Imagine yourself as a Spanish missionary, exploring the land that is now the Guadalupe Valley. You’re looking for glory and riches but living with the fear of attacks by local tribes at any time. Your first goal is to establish a settlement and set up a means of survival in Baja California. Unfortunately, the gold you’ve been searching so rigorously for is nowhere to be found.
You notice the climate is similar to regions where growing wine is popular and decide to grow grapes that can be turned into wine and shipped back to Spain. You are surprised to see how well the grapes grows in Mexico - and your vineyards soon begin to flourish. A town by the name of Santa Maria de las Parras is founded in 1597, as well as the first vineyard in the region. This vineyard, called Casa Madero, founded the era of wineries in Mexico.
Under the control of Felix Callabero, Guadalupe was founded in 1821. The city proved to be an agricultural success, complete with irrigation ditches for fresh water and domesticated animals for food. This mission village prospered for decades but increasing retaliation from native tribes due to proselytism eventually forced Felix Callabero to flee south. Thankfully, the vast vineyards still remain present along the outskirts of the city and traces of the original settlement exist as reminders of the past.
In 1859, after the Mexican Revolution, the Catholic Church no longer had the right to hold property in Mexico and as a result, many of the original settlers fled the area, abandoning their Baja wineries in the process. The land then fell under private control and was quickly transformed into the first large winemaking operation in Mexico. As word spread about the richness of the soil, people began moving to Valle de Guadalupe to purchase land in hopes of building better futures for themselves and their families.
It’s interesting to note, however, that Valle de Guadalupe wasn’t just settled by the Spanish. Russians immigrants played a key role in establishing this region as well. In the early 1900s, a peace-seeking group of Russians called the Molokans fled their homeland to escape the violence of the Russian Revolution. They purchased respectable quantities of land in the area and allocated a large portion of it to making wine. The Molokans used new winemaking techniques from Europe and their presence is still felt today with Bibayoff’s wines. This family-style winery is a terrific stop on a Baja wine tour, since you’ll be able to see unique wine making techniques firsthand.
Most Russian settlers ended up fleing the area around the time that World War II began, leaving the valley predominantly under Mexican influence once again. Visiting some of the few remaining Russian homes offers a more in-depth look at the Russian influence on the region, however, as is highly recommended during a visit to the area.