Hola Vendimia! A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse At Ensenada’s Annual Harvest Festival


For most of the year, the quiet beauty of Valle de Guadalupe’s sprawling vineyards and giant rust-hued boulders is disturbed only by the crowing of roosters or the occasional plaintive bray of a burro. But come August, Mexico’s premiere wine-growing region—think of it as a laid-back, nascent Napa Valley located just a 90-minute drive south of San Diego—throws off its pastoral slumber for the annual Vendimia, or Harvest Festival. The two-and-a-half-week fiesta (August 2 through 18), 
welcomes more than 45,000 visitors to state-of-the-art 
wineries and street fairs by day and to concerts, alternative circuses, Kafkaesque plays and modern dance performances by night. On balmy evenings, upscale wineries host get-togethers at which maridajes—regional food and wine pairings—are served under clear, star-filled skies.

The events, which take place in the valley and the nearby seaside city of Ensenada, are bookended by the Muestra del Vino, a showcase of wines, and the Concurso de Paellas, a paella contest that features more than 85 teams making every conceivable incarnation of the dish. More than 50 boutique wineries, a growing number of sophisticated eco-resorts, some intriguing sustainable architecture and a new wine museum reward visitors willing to traverse the bone-jarring dirt roads that lead to most wineries and events.

The modern eco-lofts of the Endémico Hotel at Encuentro Guadalupe. Photo courtesy of Gendémico Hotel.

Stay: Endémico hotel at Encuentro Guadalupe

Escape from civilization with the ultimate “glamping” (or luxury camping) experience. Tijuana’s Jorge Gracia of Gracia Studio designed prefab eco-lofts, perched on hillsides among boulders the size of bulldozers. Hike the 300-acre property by day; after your siesta, enjoy a bottle of valley wine out on the private terrace and watch red-tailed hawks soar on valley thermals.

Eat: Corazón de Tierra

Graze on inventive farm-to-table cuisine from award-winning chef Diego Hernández at Corazón de Tierra, an avant-garde restaurant designed by Ensenada architect Claudia Turrent. Ingredients for Hernández’s innovative dishes—the menu changes daily—come directly from the organic gardens surrounding the restaurant.

See: Zirk Ubu

Enjoy Vendimia events such as Zirk Ubu, an alternative circus from San Diego. The troupe made their debut at Ensenada’s Villa del Valle Inn two years ago, when stilt walkers, jugglers and madcap clowns worked the cocktail hour and then wowed guests after dinner with ethereal aerial work and shadow puppetry.

Sol y Barro, one of Baja’s growing number of colorful boutique wineries. Photo courtesy of Sol y Barro.

DrinkParalelo Winery

Rammed-earth tunnels with walls imprinted with nopal and olive branches lead to a submerged wine cave at this eco-winery. Also Designed by Alejandro D’Acosta, the sustainable structure is one of 50-plus boutique wineries that pepper the 14-mile-long Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s foremost wine-growing region.

Tour: Museo de la Vid y el Vino at the Vine and Wine Museum

Learn the valley’s rich wine history, from Spanish Jesuits (who planted grapes in the 1700s for their sacramental wine) to Russian Molokan émigrés (who began the first commercial vineyards in the early 20th century). Don’t miss the upstairs terrace with its panoramic valley view.

Learn: La Escuelita, Valley Wine School

Explore the sustainable structures at La Escuelita in nearby Porvenir. Designed by Ensenada architect Alejandro D’Acosta—dubbed Don Quixote de la Basura, or Don Quixote of trash—the one-of-a-kind buildings are fashioned from discarded wine bottles, barrel staves, recycled wood slats and box-spring mattresses. A small cafe offers coffee, wines and light fare. Email info@estacionporvenir.org for details.

Caveat: Tickets and hotel rooms go faster than a Mexican roadrunner. Purchase tickets for the Muestra del Vino and Concurso de Paellas by calling 646-178-3038. Click here for the schedule of events.


This was originally published in California Home + Design’s Summer 2013 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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