Finding A Home in Baja California: Eileen and Phil Gregory, Vena Cava

From my recent visit to the Valle de Guadalupe in Mexico, I have two more favorite stories of expatriates who’ve chosen Baja as a place not just to make wine but also to call home (Part 1):

Finding A Home in Baja California: Eileen and Phil Gregory, Vena Cava

As sailors, Phil and Eileen Gregory travelled the world by boat. In 2002, they purchased 70 acres in the Valle de Guadalupe and made it their home. While both Phil and Eileen originally worked in the music industry, Phil pursued winemaking as a new passion and created Vena Cava.

Phil and Eileen Gregory of Vena Cava

Phil Gregory studied under Hugo d’Acosta, a pioneer of Mexican winemaking, at “La Escuelita.” d’Acosta created “La Escuelita” to focus on the boutique production of grapes and olives with a focus on sustainability. A small group of students are selected each year to learn both traditional and modern winemaking practices and Gregory is one of the accomplished alumni who went on to start his own winery.

Vena Cava is the main vein to the heart. And that is what the winery is. Focused on creating high-quality wines from the best grapes in the valley, Gregory brings to life the essence of Baja in his wines. The vineyard is farmed organically and Gregory likes to experiment with different styles of wine. In many ways, he is always two steps ahead of everyone else.

When he came to Baja, they were making predominantly red wines. He decided to make lighter-style wines and made more white and rosè wines. As more white wines started to be made across the valley, Gregory started making sparkling wine. Gregory has been experimenting with méthode champenoise using large racks shot through with holes in order to turn the bottles and agitate the sediment.

Fellow winemaker Pedro Poncelis of D’Poncelis Winery declared that “since he [Phil Gregory] has come here, he has dedicated his life to wine.”

The sailor in Gregory continues to live on as well. The winery, which is invisible from the main road, is built with abandoned boats found in the Ensenada harbor. The winery was designed by architect Alejandro d’Acosta, brother of winemaker Hugo d’Acosta. The winery is subterranean and the ceiling is created with the salvaged boats. From the outside of the winery, all we can see is a rooftop of colorful upturned wood boats. Inside the winery, the walls are decorated with lenses from a local eyeglass factory.

Vena Cava

In addition to the winery, the Gregorys own a beautiful boutique hotel, La Villa de Valle. The six-bedroom hotel offers panoramic views of the vineyards, olive groves and mountains surrounding the property. The property is also home to Corazon de Tierra, a farm-to-table restaurant.

Phil and Eileen Gregory have been in Baja California for more than a decade. The sailors found their perfect port as they officially became Mexican citizens. Baja California is their home.

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.