The Vineyard Chronicles: El Buen Vino de Ensenada

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Chianti, Marlborough Bay, Provence, Napa, La Rioja, Chile, Valle de Guadalupe.  Valle de Guadalupe is the wine region that makes up a part of Ensenada, Mexico about eighty miles south of the Tijuana border.  Ensenada has always housed a few vineyards, but it’s not until the past couple of years that Ensenada has truly emerged as a wine destination.

IMG_2650Living in San Diego, I tend to forget that I live 20 minutes from Mexico, until a friend invites me for a day of wine tasting with a last-minute text reading, “Bring your passport!”  That rules out a drive to Temecula or a flight to Napa, and Mexico it is.    Then again, crossing the border is how every good Southern Californian adventure begins.

Now, before you get all worried about the safety of such a venture, I will tell you that we did not stop to party in TJ but proceeded straight down the coast for about 2 hours to the Guadalupe Valley.  Our posse also included about 13 very excited Mexican moms.  Ensenada tends to be a very safe part of Mexico, but if you’re still worried, it’s possible to hire bodyguards for extra protection.  We however felt that to be a tad excessive for Ensenada.

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It turns out November is an ideal time to go wine tasting.  I’ve heard that it can be crowded during the summer months, but we didn’t feel it was crowded.  There were usually a few other groups of mostly Mexican and Mexican-American visitors at the vineyards we visited, but the vineyards were more than equipped to handle us.

We only visited four vineyards, but I’ve included a list of a few more in the area.

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Vineyards to visit:

IMG_2608Monte Xanic (website)

The normal tasting room, was under construction, so we drove to another part of the vineyard to have an outside tasting.  The man leading the tasting was extremely knowledgable and great at accommodating our rather needy party.

What to try:  I was a fan of their Cabernet Sauvignon and their Sauvignon Blanc.  I however was not into their Merlot.

 

 

Alximia (website)

This vineyard is relatively new and the architecture is strange, but fantastical.  it kind of feels like you are drinking the sweet nectar inside a space ship.  It’s very cool.

What to try:  Their Cabernet is honestly the best wine I’ve had since Italy.  It has body, but is extremely smooth at the same time.  Delicious.

 

 

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L.A. Cetto (website)

Supposed to be one of the best vineyards in the region, and one that I did not visit.

Domecq (website)

This vineyard is famous for producing both wine and brandy.

Where to Eat:

Finca Altozano (website)IMG_2719

Pretty much everything at this restaurant is farm-to-table, so the food and of course the wine is fantastic.  Particularly good is the chorizo and the stuffed zucchini (calabasas).  There’s a reason this restaurant has almost 5 stars on tripadvisor.  The food, drink, view, and atmosphere are top-notch.  Especially fun are the large barrels you can sit in and take in sunset over the vineyard.

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