Erin and I were quite excited to visit Mexico’s premier wine region – Valle de Guadalupe – where wine makers are making fine and world class wines.
The majority of wineries ask you to make reservations ahead of time. There is simply not the same amount of traffic as in Napa which makes it possible for walk-ins, so don’t be intimidated about calling ahead. In addition most tastings cost about $10 USD.
We learned California limits the amount of wine that California resident’s can bring back via an overland border to 1.0 liter. I’m ready to write my state senator. Seriously? They coudn’t even make it a rational 1.5 liters so each person can bring home a mere two bottles? They could at least do me the courtesy of limiting import to 750ml so I don’t feel I’m losing out on the other 250ml.
If you are not a California resident you are not subject to this ridiculous restriction.
I’ve visited several Caliornian wine regions: Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez Valley, a few Italian (Tuscan) appellations : Montalcino, Montepulciano, and even the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada.
The Guadalupe Valley wines remind me most of the wines from Santa Ynez Valley (close to Santa Barbara) in that the terroir comes through providing a distinctive taste across many of he fine wines – especially as it relates to Cabernet Sauvignon. There are a great many blends of grapes as their are no restrictions on what can be grown in the region.
Although both Monte Xanic and Baron Balche have premium limes that range from $75 to $250 USD per bottle, neither winery offers tasting flights of these reserve lines. You’ll have to buy your own bottle to sample these.
Monte Xanic has an awe-inspiring 50 foot tall wine cave blasted out of the side of the mountain the winery sits on. Make sure to ask to see this cave. Monte Xanic also has a beautiful man made lake where they host concerts next to.
I’d advise skipping Baron Balche, but encourage you to try all the other three I tried.
I also recommend going to Rancho Cortes for artisan fresh and aged Mexican cheeses.
We did not visit Vinos Pijoan, but we had three bottles ordered along with our dinners. We really like their wines and recommend you visit them.
Vinos Pijoan Silvana – a Sauvignon Blanc with a little Chenin Blanc and Viogner
Vinos Pijoan Domenica – Grenache
Adobe Guadalupe Gabriel 2010 – a Merlot 38%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Malbec 23%, Cabernet Franc 9%
Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – but you should spring for their Gran Ricardo
Vena Cava Tempranillo 2010 – this was served at a G20 meeting this year
Vena Cava Big Blend 2010
Vena Cava Sauvignon Blanc
I’m drafting this summary blog post to share with you in one place everywhere I ate during my trip to Baja California Norte. I hope this helps you put together a culinary itinerary for yourself:
Saturday, June 30 : Laja
Sunday, July 1 : Silvestre
Monday, July 2 : Corazon de Tierra
Tuesday, July 3 : Ultramarino and Wendlandt Gastropub
Wednesday, July 4 : Manzanilla
Thursday, July 5 : Endémico (pool-side kitchen)
Friday, July 6 : Taqueria Amigos and Taqueria Los Arcos
Wow. I tweeted @streetgourmetla for a lunch recommendation in Tecate and he suggested a quick pan dulce and cafe at Pan de Tecate. I did not expect to encounter such great output from this bakery. You literally walk through a hallway of sweets. Tour the store virtually via my handheld video. Wowza!
We could not resist purchasing an entire box of baked goods. Highly recommend purchasing empanadas. We bought one filled with meat and aromatic vegetables and the another filled with cheese and chilis. This morning back in Los Angeles we reheated them for breakfast and immediately regretted not purchasing more to bring home! In the photo you’ll see we purchased far too few empanadas. We should have had an entire second box filled with them. On the sweet side I enjoyed my first canastas – cupcake size pastries with fillings. We had one with limon creme and one with pineapple.
Tempt yourself by visiting Pan de Tecate’s web-site. Perhaps you’ll have them do your wedding cake!
If you are ever 30 min from Tecate, Mexico hop over the border for some tacos. I used my Hidden Baja tour guide to refer me to two taco stands:
• Taqueria Los Amigos (on the North East corner of Hidalgo and Rubio)
• Taqueria Los Arcos (on the south side of Juarez just east of Rubio, there is a bus stop right in front of it)
I ordered two Carne Asada tacos from Los Amigos. They are compact and wound tightly into individual paper and aluminum foil wrappings. Burst of flavor. Right-sized.
Next we went to Los Arcos. Here I ordered a Carne Asada, an Adobado Pork, and a Cheese Quesadilla.
The Carne Asada was more tender and moist then Los Amigos. The Adobado Pork was even more outrageously delicious. The cheese quesadilla couldn’t compete with those two other stars but finished me off so I was not hungry the rest of the drive home back to Los Angeles.
Answer: When it’s a La Guerrerense
You’ve likely discovered La Guerrerense by reading the post on Street Gourmet LA or watching Anthony Bourdain’s Baja episode. Nevertheless, let me encourage you to go too!
I would choose to visit La Guerrerense over any of the delicious fish taco stands. You have so many choices of fresh seafood ceviche and so many homemade jarred salsas to choose from! I chose conservatively as I was going on a fish taco safari immediately after and wanted each tostada to count. I had one mixto (fish, shrimp, etc.) and one crab salad that I saw a child enjoying. My favorite salsa was the eponymous Guerrernese. I had a bite of Erin’s equally delicious mussel tostada.
I’ll be back to explore the more intriguing sea urchin & pismo clam with avocado & the sea cucumber preparations.
P.S. Guerrerense means someone from the Mexican state Guerrero.
Seeking out fish tacos is reason enough to visit Ensenada. We conducted a mini fish taco safari by referencing Bill Esparza’s thorough Ensenada Fish Taco Baja Style guide posted on Street Gourmet L.A.
We sampled three fish tacos from his list. Each were honestly better than any fish taco I’ve had in Los Angeles. Ricky’s Fish Taco and Best Fish Taco in Ensenada here in L.A. But can’t compete with the experience and repetition in frying fish that comes to the stands in Ensenada, some that have been preparing these tacos for 40 years in the same location.
The tacos very in tortilla, frying of fish, size of fish, texture, seasoning of batter, amount of batter, slice of cabbage, whether you add toppings or this done for you, and homemade salsas. I encourage you to take Bill’s suggestions and explore which style you like best.
Let me know your favorite via a comment!
Our host at La Villa de Valle recommended we try a new gastropub in Ensenada for dinner named Wendlandt. It’s only been open a few months. It combines good food (I only tried and can recommend the sliders, especially the short-rip slider) with good beer, some of which is brewed by the owner. They also bring in craft beers from throughout Baja California Norte and elsewhere (e.g., Stone in San Deigo County). There is quite a craft beer movement in Baja. The young woman sitting next to us emphasized this by sharing that she is a homebrewer. Glad to see a trend active in Los Angeles is equally, if not more active, over in Baja.
We also tried seafood dishes at UltraMarino. People rave about the oyster (ostiones) tacos which were quite good.
Either are great places for a casual dinner.