Insider’s 3-Day Valle de Guadalupe Wine & Culinary Tour | 2019


DATES
Your choice of 11 tour dates.
TOUR #1 ~ Sept 08-10, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #2 ~ Sept 15-17, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #2B ~ Sept 18-20, 2019 (Wed-Fri) ~ 10 SEATS AVAILABLE
TOUR #3 ~ Sept 22-24, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #4 ~ Sept 29-Oct 1, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #5 ~ Oct 6-8, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #6 ~ Oct 13-15, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #7 ~ Oct 20-22, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #8 ~ Oct 27-29, 2019 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #9 ~ Nov 03-05, 2019 ~ 2 SEATS AVAILABLE
TOUR #10 ~ Nov 10-12, 2019 ~ 1 SEAT AVAILABLE

All tours max out at 55 guests each as that's how many seats are on the bus.

COST
$885 per person based on double occupancy
$135 premium suite upgrade (see below) per person based on double occupancy
$165 single occupancy upcharge

BEFORE YOU CALL IN YOUR RESERVATION

Please make sure to read the premium suite option info below so that when you do make your reservation you're prepared to let us know if you want a regular suite or a deluxe suite.  This is VERY IMPORTANT as there are only nine premium suites available and they will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PREMIUM SUITE OPTION

We are staying at a brand new resort hotel right in the Valle for the first time ever this year!!!  This will save us the round-trip drive (45 minutes each way) to Ensenada everyday which means that we'll be able to spend that newly gained hour and a half more productively each day in the Valle.  Because we're going in the off-season and on off-days, I was able to negotiate a ridiculous rate at El Cielo where rooms normally go for $350-550 a night.  The hotel is basically a series of villas surrounding a lake.  Each villa has 3 hotel suites: two amazing single bedroom suites on the second floor with private balconies overlooking the lake, and one huge downstairs suite (complete with an extra bathroom, a living room, a kitchen, whirlpool tub, private patio with a huge firepit, etc.)  There is an upcharge of $135 per person (based on double occupancy) for the huge lower suite.  There are only 9 of these available so it will be first come, first served.  If you are traveling with a group of friends, I HIGHLY recommend that you confer amongst yourselves so that one of the couples gets the premium suite so you can all hang out and share the patio and living room in the evenings.  This place is awesome ... and I've purposely allocated extra free time each morning, afternoon and evening so you can wind down and leisurely enjoy these amazing grounds!  NOTE: None of the rooms have two beds but if you need a second bed let us know when you RSVP so we can have the hotel make up the pull-out sofa bed.

DEPOSITS
15% first deposit due shortly after making your reservation
35% second deposit due 120 days before tour start date
50% final deposit due 75 days before tour start date

INCLUDED IN COST:

1. Pre-boarding Bloody Mediterraneans and Mexican Coffees at WV&B

2. Transportation to Mexico and back via luxury motorcoach with on-board restroom

3. All transportation within Mexico via luxury motorcoach

4. Two nights deluxe lodging at El Cielo

5. Sunday morning pre-brunch cocktails and seafood appetizers in an oceanfront fishing village

6. Sunday morning brunch with unlimited Bloody Marys, Margaritas and Mexican Coffees at La Fonda

7. All breakfasts

8. All lunches

9. All dinners

10. All winery tours and tastings

NOT INCLUDED IN COST:

1. Bus driver tips (plan on $15 per person).  We'll collect this Sunday morning and give to the driver when we board.

2. Optional extra drinks

3. Tips at the hotel and restaurants (plan on $15-20 total per person)

RSVP

Please call us at 619-295-3939 with answers to all eight of the questions below.

1. your first and second choice of dates

2. your full name and your traveling partner's full name

3. your cell number and your traveling partner's cell number

4. your email address and your traveling partner's email address

5. your room choice ("premium" upstairs suite or "uber-premium" downstairs suite for an additional $135 per person based on double occupancy)

6. if you need an extra bed in your room so we can have the hotel make up the pull-out sofa bed for a second bed as none of the rooms have two beds

7. if you are traveling with a group of friends, please let us know their names so we can do our best to get your group in the same villa or at least close by

8. Visa or MasterCard info for the deposits

Once we are able to finalize your reservation, we will also send you an email that everyone in your party will need to reply back to stating their agreement to our hold harmless clause and also acknowledging that all deposits are non-refundable.

>>> Please SCROLL DOWN for the hour-by-hour itinerary below, but here’s an overview of the highlights:

Everyone will meet at Wine Vault & Bistro Sunday morning for our legendary Bloody Mediterraneans and Mexican Coffees.  After checking in and socializing a bit with your soon-to-become new best friends, we'll board the bus out front.  Depending upon the border wait (usually about 30 minutes), we should arrive to Puerto Popotla, a quaint seaside fishing village, around thirty minutes later for pre-brunch Margaritas and seafood appetizers.

Puerto Popotla is a tiny port just south of Fox Studios in the southernmost end of Rosarita Beach.  Access is via one easily missed dirt road off the free road - which probably explains why most Americans have never been there in spite of having driven past it a thousand times on the way to Ensenada on the toll road.  The village is mostly run-down restaurants perched on oceanfront cliffs with million dollar views serving uber fresh seafood caught literally hours before.  Fishing boats line the secluded half-moon beach (that also acts as an impromptu harbor) while the fishermen set up tents on the beach to sell their catch of the day.  Think typical California farmers’ market except that instead of vegetables the wares are fresh seafood and, instead of having to dodge an occasional unleashed dog (or toddler), you sometimes have to dodge the incoming tide - which will lap right up to the edge of a vendor’s canopy at the most inopportune moment while you’re obliviously standing there haggling over a purchase.  Anyway, you’ll be able to explore this beach later if you’d like but our first stop will be at one of my favorite seafood joints where we’ll enjoy huge platters of mariscos (chef’s choice of fresh seafood like oysters, clams, shrimp, pulpo, ceviche, aguachiles, etc., etc.) served with premium margaritas on a deck overlooking the ocean.  After enjoying our pre-breakfast mariscos, Chef Rafa of Restaurante Laja (also known as the French Laundry of Mexico) will meet us on the beach where he'll buy tons of fresh seafood.  You're welcome to tag along on this impromptu buying expedition if you'd like or just explore the beach on your own.  Anyway, after Chef Rafa makes his purchases, he'll return to Lechuza Vineyards where he'll start preparations for our dinner there later that day.  It should be a pretty cool experience to actually go shopping with the chef while he buys random seafood based on whatever he thinks is best and then get to see how he prepares it later and then, of course, eat it!  But wait.  Don’t get too settled in here.  This is just a minor detour on the way to brunch.

After pre-brunch mariscos and margaritas at Popotla we’ll hop back on the bus for the thirty minute drive south to La Fonda.  Here we’ll enjoy one of the best brunches on the coast including unlimited Bloody Marys, Mexican Coffees, and Margaritas.  For those of you who have not been here before, La Fonda is an aging oceanfront hotel/resort/spa perched on the cliffs of La Mision overlooking the Pacific Ocean between Rosarito Beach and Ensenada.  I've been going there for over forty years (yikes), and have some fond memories and more than just a few great stories.  The spectacular ocean views from their dining patio are simply magical, and the food ain’t bad either.

Next stop about thirty minutes later will be at El Cielo Winery.  We'll leave the ocean highway and drive over the mountain and drop right into the south-western corner of the Valle.  (Don't worry, on the way home we'll return via the ocean highway with its with picturesque, Big Sur-like views from atop the rugged cliffs hugging the ocean's edge so you don't miss out on one of the most scenic roads in Mexico!)  At the winery, which is less than five minutes from the villas where we'll be staying, we'll obviously take a short tour followed by a tasting of their premium wines.  And, of course, you are welcome to purchase a bottle to take back with you to your villa to enjoy on your patio or at the pool.

After we leave El Cielo Winery, we'll check into the El Cielo villas just around the corner.  You'll have about two hours of free time to relax on your patio, take a swim or go for a hike ... whatever you want to do.

That evening we'll visit Lechuza Vineyards for the previously mentioned feast with Chef Rafa.  First though, proprietors Kristin and Adam always welcome us with a refreshing cocktail made with spirits they distill on site blended with delicious indigenous fruits.  Then, in addition to the fresh seafood from Puerto Popotla that morning, there will also be lots of other food "stations" so you can mingle and try lots of different foods paired with the Lechuza wines.  After dinner Kristin will take everyone into the cellar for barrel tasting and then for a tour of the vineyards.  After dinner we'll head back to El Cielo with plenty of time left to enjoy a nightcap by the firepits overlooking the lake.

Breakfast (included) Monday morning (Thursday morning for the mid-week tours) will be in the hotel's restaurant with your choice of indoor or outdoor seating.

On Monday (Thursday for the mid-week tours) we'll concentrate on the west side of the Valle; on Tuesday (Friday for the mid-week tours) it'll be the east side.  Totally random side note but if you've not been to the Valle before, it's laid out very similar to Napa Valley.  There is a main north-south road on the west side of the Valle simply called the "New Road" (because for many years it was an unnamed dirt road and when it finally got paved the locals just referred to it as the new road).  Then there's another main north-south road paralleling the New Road about a mile or so to the east.  That road is Mexico Hwy 3 which runs from Ensenada to Tecate.  Both roads converge at the northern tip of the Valle in a town called Francisco Zarco.  If you were in Napa Valley, the New Road would be Hwy 29, Mexico Hwy 3 would be the Silverado Trail, and Francisco Zarco would be Calistoga.  That's a vast over-simplification but hopefully makes a wee bit of sense ... and gives you a better sense of place ... or not! 

First stop will be at a relatively new winery called Decantos.  We'll have a tour and tasting there, and then head to F. Rubio Winery for a tasting paired with appetizers prepared from their outdoor kitchen.  Today we won't actually be having lunch per se; instead we'll enjoy extensive appetizers pre and post lunch so you can save room for an amazing dinner at La Lomita.  After F. Rubio we'll head to Pijoan Winery where we'll enjoy more wine and food pairings (including their chocolate "salami" paired with a delicious dessert wine!) before heading back to El Cielo in the late afternoon so you can relax there for a couple of hours before dinner.

Dinner will be at Translomita, the spectacular outdoor restaurant amid streams and waterfalls just behind La Lomita Winery.  Those of you who went on our 2015 tours will no doubt have fond memories of the lunch there!  We'll do a quick tour of the winery before dinner and then enjoy their wines paired with each dinner course.  After a dinner you'll wish would never end, we'll make the short drive back to the villas for the night where, here again, you'll have with plenty of time left to enjoy star-gazing ... or another nightcap around the lake with your friends ... or to just call it a night and relax on your private balcony before peacefully (comatosely?) drifting off.

Breakfast (included) Tuesday morning (Friday morning for the mid-week tours) will again be in the hotel's restaurant.  After breakfast we'll pack up and hit the road, but this time we'll concentrate on the eastern, or Mexico Hwy 3 side of the valley (AKA Silverado Trail).

First stop will be at Clos de Tres Cantos, one of the most uniquely designed wineries in the Valle.  We'll tour their facilities and then enjoy a delicious tasting of their wines paired with light appetizers.  From there we'll head to a brand new winery on the very north end of the Valle called Bruma.  Lulu is their consulting winemaker, an energetic young lady who worked at Chateau Brane-Cantenac in Bordeaux for almost ten years before returning to her hometown of Ensenada.  (Those of you who went on our 2017 tours will remember meeting her at Henri Lurton Winery.)  In addition to making excellent wines, Bruma Winery (and Fauna Restaurant next door where we'll be having lunch) is an architectural marvel.  Uber creative design stuff happening here!  After the tour and tasting at Bruma, we'll make the ten second walk to Fauna where Chef David Castro Hussong will prepare a finale lunch for the record books.

After lunch we'll traverse the entire length of the Valle almost back to the ocean highway before making one final stop at one of everyone's past favorite venues ... only this time in a new location.  Everyone who's been on previous tours knows Ashley and Nathaniel, the husband-wife team who are rocking the Baja cerveza world with some amazing brews.  On past tours we've always visited the original Agua Mala brewery and tasting room at ocean's edge just as you enter Ensenada.  It's uniquely constructed out of steel shipping containers welded on top of each other.  (Building materials are scarce in Mexico so you’ll see a lot of creative uses of things that are typically discarded or recycled stateside.)  But this time we're going to visit their brand new production facility at the Valle's entrance.  They're setting up a tasting bar just for us in the middle of this facility so you'll be able to taste their beers and see this next progression in their evolution.  Pretty exciting to see their amazing growth!

Then it's back to reality.  All good things must come to an end sometime ... but not before that last, scenic drive up the Big Sur-like coastline.  As a random side note: I've personally only seen the "green flash" three times in my life ... once from our balcony at home and twice on these tours coming back from Ensenada!  Fingers crossed!

ITINERARY (SUBJECT TO MODIFICATION)

SUNDAYS (and WEDNESDAYS for the mid-week tours)

08:30 AM  Meet at WV&B for Bloody Mediterraneans & Mexican Coffees

09:00 AM  Bus leaves San Diego (all transportation is included)

10:45 AM  Arr Puerto Popotla for mariscos & margaritas

11:15 AM   Meet w/ Chef Rafa to buy seafood from the fish vendors on the beach for dinner at Lechuza that night

11:45 AM  Dep Puerto Popotla (1 hr)

12:15 PM  Arr original (southernmost) La Fonda for brunch

01:45 PM  Dep La Fonda (1.5 hrs)

02:30 PM  Arr El Cielo Winery for tour + tasting: buy wine for your rooms if you want

03:30 PM  Dep El Cielo Winery (1 hr)

03:45 PM  Arr El Cielo Villas; check in

05:45 PM  Dep El Cielo Villas (relax for 2 hrs; hiking, hang out by the pool, etc.)

06:00 PM  Arr Lechuza for tour, tasting + dinner

08:30 PM  Dep Lechuza (2.5 hrs)

08:45 PM  Arr El Cielo Villas for the night

MONDAYS (and THURSDAYS for the mid-week tours)

07:00ish    Breakfast included at El Cielo Villas

09:30 AM  Dep El Cielo Villas

09:45 AM  Arr Decantos for tour + tasting

11:15 AM  Dep Decantos (1.5 hrs)

11:30 AM  Arr F. Rubio for tour, tasting + pairing

01:15 PM  Dep F. Rubio (1.75 hrs)

01:30 PM  Arr Vinos Pijoan for tour, tasting + pairing

03:15 PM  Dep Vinos Pijoan (1.75 hrs)

03:30 PM  Arr El Cielo Villas to relax before dinner

05:45 PM  Dep El Cielo Villas (relax for 2.25 hrs)

06:00 PM  Arr La Lomita for tour, tasting + dinner

08:30 PM  Dep La Lomita (2.5 hrs)

08:45 PM  Arr El Cielo Villas for the night

TUESDAYS (and FRIDAYS for the mid-week tours)

07:00ish    Breakfast included at El Cielo Villas

09:30 AM  Check out and depart El Cielo Villas

09:45 AM  Arr Clos Tres Cantos for tour, tasting + pairing

11:30 AM  Dep Clos de Tres Cantos (1.75 hrs)

12:00 PM  Arr Bruma for tour + tasting

01:00 PM  Dep Bruma; walk over to Fauna (1 hr)

01:00 PM  Arr Fauna for cocktails + lunch

03:15 PM  Dep Fauna (2.25 hrs)

03:45 PM  Arr Agua Mala Brewery production facility for tasting

05:00 PM  Dep Agua Mala (1.25 hrs)

07:45 PM  Arrive San Diego (+/- depending on border)

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

1. You MUST have a current passport (or passport card) to get INTO Mexico.  If you have Sentri or Global Entry you still need to bring your passport to get INTO Mexico.

2. You MUST have a current passport or Sentri or Global Entry pass to get back into the USA!

3. If you are a California resident, you can bring ONE bottle of wine per person back into the US.  If you are a non-California resident (or have an out-of-state driver's license) you can bring back up to 5 cases of wine per person.  (NOTE: In the past we've usually had several guests with out-of-state licenses.  If you're a California resident and want to bring back more than one bottle, my recommendation is that you make friends with these people ... if you get my drift.)

4. If you're unfamiliar with Valle de Guadalupe wines, or have only experienced the "supermarket quality" wines from some of the larger producers, you're in for a very pleasant surprise.  Most of the wineries we'll be visiting are small, super-premium producers that will give you a whole new perspective on south of the border wines.  Be prepared to be wowed!

5. Please note that this is a physical tour that involves some of walking.  Day time to night time temperature swings can vary as much as 30-40 degrees, so in addition to a pair of comfortable walking shoes, make sure to dress in layers.  If you are not in decent physical shape please do not sign up for this tour.