Valle de Guadalupe Wine & Culinary Tour | 2009

October 11-13, 2009
October 25-27, 2009
November 8-10, 2009

$350.00 per person based on double occupancy.  $85 single occupancy up-charge.

Everyone will meet at Wine Vault & Bistro for Bloody Mediterraneans and Mexican Coffees.  Then we’ll board the bus and head south of the border.

Our group will be taking over virtually all of Hotel La Fonda, an old oceanfront hotel/resort/spa perched on the cliffs of La Mision overlooking the Pacific between Rosarito Beach and Ensenada.  Mary and I have been going there for over a quarter of a century, and have some fond memories and more than just a few great stories!  We’ll start with an amazing Sunday brunch on the cliff top covered patio overlooking the ocean with bottomless Bloody Marys and Margaritas included.  After that the afternoon is free for you to:

1) check into your ocean view room and just hang out on your patio, and/or

2) have a massage or spa treatment (take 20% off the listed prices for our group), and/or

3) hang out on the beach or go surfing (the whales should be migrating so with any luck we’ll be able to see them), and/or

4) take an ultralight flight over the ocean: $40 for 10 minutes of sheer, white knuckle, heart-pounding ecstasy.

After an afternoon of relaxation, we’ll then meet back at the restaurant’s cliff top patio around 6:00ish for cocktails, dinner, dancing, etc.

After breakfast we’ll tour Monte Xanic, one of the larger, older wineries in Guadalupe Valley.  Monte Xanic pioneered the trend toward high quality Mexican wines in the late ’90?s and continues to do so.  They have a huge, state-of-the-art underground barrel room dug out of the cliffs under the winery, in addition to a picturesque lake in front of the vineyards where we’ll do our tasting.  In addition to the “normal” tasting, they’ll also be breaking out a couple of their special wines that you’ll never see in the tasting room.

Next we’ll meet Phil Gregory at La Escuelita, who along with his wife Eileen, built, own and operate La Villa del Valle, an amazing, very high-end B&B smack dab out in the middle of nowhere.  Phil makes his wine, Vena Cava, at La Escuelita, and will be our host there.  La Escuelita is a fascinating co-op started by Guadalupe Valley wine pioneer Hugo Acosta that enables small mom-and-pop producers to produce their own wine, grappa and olive oil using shared equipment and facilities.  The majority of the facility is made from recycled materials, ranging from barrel staves, to vine posts, to bedsprings, to irrigation lines, to wine bottles.  The open-top fermenters should be in full swing for all three trips with a flurry of punch down activity and, of course, that intoxicating smell of the best perfume in the world – fermenting grapes.  Hopefully the still will be operating and we’ll be able to see (and taste) the condensing grappa made from the leftover grape must trickling into buckets.  The olive mill probably won’t be in operation while we’re there but we’ll still be able to see the giant 2-ton mill.

After barrel tasting some of Phil’s Vena Cava wines at La Escuelita, we’ll follow him on the dirt road to nowhere where all of a sudden we’ll end up at La Villa del Valle.  There their chef will prepare a light lunch paired with four of his wines after touring the beautiful, almost surrealistic grounds.  Yeah, I know, pinch yourself, who would have ever thunk there was ever a place as beautiful as this out in the middle of nowhere.

Next we’ll travel to Vinas de Garza on the opposite side of the valley.  This is one of the best designed, most immaculate (they even rake their gravel driveway), mid-sized wineries in the valley.  If it weren’t for the desert-like surroundings you’d think you were in some high-falutin’ winery in Napa.  We’ll barrel taste some not-yet-released wines in the caves with owner/builder Amado, tour the vineyards and winery, and then taste some of his bottled wines.  This is definitely a winery that you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the coming years.

Time for dinner!  We’re buying out Restaurant Laja, also known as the French Laundry of Mexico.  We’ll start with a trek through their organic gardens with co-owner Andres while enjoying a glass of wine.  Next we’ll stop by their outdoor ovens for appetizers before going into the restaurant for an eight course degustation menu.  This is where everyone will share a bottle of wine purchased on the trip, a tradition we started a couple of years ago on our first trip.

Then it’s back to La Fonda for the night.  You’re welcome to go straight to your room for an early night (hope the sound of waves crashing outside your patio doesn’t keep you up), or if you want to prolong the evening, I suspect there will be more than a few folks meeting at the cliff side patio bar for a nightcap and maybe a cigar.

After breakfast Tuesday morning we’ll go to Vinisterra, another beautiful winery out in the middle of nowhere.  We’ll tour their vineyards and winery and then have a special tasting paired with indigenous artisan cheeses (did you know they made some of the most incredible cheeses in Guadalupe Valley?!) from Cremeria Los Globos.  As always, our tasting will include some special wines not on the “normal” tasting.

Next it’s off to Mogor-Badan, another one of those oh-my-gosh, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere wineries complete with stone caves.  They produce only two wines; Chasselas (a delicious, rare, crisp Swiss white wine of which they are the sole North American growers) and a classic Bordeaux blend of Cab Franc, Merlot and Cab Sauv.  Sadly, winery founder and Swiss ex-pat Antonio Badan recently passed away, but his sister, Natalia, continues to carry on the winery business as well as the largest organic farmer’s market in the area.  Definitely plan to come back here on your own during the summer months, as they have a great seasonal outdoor restaurant here every July and August.  We had the great pleasure of a leisure afternoon here a couple of months ago enjoying scallop carpaccio (paired with Chasselas) plus duck tacos and roasted goat on the spit (paired with the Bordeaux blend).  Definitely worth a return trip.

Finally we’ll end at our friends Ray and Patty Magnussen’s Lechuza (Spanish for western burrow ground owl which is prevalent there) Vineyard located immediately next door to Restaurant Laja.  Ray and Patty are in the process of building an underground cellar which we’ll tour in its partially completed state after a vineyard trek and a barrel tasting of their Nebbiolo and Cab.  Afterwards we’ll enjoy a casual lunch in the vineyard accompanied by lots of cold cervezas, margaritas and whatever wines are left over.

Then it’s back to reality.  All good things must come to an end sometime … but not before one last, long, scenic drive up the Big Sur-like coast line … and if the past is prologue, with plenty of leftover libations.