We crossed the international border from San Diego to Tijuana and chose to drive the toll road (highway Mex1D) for our less than two hour drive to Valle de Guadalupe. The toll road parallels the free road (Mex 1) and is a faster drive but still gives you the same views of the ocean and the picturesque towns.
An easy 80 mile drive south, at mile 63 turn left onto route 3 and shortly (approximately 17 miles)the village of Valle de Guadalupe appears with the lush hills and valleys of grapes and olive trees. This is the Mexican wine country of Baja.
Fifty to one hundred wineries, a handful of hotels and B&Bs, a dozen or so fabulous restaurants make this an exciting destination for wine tasting and learning about all things wine.
A stop at the Museo De La Vid Y El Vino
Our first stop in Valle de Guadalupe was Museo De La Vid Y El Vino on the main Ruta de Vino. This beautiful and contemporary building houses the history of wine making in Baja as well as the story of the beginnings of winemaking from around the world. All writings are in Spanish so ask for the binder that gives all the info in English. A wonderful selection of wine bottles and local art are displayed among the stone walls, giant wine barrels and a panoramic view.
Las Bodegas de Santo Thomas
Next, we headed a few miles west to the oldest winery in Baja, Las Bodegas de Santo Thomas. The contemporary showroom is impressive with their wine selection displayed in the wall, floor to ceiling. Known for their red wines I also sampled a delicious Alisio Chardonnay as well as their Ruby Cabernet, and the comeback of the Rosé. Santo Tomas has some gold star olive oils to taste and purchase as well as their noted wines.
The Santo Tomas vineyards are labeled like street signs with the type of grapes growing in that area. Such as take a left at ” Chardonnay and Cabernet” to arrive at your destination.
After the wine tasting we headed to the much talked about Valle de Guadalupe restaurant, Malva Cocina de Baja California.
Executive chef Roberto Alcocer is the man in charge of the “Baja Med” menu focusing on local seafood and ranch grown foods with Mediterranean flavors. Wild herbs and malva that are grown on the property and used in many of the dishes. With the outdoor kitchen you can watch the chefs busy at work preparing their exotic dishes and when needed going to the garden to pick fresh ingredients. Chef Alcocer selected some of his favorites for us to enjoy.
We were served a local wine of course from Valle de Guadalupe. The peach, pear and apple aromas were present in the Chenin Colombard (Chenin Blanc +Colombard) by Monte Xanic vineyards. This white wine was a perfect pairing with the dishes we were about to savor.
The octopus ceviche was delicate and spicy, oysters raw and also grilled with dill, octopus served with Serrano chilies, a green sauce, Malva sauce and cilantro. The butterfish was served with a lime purée and a rosemary flower, the yellowtail with caramelized onion. For garnish on many of the dishes they use radish flowers and basil flowers. We were offered hibiscus water and Rosemary water, both delicious and refreshing. Desert was mallo (marshmallow) with ricotta cheese that was toasted. I will say everything was a new experience for me and was delicious. Chef Alcocer certainly follows his farm to table policy, use of fresh ingredients and can be seen going from table to table to describe the dishes and happily talk about his love of food.
The Malva dining experience, the food preparation, service and ambiance in this casual open air setting with a beautiful view of the valley was a lunch I will happily repeat on my next visit.
Hotel Coral and Marina
Our final destination for the next few days was the resort town of Ensenada. Leaving the beautiful Baja countryside a fifteen minute drive south took us to the Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada.
The Hotel Coral is a waterfront hotel with sculpture gardens, beautiful views, great service and noted cuisine. This luxury hotel has many premier amenities: flat screen TVs, Wi-fi and all rooms have private balconies with outstanding views of the Marina and ocean.
C Spa at Hotel Coral and Marina
What is a getaway without some pampering.The hotel spa, C Spa, offers luxurious treatments that not only revitalize the body but the mind as well. The spa services include massages,facials and body treatments. My treatment of choice was their signature Wine Therapy body treatment. How could I be in the Baja wine country and not want to experience a wine therapy body treatment? This treatment started with a body scrub, a choice of seaweed or green tea and honey. I chose the seaweed. After the scrub, into the luxurious shower and then back on the table. When I asked where the wine came into this equation I was told I could have a glass of wine before or after the treatment and that the treatment uses all natural wine byproducts in the form of a cream. The “wine cream” was rubbed over my entire body then I was wrapped in cellophane and foil. I enjoyed the quiet as I lay there letting this wine concoction do its thing and after another shower,back on the table for a massage. This was 50 minutes of pampering that left my skin glowing and my body totally relaxed. Now for that glass of wine!
BC Bistro & Cava Hotel Coral and Marina
BC Bistro & Cava, the award winning restaurant at Hotel Coral is our destination for dinner.
“Baja Med” style cuisine blends Mexican entrees with local Mediterranean cuisine. Of Course paired with Guadalupe Valley wines this is an event to rave about. We tasted Calixa from the Monte Xanic winery, a Cabernet Syrah. Full bodied, well balanced, crisp aroma and medium intensity.
Ceviches (shrimp and fresh fish) beef fajitas with black beans and rice and a Caesar salad all were delectable. One of the wines sampled was a 2009 Divino Tinto (Syrah, Cabernet) MD Vinos.
So many wonderful choices on the menu from tortilla soup to a lettuce, cherry tomato, yogurt, apple and mint salad served in a martini glass with chopsticks to shrimp San Felipe. The extensive menu with mouth watering selections made it hard to chose. The host, Miguel,and the waiters were very accommodating in describing the various dishes and it was still hard to narrow the choices. Everything sounded and was delectable.
Dinner was superb, the service impeccable and the dining room decor made this a dinner to remember and savor for a very long time.
So I ask you- when was the last time that two hours (an easy drive from San Diego to Baja) took you to a new experience (wine tasting and Baja Mex cuisine) and you said ” I can’t wait to do that again.” Enjoy your trip, I certainly did.
Click here for more Tijuana and Baja California travel ideas.
For more great Baja cuisine check out this review on Palacio Azteca’s Restaurante Ixchel in Tijuana.
What & Where:
Museo De La Vid Y El Vino; www.museodelvinobc.com
Las Bodegas de Santo Thomas; www.facebook.com/BodegasdeSantoTomas
Hotel Coral and Marina; www.hotelcoral.com