When pondering how best to begin the Baja Winery Tours blog, the simplest of ideas came to mind–why not just start at the beginning? The Valle de Guadalupe region has been receiving a lot of publicity recently, and not just from specialty magazines and local papers but from the international press as well. Even for those of us from the Southern California region, it sometimes seems like the world-class Valle de Guadalupe wineries simply sprung up overnight! For this reason, we’d like to take a brief trip back through time to look at the story of the Valle de Guadalupe.

Though it may seem as if the valley’s wine-growing region has just come to life over the past few years, this couldn’t be much further from the truth. In reality, grape vines were first introduced to the area by 18th century Jesuit priests, and by 1888 the region’s first commercial winery was up and running–the still extant Bodegas de Santo Tomás.

Then, in 1905, something quite interesting happened–the first of some 105 Russian families fleeing religious persecution back home began arriving in the Valle de Guadalupe. They were farmers, and though their religion forbade them to drink alcoholic beverages, they could still manufacture them! Although these families largely moved to the United States during the mid-20th century, their legacy lives on today in the local cuisine, architecture, and grape varieties that they cultivated. If you can read Spanish, here’s a great resource to learn more about these Russian settlers.

As the 20th century rolled on, there were a few attempts to create serious commercial wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe region–one, by Italian immigrant Don Angelo Cetto, has since grown into Mexico’s largest commercial wine producer. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the now-iconic Valle de Guadalupe boutique wineries began sprouting up–Monte Xanic, founded in 1987, is considered the first. As the 1990s came to a close, the boutique, artesanal side of the industry had fully begun opening up.

From the most humble of beginnings, it’s now estimated that the Valle de Guadalupe region is home to over 100 wineries of all sizes and ambitions. And there’s still more room to grow–the Valle de Guadalupe is approximately the same size as Napa Valley, but its productive land currently sits at around 17% of that of its more famous northern neighbor.

So who knows how things are going to grow from here? We certainly can’t see the future, but we imagine it’s going to be pretty bright for the Valle de Guadalupe.

Either way, you can’t deny that it’s been quite a story so far.