When Mexico City DJ, journalist and music show host Alejandro Franco first toured the scenic countryside of Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe wine country with his friend, Tijuana resident and Nortec Collective musician Pepe Mogt, he said, “We have to have a big party here.”
Just a few years later, the Guadalupe Valley Wine, Food and Music Festival is gearing up for its third edition on Sept. 15, Mexico’s Independence Day, when some 1,500 people will gather at Decantos Winery to eat, drink and dance. But while festivals like Coachella seem to get bigger and bigger, the Guadalupe Valley festival is designed to stay intimate.
The valley is about a two hour drive from San Diego, and the area just outside of Ensenada is fast becoming a culinary hotspot and popular wine-tasting destination. Chefs from L.A. and Mexico create dishes that are made to complement the music, and the $200 ticket price include.
In addition to the Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses, the bill includes Museum of Love from LCD Soundsytem’s Pat Mahoney, Mexico’s Titán, Patterns from Costa Rica, and DJ Tennis, who is also a chef.
Why the Valle de Guadalupe? “I fell in love immediately with the region, which is so distinctive and special,” says Franco, who is also the founder of Commonsense Records.
The festival attracts music lovers from Mexico City as well as Southern California. Franco says he thinks of the region as “las Californias” — a one country state of mind that combines the Baja peninsula with Northern and Southern Caifornia to combat “political posturing from both sides.”
Franco says that with the present challenges both countries are facing, especially at the borders, “The best thing is to celebrate our differences, take advantage of our similarities and invest in both cultural arms.”
He created the festival as a contrast to the massive events that provide amazing production, but without a truly personal experience.
At events like Coachella, Outside Lands and Arroyo Seco Weekend, curated food offerings have become an important way to lure festivalgoers and provide a more upscale experience apart from the hot dogs and bad beer of the past. “We want people to experience festivals in a new way, where food is great, not only a commodity and wine, crafted beer and mezcal are an experience, not only a business,” Franco says.
Notable chefs from Mexico set for this year’s fest include Alfonso Cadena of La Leche in Puerto Vallarta and Carbon Cabron in Cabo; David Castro Hussong of Fauna at Bruma Valle de Guadalupe, Adria Marnia making locally-inspired desserts, Dante Ferrero roasting a whole cow, and Luis Moreno seving local lamb.
From Los Angeles, Guelaguetza’s Bricia Lopez and Rodolfo Castellanos will serve up Oaxacan specialties and E.P. & L.P.’s Louis Tikaram brings grilled Baja yellowtail.
The DJ hopes the festival will “touch every single person attending through what we love the most: amazing food, the best wines of a new Mexican wave and a magical music selection that has been painstakingly curated over several months.”