[Baja California, Ensenada] Michael Bauer in AltaOnline: An influx of chefs and winemakers have transformed the hardscrabble country around Ensenada, Mexico, and they've created a hot new destination for foodies.



For instance, compared to Napa, the climate of Valle de Guadalupe, about 90 miles southeast of San Diego, is like comparing a tropical rain forest to the Mojave Desert. And whereas Napa has many different soils, you’ll find only one type in Baja, says Lourdes Martinez-Ojeda, the winemaker for Bodega Henri Lurton. The main variables are water and temperatures — warm during the day and cool at night. Martinez-Ojeda spent nearly a decade at Chateau Brane-Cantenac in Bordeaux and partnered with Lurton in Baja. That alone is a milestone; he’s the first French vintner who has so heavily invested in the valley.

The area’s porous soil and salty water table give many wines a strong saline quality. This flavor profile may not win blind tastings, but it captures a sense of place and complements the food. It stands to reason: Salt cushions the impact of chiles and balances other ingredients, which in turn brings out fruit in the wine.

Wood-fired bell peppers, grilled octopus, beef cheek tacos and cucumber water at Finca Altozano.

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr