Wine Culture Flourishes in Los Cabos

When Ralph Amey published his benchmark guide Wines of Baja California in 2003, there were fewer than two dozen wineries in Valle de Guadalupe and the smaller grape growing valleys located between Ensenada and Tecate. Thirty-five years before that, the grand total was four.

Today, there are well over 120 wineries, and publications as august as Vogue and The New York Times have compared the region to Northern California’s Napa Valley.

What does this Baja California wine boom – in both quantity and quality – mean for visitors to Los Cabos, some 700 miles further south in Baja California Sur?

Cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo may set the peninsular standard when it comes to hotels and resorts, but when it comes to hospitality bedfellows like food and wine, they often follow the trends set in northern Baja communities like Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada.

The Baja Med movement which developed in the early 2000s – pioneered by Tijuana chefs like Miguel Ángel Guerrero and Javier Plascencia – exercised (and continues to exercise) a profound influence on the Los Cabos dining scene, most notably in the emphasis on local and organic produce, farm-to-table restaurants, and creative international fusions. The success of the peninsula’s wine industry, which is responsible for upwards of 90% of all Mexican table wines, has also affected hospitality trends in Los Cabos.

Although a few hardy souls are attempting to harvest grapes and bottle wine between Los Cabos and La Paz, hotter temperatures and a lack of the peculiarly saline water that gives the Valle de Guadalupe its distinctive terroir ensure the wines of El Sur will never rival those being made near La Frontera.

No, the real inroads made by Valle de Guadalupe producers in Los Cabos are their prominent billing in five-star cartas de vino, spots previously reserved for high-profile wines from France, Italy, Argentina, Chile and the U.S.  These Baja based wines are also being heavily promoted to visitors who once thought little of pairing their dinners with a lime-wedged bottle of Corona, or a salt-rimmed margarita.

Tadd Chapman’s Don Sanchez in San José del Cabo is not just one of the city’s finest restaurants, it’s a legitimate wine destination, with an onsite sommelier and a carry-out shop featuring over 300 labels. Solomon’s Landing offers monthly wine pairing dinners on the Cabo San Lucas marina boardwalk during high tourist season, and the Los Cabos Winery offers tasting flights near the town square.

Resorts too are jumping on the bandwagon. The Resort at Pedregal’s annual The Art of Taste Festival brings chefs as well as sommeliers from around México and beyond, and Grand Fiesta Americana boasts a wine themed spa, SOMMA WineSPA, with treatments and therapies built around wine varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Vinotherapy, anyone?

Photo of a Valle de Guadalupe vineyard courtesy of Cbojorquez75 and Wikimedia Commons.

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