Monday, May 29, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Valle de Guadalupe, la ruta del vino

It is almost impossible to go through Tecate without stopping at Los Panchos!  
When I suggested this to my friend Vanessa, who has been to Tecate with me twice, and has eaten at Los Panchos twice, she was more than willing.

My goal, like always, was to try out some new wineries in Valle de Guadalupe, even though I have acquired some favorites.  There are so many in the area it is hard to decide which ones to visit, so I often just go with word of mouth.  When at Château Camou last time, Las Nubes was recommended.  
And it ended up being the perfect choice.

I ordered the 'reserve' wine tastings (220 pesos/ 12 dollars), while Vanessa got the 'classics,' which included more white wines.  
Although every Las Nubes wine was great, my favorite was Cumulus (the name is especially fun since nubes are clouds in Spanish).
The view from Las Nubes is amazing, and its very secluded.  
The employees are nice and knowledgable, taking us into the cellar upon our request (it is a French thing...).  
Even with all of the mentioned assets, one of my favorite things about the winery is their pictures.  
They decorated their interior with the faces of the people whose hard work makes the wine I am drinking possible, those who are usually hidden and purposefully ignored.  








After our wine tasting we headed for the cemetery.  I had high hopes for this cemetery since there is so much history in the area, and because it was shown on my map.  
Unfortunately, it was overgrown and uncared for, but I am glad we went nonetheless.  
Jesus looks like it is ready to bust out of the cement and start pruning. 

We got a winery recommendation from Carlos, our sommelier at Las Nubes- Decantos, a new winery.  We pulled up to Decantos and got out of the car, but after entering the building we hightailed it out of there.  It was not the relaxed Mexican vibe that we wanted.  They were blasting American music, seeming more like LA than Mexico. 
As we walked out we heard 'eya, eya, eya, eya' from a party bus out front.  
No thanks.
Word of mouth isn't always successful.
Instead we went around the corner to Baron Balché.  The vibe seemed good upon arrival, I was especially intrigued by their interior, but it ended up being a mistake...  and I will never go back.  It was overpriced (300 pesos/ 18 dollars) and the wine was not good, even though I ordered the reserve like I had at Las Nubes.  Oh well, you live and you learn...



The wine was tasted in the cellar.  
The location was fine, but it was such a gorgeous day we just wanted to be outside... drinking good wine.  We had already paid for our tasting so after dumping much of it into the wine bucket we left.


On a dirt road seemingly in the middle of nowhere...  
I love Mexico.

I have been wanting to go to the Russian Museum for years.  I thought that today it was going to happen, but it was closed!  They are only open on the weekends, but at least I found it.

Despite my goal to try out new places, with the last two places (Decantos and Baron Balché) being such a disappointment, and because this was Vanessa's first visit to La ruta de vino and I wanted her to have a good experience, I thought I should take her to a place that I have been before, the very first time I had ever been to this area, La Casa Doña Lupe.  I knew they had food and a large patio, and so we went.  
It has changed a lot since I was there over three years ago.  They opened up another, larger restaurant, and have more goods for sale.  But it still has that quaint, authentic, Mexican winery ambience that we were in search of.  



The pizza was amazing!  Veggies on whole grain crust (this is the crust used for all of their pizzas).  
We sat there in front of the vineyard, listening to roosters crowing and loving the sun and the gentle breeze.



Oh cactus... what round pads you have! 


We said goodbye to the valley around 6pm and were crossing the border an hour later.
There was not one car in line in front of us.  What a perfect day trip!
I cannot wait to go again.  
Any takers?!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Super Duper Bloom, Joshua Tree National Park


If Anza Borrego is having a Super Bloom then Joshua Tree is having a Super Duper Bloom.  
It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise (since it has not been broadcasted by our local news, and there were no traffic jams along the route) to drive through the southern portion of Joshua Tree to see millions colorful flowers blanketing the desert sand. 



Neither of us have ever hiked in this portion of the desert, near Cottonwood Visitor Center, which is much less popular than the northwest part of Joshua Tree, where the majority of jumbo rocks and Joshua Trees are located (what people imagine when the picture Joshua Tree National Park).

After some reading and planning, we decided to hike Lost Palms Oasis trail.  
It was in the upper 70s with a glorious gentle breeze.  It could not have been a more perfect day for a hike.  The desert was incredibly alive.  

Cahuilla Native Americans were dependent on over 120 plants here, near Cottonwood Spring, for over 2,000 years.  
I have never seen such profound mortars, indicating there heavy reliance on the land for food. 









Lizards are so photogenic.  






The Salton Sea can be viewed several times throughout the hike.

Like an ocean of sand, the desert is so vast.

This is the first time either of us have ever seen a desert tortoise in its natural habitat!  
We later learned that this is because they spend 95% of their time underground.  
This little guy was not shy at all for someone that remains hidden most of the day.  I tried to keep my distance but he kept charging towards me, chlorophyll from the Super Duper Bloom smeared all over his mouth.  


The tortoise sighting was especially exciting for Eric since he has owned a desert tortoise for 33 years, ever since he found one on the corner of his boyhood Downey home.  
There was another couple nearby which gave Eric an opportunity to regale them with Shelby stories...


3.5 miles from the trailhead is Lost Palms Oasis, where over 100 natural fan palms grow their roots directly into spring water.  

Horned toad lizards are my favorite!  As a child I used to catch them all of the time, unfortunately nowadays I will only see one ever few years... dang Argentine ants- displacing their food source!
I know this guy is as upset as I am!


What a amazing day in the Joshua Tree.