Valle de Guadalupe Wine & Culinary Tour | 2011
October 30-November 1
$435.00 per person based on double occupancy. $50 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.
We’re taking over virtually all of Hotel La Fonda, an old oceanfront hotel/resort/spa perched on the cliffs of La Mision overlooking the Pacific Ocean between Rosarito Beach and Ensenada. Mary and I have been going there for almost thirty years, 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 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, and/or
3) walk on the beach, and/or
4) take a ultra-light flight over the ocean: about forty bucks for 10 minutes of sheer, white knuckle, heart-pounding ecstasy (flights take off and land on the beach below the hotel), and/or
5) just hang out on the terraced bar overlooking the ocean and wave to your new friends flying by in the ultra-light while enjoying an adult beverage(s).
After an afternoon of relaxation, we’ll meet back at the restaurant’s cliff-top patio around 6:00ish for cocktails, dinner, dancing, etc.
After breakfast morning we’ll drive south on Hwy 1 enjoying some of the most picturesque, Big Sur-like views from atop the rugged cliffs hugging the ocean’s edge. We’ll pass through the busy fishing port of Ensenada and go about 45 minutes east into the serene, fertile valley of Santo Tomas where first stop will be Santo Tomas Winery. Santo Tomas is one of two of the larger wineries that we’ll visit on this tour. Founded in 1888, it is also the oldest winery in all of Mexico. Here we’ll ride in tractor-driven carriages through the extensive vineyards, tasting wines from each block as we go. We’ll then tour the “Opus One-like” 3-storey winery before enjoying an outdoor lunch under the trees paired with some of their wines.
Next we’ll return to the hustle and bustle of Ensenada to Cavas Valmar, the fourth oldest winery in Mexico. Cavas Valmar sources fruit from Valle de Guadalupe as well as some of the surrounding areas and specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon. They barrel age and bottle age their wines much, much longer than the norm (we carry their 2001 Cab here and that’s the current release) and boast an extensive collection of older vintages. Fernando Martain, the disarmingly affable owner, has an amazing treat for us here: a five year vertical of Cabs from the 1990?s poured from magnums that have been perfectly stored in the winery’s cellar for well over a decade. He’s pouring the 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1996 back to back. Wow.
After sufficiently anesthetizing our taste buds on five vintages of Fernando’s old Cabernets, we’ll leave Ensenada and head into Valle de Guadalupe to La Villa del Valle … a return visit from our tours two years ago. A lot has changed here in two years! La Villa del Valle is a beautifully designed, very high-end B&B smack dab out in the middle of nowhere built, owned and operated by American ex-pats Phil and Eileen Gregory. If you were on our previous tours you’ll remember Phil as our host at La Escuelita, the fascinating co-op started by Valle de Guadalupe 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. Phil was making his own label, Vena Cava, there at the co-op then but now will be moving production on-site to a new winery currently under construction at the B&B. Expected completion is September of this year so things should be in full swing when we visit in October. After touring the immaculate grounds and new winery, Phil will host a multi-course winemaker dinner prepared by Diego Hernadnez, their new chef who was recently voted best young chef in Baja. It promises to be a night to remember under the stars in one of the most beautiful settings in the valley.
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 or two.
After breakfast we’ll leave the coast and take the “back door” into Valle de Guadalupe over the mountains. First stop will be at Alximia Winery, a high-tech facility under construction right now that should be nearing completion when we visit in October. Owned by a father/son-astronomer/mathematician team, you can probably already guess that this is going to be no ordinary winery. The architecture is a very futuristic looking three-story dome building with flying buttresses extending from all sides like spider legs. It is incredibly efficiently designed and utilizes gravity flow production, rain water capture, immensely thick, energy-saving walls and a host of other features too long to list. We’ll get a behind-the-scenes tour there and, of course, taste their wines.
Next we’ll continue north on the old road just past the town of Francisco Zarco to Domecq, the other large winery that we’ll be visiting on this trip. Domecq is the second largest wine producer in all of Mexico. Here we’ll first visit their huge tank rooms tasting wines directly from the fermentation tanks. Next we’ll walk through their extensive caves and barrel aging rooms. We’ll finish with a select tasting of their premium wines in their glass-paneled tasting room overlooking the vineyards.
Finally, just like the tours two years ago, we’ll end at our friends Ray and Patty Magnussen’s Lechuza (Spanish for burrowing ground owl which is prevalent there) Vineyard. Those of you who went on the previous tours will remember seeing the big hole in the ground that was the beginning of construction of their new winery. Well, the “big hole” now has a building on top of it housing a lab and guest quarters and covering the underground winery below. After touring the facilities and vineyards here, Ray and Patty are hosting a sumptuous feast of local seafood paella and grilled Sonoran rib eyes paired with his wines plus lots of cold cervezas and margaritas.
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.