Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Mexican wine country south of the border
Touring Mexico's wine country is quite enjoyable and very easy to do. If you find yourself in the San Diego area and have nothing to do for a day or so, consider touring the verdant Guadalupe Valley which lies approximately forty road miles south of the border at Tecate (which is thirty-eight miles east of San Diego). Three major wineries (Pedro Domenq, LA Cetto, and Monte Xanic) are separated by a scant seven miles so touring all three is a simple matter for a day's itinerary.
How to get there
From San Diego, take Interstate 8 (I-8) East to El Cajon. Exit at Second Street, and turn right at the signal at the bottom of the ramp. This is Jamacha Road. Follow Jamacha for about eight miles until you arrive at Rancho San Diego. Turn left onto CA 94 (Highway 94), which will be the second twin left turn lanes that you'll encounter on Jamacha Road. A sign marks the intersection (Tecate, Campo).
Follow highway 94 as it winds it's way up into the hills (Note: This is a very scenic drive especially in deep summer). Twenty two miles up CA 94 turn right at the marked intersection to Tecate. This highway is numbered CA 188. A scant two miles later you will encounter the border. On the left just before the border is a gas station that sells Mexican Automobile Insurance. Your US policy does not cover Public Liability and Property Damage in Mexico. Crossing into Mexico is about as hard as crossing a state line in the USA. For driving tips refer to the mini series "Rv'ing Mexico". After you enter Mexico, you will need to dogleg left at the first traffic light. So make a left and then a right at the next block.
You will be on the main road to the wine country and Ensenada (Hwy 3). Watch for stop lights and stop signs as you progress through the urban sprawl. When you encounter the traffic circle, all oncoming traffic turning in front of you has the right-of-way (important so please don't forget this rule). After you dodge a couple of cars keep going straight. The road will wind up a hill and soon the urban congestion will ease. Soon you will be in the midst of boulder studded grassland and chaparral. Keep your eyes open for slow trucks ahead and fast buses behind. After winding your way up and down a series of grades (about thirty-five miles worth) grape vineyards will appear on both sides of the road.
The LA Cetto winery is on the left about two miles down a well-graded road (there's a highway sign). The Pedro Domenq winery is on the right, near the highway in an imposing concrete structure.
A nearby full hookup RV park
On the way to Pedro Domenq, LA Cetto and Monte Xanic, you passed by a well-run RV park (Rancho Sordo Mudo). Retrace your steps just a little past LA Cetto. There will be a billboard type sign on the right for Rancho Sordo Mudo. Turn right and pick out a spot. The park is verdant and green. The restrooms are clean with hot water and showers. This rural park is administered by the Rancho Sordo Mudo (Deaf Mute Ranch) across the highway. Someone will be around to collect a donation in the morning--this is a charitable organization to assist the disabled, please reach deep into your billfold.
Continue south to Ensenada, or return back to Tecate? The choice is yours. Really smart RVers would have brought steaks to barbecue to go along with that "extra" bottle of Monte Xanic. One liter per person is the allowable limit to bring back into the states. Perhaps a bottle of Merlot to go along with some Chateaubriand grilled over shimmering mesquite coals? This is a fine adventure and fine booty to stock your wine cellar. If you have pretentious friends who claim to be wine snobs, imagine the look on their faces when you announce an occasion special enough to enjoy a bottle of "Mexican Red". I wish I could be there with you to enjoy the spectacle.
Author: David Eidell