Nestled in Mexico’s Northern Central Highlands, the state of Queretáro is one you may have never heard of… until now. About an hour south of San Miguel de Allende, Queretáro’s eponymous capital features well-preserved colonial architecture, indigenous ruins, and traditional Mexican gastronomy.
It also serves as a gateway to the state’s famous Wine and Cheese Route, which dots the highways with 11 artisanal cheese factories and 18 wineries. Several stops offer some of each, along with craft beers, mezcal, cajeta, and more. So, let’s hit the road and explore some of Queretáro’s best eats, starting with everyone’s favorite dairy product: cheese.
Mexico’s cheesemaking traditions date back to the mid-1800s, beginning with queso fresco (lightly salted, fresh pressed curds) after the Spanish introduced dairying. Yet if you’ve ever tried Mexican cuisine, you know cheese has become an essential ingredient in many Mesoamerican dishes.
Today, the country has expanded its production to include cheeses with a range of textures, flavors, and aromas. Some recipes are imported from the Old World, while others are unique to Mexico.
Here’s a look at three of the route’s cheese factories, each of which offer a different experience.
A foodie’s paradise, Cava Bocanegra offers six different guided tours which include tastings for artisanal cheeses, regional wines, craft beers, mezcal, and more. For the ultimate experience, book the Cheese and Wine Route on Horseback package, and explore the region…you guessed it, by horse.
Not in the mood for a tour? You can relax at the Bocanegra Restaurant as you try their artisanal breads, bacon, Néole cheeses, and other tasty treats. Then, finish up your visit by buying your favorite cheeses at Bocanegra’s store.
Quesos Del Rebaño
The largest artisanal cheese factory in Latin America, Quesos Del Rebaño produces a variety of handmade sheep cheeses (quesos rebaños).
Take a tour of the grounds to learn about the milking process, cheese making, and explore the maturation cave. Cap off your trip by relaxing on a terrace with great views of Peña de Bernal as you try delicious cheeses and regional wines.
Tours are available by appointment only.
Located on a working farm, Quesos VAI is known for its artisanal cheeses–both fresh and mature.
The one-hour long cheese tour is great for all ages. It takes you around the farm and down into the cheese cellar. There, you’ll get a tutorial about how cheeses are made and matured.
For the adults, Quesos VAI offers a two-and-a-half cheese, wine, and beer tour, which lets you explore the production process of each.
Both tours end with a tasting, giving you a chance to try farm-fresh goodies. And don’t forget to visit the storefront, which features Mexican favorites such as Panela, Oaxaca, and Ranchero cheese.
Now, on to the wine.
While Mexico is the oldest wine-growing region in the Americas, the alcoholic beverage has been slow to catch on among its residents. However, a new generation of Mexicans are pouring a glass instead of cracking open a beer or throwing back a shot of tequila.
The country is a melting pot of Spanish, French, and Italian grapes — with wine blends being some of the most popular. Around 75% are red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, etc.), but don’t worry if you prefer white. You can still find Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and several others.
Queretáro is the second largest wine region in the country, behind Baja California. Here’s a look at three of its vineyards.
Surrounded by the San Juan del Río valley, Cava 57 has a little of everything. The vineyard boasts products from 15 Queretáro wine and cheese shops, in addition to its homegrown offerings.
Tour the vineyard to learn about the various winemaking methods, and finish off the day by pairing sparkling, red, and rose wines with artisanal cheeses.
Wines include Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada, Merlot, Malbec and Syrah.
Finca Salva Vivé by Freixenet
Located in the heart of Queretáro, Finca Salva Vivé by Freixenet is one of the most important wine houses in Latin America. The vineyard is known for its sparkling wines, made through the traditional champenoise method.
You can explore the cellars, enjoy a carriage ride through the vineyard, and even spend a day with a Sommelier. And of course, each tour includes a wine tasting.
Puerta del Lobo
More than a vineyard, Puerta del Lobo may just be the Disneyworld of wine. This 40-acre enological park features a vineyard with 10 different varieties of grapes, a gourmet restaurant, a wine bar, and a hotel. It has everything you need to enjoy a relaxing vacation away from the hustle of city life.
How to Explore the Wine and Cheese Route
If you prefer flexibility, it’s best to go by car. Queretaro is one of the safest states in Mexico, so you should have no trouble if you hit the highway on your own. Car rentals are cheap, but insurance tends to be pricey. Be sure to factor in the extra cost before you decide to rent.
You can also book a tour with pick-up and drop-off service from your hotel, downtown Queretaro, and a few other locations. These are typically all-day tours, with stops at several locations. If you want to sit back and let the tour company take care of the transportation, this is a great, affordable option.
Regardless of your travel preferences, you’ll definitely want to add Queretaro to your list of stops on a trip to Central Mexico!
What’s your favorite foodie destination in Mexico? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!