Ensenada - A city of half a million people in valleys lush with tropical flora and patterned with rows of Grenache and Cabernet it has a slight resemblance to that of the wine country of Napa and Sonoma valleys in California. Temperate weather gives Valle de Guadalupe, the main grape growing area, a distinct feel similar to that of the Mediterranean; warm days and cool nights. Sometimes the ocean layer rolls in and blankets the vines until the midday sun burns it off.
Our friends Abi and Maurico, who own and operate Lost in Baja and beach front properties on Airbnb, share their passion for what Ensenada has to offer beyond the tourist hot spots. It is a growing city and the young local population is changing the local scene with the onset of new microbrews, boutique wineries, local foodie hotspots and adventure travel throughout Baja. It is exciting to see their energy and passion for pursuing their dreams. As per their recommendations, we spent the afternoon touring El Valle de Guadalupe also affectionately called ‘el valle.’
First stop is Meson Leonardo for a slice of their delicious apple pie. Made with thinly sliced layers of locally grown apples, this apple pie is more on the naturally sweet side with a hint of savory. Between the layers of apple you will find a sweet cream and melted cheese layers. For apple pie lovers, this is one to add to the list.
Next, you’ll travel deeper into ‘el valle’ and vineyards are plentiful. They line both sides of the road with signs directing you to stop in for a tasting. We chose Sol y Barro and made our way up the olive tree lined track to the entrance of the vineyard.
Sol y Barro is distinct because it’s fairly small, about 2 acres, and the owner created the place entirely out of cob construction; a form of construction using clay, straw and various earth materials. Walking up to the intimate tasting room you’ll see Grenache clusters forming on small patches of vines running up the hill. We tasted three wines and Silvia, the sommelier, explained what makes each unique to their vineyard. For white wine enthusiasts the Malvasia stood out to us because it has a unique sweet, fruity, and floral aroma. It’s soft, light bodied and surprisingly finishes more dry than sweet. The cost is $8 per person for three tastings and they are open until 5:00 pm daily.
Our next stop across ‘el valle’ to the north was Finca La Carrodilla. Driving up to the gates, vines are stretched across every hill in sight and the mountains to the north are beginning to cast shadows from the late afternoon sun.
Finca La Carrodilla is a CCOF certified organic vineyard and farm. The tasting room is on the top floor of the winery and overlooks ‘el valle’ in all directions. The tasting area is beautifully landscaped with local varieties of succulents and flowers. The colors, the textures and the aromas are powerful and create a magical experience. Here the Syrah stood out and we enjoyed a spur of the moment walk around the winery and vineyard with Nikolai, the vineyards nephew and newest winemaker. Harvests occur generally in August and can extend later in the season dependent upon the weather. Harvest parties are abundant in August and ‘el valle’ buzzes with excitement and anticipation of the years hard work.
Finca La Carrodilla is committed towards sustainable techniques and it’s apparent in the design of the winery using gravity instead of pumps and in the maintenance of the land. They have even created the ‘lamb rover’ that moves sheep up and down the rows to keep the weeds cut, help aerate the soil and provide small organic inputs. Sadly, we didn’t get to see it in action, but we did pay a visit to the resident cows, pigs, donkey and peacocks located centrally in the vineyard. Nikolai is budding with enthusiasm and excitement for his new role in the vineyard. Tastings are $8 for 2 and $18 for 3. They are open until 5:00 pm daily. Private events can be organized. http://www.fincalacarrodilla.mx
Adventurers and wine lovers alike will find Ensenada has a lot more to offer than the typical tourist stops. Grab a local beer at Aguamala or drive to Valle de Guadalupe for the day for some delicious wine tastings and great food.
Airbnb - Beach Front Airstream https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20956140?s=51
Lost in Baja - Adventure tours of Baja http://lostinbaja.com
Sol y Barro - Boutique vineyard in Valle De Guadaloupe https://www.facebook.com/solybarro/
Finca La Carrodilla - http://www.fincalacarrodilla.mx