winning wines that perfectly compliment the blissful accommodations as stunningly beautiful of settings.