I make it a mission to only drink Mexican wine when I'm in Mexico. I don't mean that arrogantly -- I am not, by any means, a wine expert. What I mean is that Mexico has some really incredible wines, and the majority of us are not drinking them. So, really, I'm just doing my part in the name of research.
For those who are "in the know" about Mexican wine, you'll recognize the name Valle de Guadalupe, which is the wine country of the Baja peninsula, an area with terrain remarkably similar to California. Hence the California-caliber wines.
Lesser known than Baja, but much older in terms of wine production (it started here in the 16th century), the state of Guanajuato is another wine-producing region in Mexico and one that deserves your attention. I recently took a trip out to Guanajuato's wine country when I was visiting San Miguel de Allende.
Related: Feeling right at home at the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
The crowd that flocks to San Miguel de Allende is one that appreciates beautiful art, history, culture and fantastic food. And what is fantastic food without wine? That's the question that Guanajuato is seeking to answer today. Visitors can sample the answer on La Ruta del Vino, and it loops around the Bajio area in central Mexico, a region known for its eternal spring-like weather.
My visit took me to the San Lucas and San Francisco wineries, sister properties that are less than an hour from San Miguel de Allende. The drive toward the vineyards teleports travelers to the countryside of Tuscany, complete with groves of olive trees, lavender fields and white stone buildings topped with clay-colored roofs.
Guests are invited to stay at the wineries, which have been outfitted with sleek, chic accommodations with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the vineyards. Vinedos San Francisco swings more modern in decor, while Vinedos San Lucas is more of a traditional hacienda-style, but equally high-end in terms of amenities. Both wineries have fabulous restaurants, a spa and pool and, of course, frequent tastings of the wines they produce.
A must is a stop at the Vinedos San Francisco restaurant, which has an outdoor terrace overlooking the beautiful vineyards. Here you can taste the local wine and feast on Mediterranean-style cuisine. The cheese plate and the salmon char siu are fantastic.
But there is so much more to explore in terms of the wine culture around San Miguel de Allende. Visitors to the Bajio area can learn about the fine wines, alongside food pairings, along several different paths that leave from the city.
Traveling toward Queretaro, which is in the same direction as the San Lucas and San Francisco wineries, visitors will also find the Toyan vineyard. This vineyard is known for its historic architecture -- winegrowing in this region dates back to the 16th century, believe it or not. Toyan has a beautiful underground cellar and lounge, perfect for dining or tastings.
Toward the city of Celaya, visitors will find the 400-year-old San Miguel vineyard, a 148-acre vineyard run by the Cuadra family. This vineyard grows 13 varieties of grapes, although three are most popular in this region: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay. Visitors on this route can also explore the cellar, which at 108,000 square feet is one of the largest in the state.
For travelers heading toward Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo, the San Jose la Vista Vineyard features a restaurant, wine cellar, gardens, terraces and a hotel. The winery here produces malbec syrah, sauvignon blanc and merlot. Keep venturing out toward Dolores Hidalgo to explore Tres Raices. This expansive complex is known for its large-scale art installations as well as its offerings of local cuisine and wine tours. One of the most popular experiences at Tres Raices is its blindfolded tasting, which includes a five-course menu and wine pairings.
Continuing on to Guanajuato, visitors will discover the Cuna de Tierra, or the Cradle of Earth, which is the first winery in Guanajuato. Here, four different experiences are available to choose from, including tasting tours, food pairings, corporate events or romantic getaways.
Of course, you don't have to leave San Miguel de Allende to add this dimension to your next visit. San Lucas and San Francisco are easily reached and explored within an afternoon, though upon first visit I can safely say you'll be planning your return -- trust me.