The Guadalupe Valley, nestles between the highway from Tijuana and the road that winds south over the mountains from Tecate, easily accessible from the U.S. border. The valley is blessed with enviable weather and rich soil, perfect for growing grapes.
My husband and I, along with friends, discovered the valley one weekend and set out in high spirits to explore. At our first stop, Vina de Liceaga, we sampled a delicious white wine – or two or three – and were given a hand-drawn map to the valley’s other wineries.
I was voted navigator. (This was before the days of that know-it-all GPS bitch.) Dirt roads. No road signs. Trust me, she would have had problems too. Soon we were driving up a dry riverbed that dead-ended under a bridge in a welter of tamarisk brush. We were up a creek!
Anyway, we extricated ourselves from the river and went on to have a wonderful day sampling wines throughout the valley. Our favorite was the Bibayoff Winery, where the hospitable owners explained to us how their Russian family came to be living in the Guadalupe Valley.
In 1904, over a hundred Russian families settled the area. Members of a pacifist religious group, they left their homeland to avoid being conscripted into the Czar’s army. They bought several hundred acres and planted vines.
In GUADALUPE’S GIFT, Kate meets Tatiana, a descendant of one of those early Russian immigrants, at the fictional Ivanov Winery, which is loosely based on Bibayoff.
Today, David and Abel Bibayoff Dalgoff cultivate about 80 acres of table and wine grapes. They showed us their fascinating Russian museum, which is open to the public. The piece that stays in my memory is a breathtakingly romantic wedding dress, brought from the old country all those years ago. I can picture Kate wearing that dress, her lovely red hair glowing against the delicate old lace.