(Photo courtesy of El Cielo Winery)

Tour Baja California’s Wine Country with Chef Janos Wilder

June 26, 2024
By Matt Sterner

Tucson City of Gastronomy (TCOG) announced its inaugural culinary tour — a taste exploration of Baja California’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe, from Sunday, October 20 – Friday, October 25.

It will follow La Ruta del Vino (The Wine Route) between the cities of Tecate and Ensenada, in a scenic valley of olive orchards, vineyards, and ranchlands that is Mexico’s most important wine-growing area.

A vineyard in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California (Photo courtesy of South of the Border Tours)

Designed for wine and culinary enthusiasts, the tour is focused on award-winning handcrafted wines by boutique producers, and farm-to-table regional cuisine by some of the most renowned chefs in Mexico. Highlights will include intimate wine tastings, farm-to-table culinary experiences, and upscale Pacific Ocean-front hotel accommodations.

Meet the Tour Guides

The guides for this culinary and cultural adventure will include desert ecologist and ethnobotanist Jesús García, Stephen Bernier with South of the Border Tours, James Beard Award-winning chef Janos Wilder, and food archaeologist Dr. Jonathan Mabry.

García — a native of Magdalena, Sonora — is a Conservation Research Associate at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

García has also been the director of the Kino Heritage Trees Project for almost 20 years, and vice-chair and collaborator of the nonprofit managing the Mission Garden for more than a decade.

Bernier brings more than 30 years of leading tours in the U.S. Southwest, Mexico, and Canada, specializing in tours for museums, universities, and nonprofits. He is also a volunteer naturalist for Sabino Canyon.

Janos Wilder was Tucson’s first winner of a James Beard Award, the “Oscar of the food world.” He opened his first restaurant in Tucson in 1983 and has been cooking with ingredients indigenous to the Sonoran Desert ever since. While sourcing foods that have been foraged or cultivated here for thousands of years, Wilder cooks with an eye to the future. He creates modern dishes that explore cooking with ancient foods in response to climate change.

Chef Janos Wilder (Photo by Isaac Stockton)

“Food and wine have been at the center of my professional life for over 40 years,” said Wilder. “This tour to wineries and restaurants in the Valle de Guadalupe and its environs provides a unique opportunity to explore this region where Mexico’s best wines are produced.”

His current restaurant is Studio Janos in downtown Tucson, and he’s also the Board President of Tucson City of Gastronomy and the former Board Chair of Native Seeds/SEARCH.

What to Expect

Among the first tour stops will be the Museu de la Vid y el Vino, telling the story of how the valley became a center of fine winemaking that is now 80% of Mexico’s total wine production. Immersive cultural experiences will include visits to an Indigenous community of the Kumiai people and an enclave of Russian families that homesteaded the valley in 1905.

Punta Morro Hotel (Photo courtesy of South of the Border Tours)

Food highlights will include a wine-paired farm-to-table meal overlooking a vineyard at Finca Altozano by chef Javier Plascencia, tastings at the Russian restaurant Familia Samarin, and a contemporary tasting menu influenced by classic Oaxacan dishes by acclaimed chef Gerardo Alvarado at his restaurant Pardella Humo y Brasos in the heart of an organic olive orchard.

Wine tastings guided by certified sommeliers at the Bodegas Magoni and El Cielo wineries will showcase some of the region’s best wines, and locally crafted beers will be sampled at the Bellinghausen Beer Garden.

“We hope this is just the first of many culinary and food culture tours led by TCOG,” said Mabry. “The tour group size will be less than two dozen to enhance the experience, so register soon to ensure your participation.”

Chef Javier Plascencia at Finca Altozano restaurant (courtesy of South of the Border Tours)

Read more about the tour and register here!

The tour is a fundraiser for TCOG, the nonprofit managing Tucson’s UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation. Learn more about Tucson City of Gastronomy at tucson.cityofgastronomy.org.

Tucson Foodie is a locally owned and operated community. Thanks to our partners and members, we are able to offer paywall-free guides and articles. We value your support and invite you to become a Tucson Foodie Insider today.

Upcoming Events

View all events
Double-click this headline to edit the text.
This is a block of text. Double-click this text to edit it.
Double-click this headline to edit the text.
This is a block of text. Double-click this text to edit it.
Double-click this headline to edit the text.
This is a block of text. Double-click this text to edit it.

Article By

At a very young age, Matt Sterner was gifted with the artistic ability to masterfully roll a burrito to the highest of standards, but the wrapped medley of delicious innards wasn’t his first love. Matt’s first true love was a...

Related Stories