Leaving El Rosario, we headed north to the bustling town of Ensenada. This well-known tourist town has everything a gringo could want, including a Costco! This was not a stop that we planned on making, however, as our sights were set a bit further north on highway 3…La Ruta del Vino, or “the route of the wine.” After our three-week journey around the Baja peninsula, you could say we left the best for last. As wine aficionados, our little band of intrepid travelers was keenly interested to visit the region that produces 90% of Mexican wine.

If you are into wine, or not, you might have heard of the Napa/Sonoma Valley in Northern California, or perhaps Paso Robles. Those meccas of the grape are very well known, worldwide, since capturing European attention back in 1978. Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, while not so well known, is making great strides in that arena by producing some very fine wines. It has been said that Valle de Guadalupe is what Napa/Sonoma was way back before it became famous; low key, rural, laid back. I would agree.

Taking a page from the norteños as far as amenities and comfort are concerned, this locale is fast becoming a hot spot for the discerning Baja traveler. Being close the California/Mexico border makes it an easy trip from the stats as well. Hotels, both at the wineries themselves or nearby, and restaurants offer every conceivable service from B&B’s to five-star accommodations with quaint “campestre” (country) dining to the finest of fine dining establishments.

We took Highway 1 through Ensenada and turned off onto Highway 3, “la ruta del vino” of this article’s title. With over 200 wineries to date (and more coming on line every year) we could have spent weeks checking them all out. Had we stayed in Ensenada, we could have contracted with a tour company (Wine and Dine tours) that provide not only transportation to selected wineries, but tastings, food and wine pairings and a safe way to experience this magnificent corner of the Baja (the roads are a bit difficult to navigate when sober…impossible when tipsy from too many tastings). As it was, we had decided to stay at El Cielo winery explore wine country from that base.

We visited L.A. Cetto winery, which makes one of our favorite red wines (Nebiolo) and El Cielo (of course), Bruma and several others. For those of you who are not ‘winos’, there is an entire ritual involved with wine making, vineyards and such, and we were into all of it. We tasted, snacked, ate and generally had a great time. The country views are wonderful, the atmosphere pastoral, the pace easy and the people grand. If our entire trip to this point seems like “a bridge too far” in the difficulty department, consider a weekend getaway to Valle de Guadalupe. You will not be disappointed!

You might wonder that I am not ‘naming names’ as I’ve done for my previous articles.  For a number of reasons, it is better to let you, the reader, satisfy your curiosity about the wine country with a little research. After all, the advent of the internet has made gathering information easy. As well, writer Stephanie Woods’ article in the September edition of this paper covers many of the points that I would make, except that she stayed in Ensenada and we stayed in the Valle de Guadalupe, and there is really no need to repeat them.

To get to Valle de Guadalupe from Peñasco is an easy 5-hour drive. The road (Mexico 2) is good and well maintained (the big rigs use it to go to Mexicali). Do a little research…make a few phone calls (most vineyards, hotels and operators are bilingual) and plan a long or short weekend trip to this fascinating locale. If you can’t find something to fit your budget, you aren’t trying! A trip to Valle de Guadalupe is a great way to get your ‘feet wet’ (as well as your “whistle”) on traveling in Mexico. Who knows, you might just decide to do a little more exploring of the Baja peninsula as I’ve detailed in other articles.

With our excursion around Baja drawing to a close, our last night at El Cielo was bittersweet. A spectacular 6 course meal with wine parings topped off our ‘bucket list’ trip. In the morning we loaded up and got on the road (Highway 2D) heading back to Puerto Peñasco, and our homes some 5 hours away.  We brought back so much more than souvenirs and photos…we brought back many great memories of wonderful places, people and experiences. I can’t wait to do it again!!!