Kimmie and Nuno are visiting from Switzerland. When Kimmie told me she wanted me to take her to Mexico I was nothing but elated. I have two willing Baja guests!? I am like a painter with a blank canvas. It is Nuno's first trip to Mexico. I planned on taking them down the coast to Ensenada and then back through the wine country, ending up in Tecate for the return. My plan was foiled because the highway was closed after reaching Puerto Nuevo and all of the traffic was rerouted inland. Although it took longer to get to Ensenada we ended up on El Camino Real, and drove past a mission (my first mission in Baja) so we stopped to check it out. La misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera is now nothing but a small pile of ruins but its history cannot be weathered. It was founded in 1787 by Dominican missionary Luis Sales to serve the Kumiai population. It was very successful in its time due to the proximity of the sea and the fertile lands (which is why the area was successful for the Kumiai for 15,000 years pre-colonization). It was abandoned in 1833 due to political reasons.
I have driven by this marisco cart in Ensenada numerous times, it is hard to miss as it is always packed with locals (today was mild). This was our first stop. We got ceviche with mixed seafood. I don't usually like octopus but it was my favorite item in the mix. It was so fresh and tender. I couldn't finish my large order but I tried. It was incredible.
We then walked to the Santo Tomas bodega in Ensenada. It was nothing like how it was described online. First of all there are no tours, just tastings. And the tasting was 18.50 US dollars. We left because I knew there were better deals along with return. This was just one stop on our tour. Santo Tomas is the oldest winery in Baja. They grow the wine about 30 km south of Ensenada and tours are by appointment only. They do the manufacturing portion of the process here. I still would like to go to the original winery but as far as the bodega it seems like a tourist trap for cruise ship customers.
This is more like it.
Viñedos Malagón is a 400 acre ranch found on the El Porvenir route that runs parallel to the 3 highway. The tasting room is located in an old Russian settler home, who originally purchased the land in the early 1900s. The Russian immigrant history in northern Baja is fascinating and something I am still discovering.
The wine is the best wine that I have had in Baja so far.
Our time was running out. The sun was beginning to set and most places close by 5.
We next tried Monte Xanic. The olive oil they make is divine, as is the local bread and cheese. Pero el vino es muy mal.
We didn't want to leave Mexico with a terrible taste in our mouths so we found another winery that was open. Vinos Fuentes no era mejor. It is difficult to admit but it went straight into the trash, every one we tried. Qué terrible.
We were in the same position we were in before, we needed a good glass of wine. Unfortunately by this point everything was closed except for the very reliable, very LA, very expensive, Encuentro. I had to take them.
We enjoyed a glass of their house red on the patio while looking at constellations sitting next to a fire pit.
It wouldn't be a trip to Mexico without taking my guests to El Mejor Pan y Los Panchos.
Kimmie and Nuno enjoyed their Mexico experience. The line at the border took us two hours (but I can guarantee it would have been longer elsewhere). Since the border at Tecate closes from 11pm-5am we were just 20 minutes away from having a gate closed in front of us and rerouting to Otay. There were many people behind us who drove away very disappointed.
Sucks for them!
As for me, I have some serious Baja wine tasting to do. I am discovering that the quality of Baja wine varies greatly and I do not want to take people to Mexico to drink mediocre wine. Mexico's reputation has been tainted with drug cartels, fraud, crooked cops, beheadings... the last thing it needs is to further tarnish its reputation with bad wine.
The missionaries brought wine to Baja during colonization. Where there are missions there is wine, and where there is wine there am I.