Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Spring Wine Tour for 2009 (1/4)

Baja Wine Country News
by Steve Dryden

This is my favorite year-round tour for wine tasting in Mexico’s premier wine country located near Ensenada, Baja California. Valle de Guadalupe is home to over twenty-five wineries, several restaurants and lodging. I’ve designed this guide in the appropriate order so that if you follow the narration and directions it will make for a wonderful day or two of wine tasting. Some of the wineries are hidden, and the dirt roads can be rough in a regular vehicle, but it makes exploring this region so much more of an “off road” adventure. Wine tasting in Guadalupe Valley is like prospecting for gold ~ sometimes you really have to dig into remote locations, but more than likely you’ll find hidden treasures! Be warned: temperatures in July and August can reach 100 degrees (F) plus, so spring and fall are better times to visit! Hydrate yourself with fresh bottled water on hot days and pace yourself. You won’t need a 4WD on back roads, just go slow and use common sense. It does get muddy after rain, so be cautious.

Most visitors travel from San Diego or Tijuana via Scenic (toll) Highway One along the beautiful coastline from Playas Tijuana towards Ensenada. The Mexican wine country is located seventy miles south of the border - a two hour drive from San Diego. There is an alternative route winding thru the back country of San Diego on Highway 94 and then south through Tecate on Highway 3. Most travelers use the coastal toll road (Highway 1) where before reaching Ensenada you’ll come to the third toll station at Playa San Miguel. Pay your toll, continue south for about 1.5 miles to a sign reading Tecate Highway 3 or Ruta del Vino. Exit to the right onto Highway 3 and drive over the foothills towards Tecate for seven miles until you drop down into the wine country at San Antonio de las Minas. I suggest that you don’t drive this route at night or when highly intoxicated, as it is a narrow, winding, one lane route, often occupied by slow-moving trucks. Here in San Antonio de las Minas the wine country begins and extends along Highway 3 for about fourteen miles. Scattered about the valley and foothills are about twenty-five wineries, several restaurants with great food, specialty shops, art galleries, gourmet coffee and lodging. And, you’ll find wonderful people!

At this point I’m going to share with readers my favorite and most popular day tour to the wine country. Some of the wineries are “user friendly” while others don’t focus on tasting room sales or hospitality. Some of the wineries sell out their inventory each season, market their wines to commercial distributors and could care less if you visit their wineries or sample their wine. I’m going to save you time and frustration by sending you to my friends ~ who love sharing their wines and hospitality. You’ll meet some great folks! You need to know that all valley restaurants and food establishments are closed by 6 p.m. This tour does focus on the region of San Antonio de las Minas and you’ll have to double back some, but this is an easy tour for newcomers as well as experts. If you are an early bird (9 am) Casa Vieja opens at 9 am, and you can adjust your tour as needed.

To be continued ...

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