Visitors to Puerto Peñasco have changed over the years. I don’t mean that they have turned into something or someone else a la Transformers, but they have changed in the way of how they visit. As our town has grown, and changed, its complexion over the past 25 or 30 years has morphed from a sleepy fishing village to a more cosmopolitan, tourist friendly place.

For the record, not all of the changes have been good, nor have they been embraced by everyone, but change is inevitable in our world and for the most part the changes wrought by the new ‘tourist’ economy have been beneficial to all concerned. Today folks from all over are staking out their little piece of paradise here. They are staying longer than a few days, buying or renting houses or condos and settling in for extended vacations. Many new expats and retirees have moved here permanently. The thing is, places like Peñasco change.

What am I getting at? The changes we have experienced here are being experienced across Mexico and what was is no longer necessarily what will be. Places like San Miguel de Allende, Lake Chapala, Puerto Vallarta and Ixtapa are nowhere near the same as they were when the tourists from around the globe ‘discovered’ them. The charm and tranquility of these wonderful places has evolved into the frenetic pace of the new “tourist friendly” versions of same…more is the pity.

Once you’ve had to time to settle into your Puerto Peñasco digs and learned how to relax for more than a few days, you might become curious about the rest of Mexico, and you might even feel comfortable enough to want to explore this beautiful country. If so, short days trips and longer excursions to other nearby places are a good way to begin.

One place that deserves a visit for at least three days, or more, is the Mexican wine growing region east of Ensenada called Valle de Guadalupe. It’s an easy 6-hour drive to Ejido El Provenir, south of Tecate, from Peñasco. The trip offers a truly awe-inspiring look into the premier wine growing region of Mexico. Also, it is a mere 12 miles east of Ensenada, which provides “amenities” which tourists can’t’ seem to do without.

The best analogy I can use is that Valle de Guadalupe is what Napa and Sonoma were forty or fifty years ago…but it won’t be for long. My comparison is drawn from having spent time in the Alta (U.S.) California wine growing regions in the past fifty years and recently visiting Valle de Guadalupe.

There are already numerous “gringo” friendly establishments there. You know…tasteful, top of the line, expensive resorts with slick marketing programs and expensive wine related trinkets in abundance in the lobby, paid tours of the vineyards (I’m looking at you El Cielo) and places like L.A. Cetto, Bruma and Domcecq that are growing in that direction. These are all designed to attract the Mexican, American or Canadian wine aficionado tourist dollars.

That is not to say that their wines are not good. They are. They are just not that good. In my opinion, some of the above-mentioned offer overpriced product. The wine comes with that same degree of marketing that has become the norm north of the border. So, if you are of that particular persuasion (amenity heavy, all-inclusive resort set in a vineyard) then you have got that option.

If, on the other hand, you are the adventurous sort who enjoys taking “the road less traveled,” ferreting out special places and experiences, who doesn’t mind accommodations which can be just a bit on the rustic side, then you have a whole new place to explore.

Finding small batch wineries/vineyards, whose wines are world class (Gold, silver and bronze medal winners in local and international competitions) like Hacienda Las Animas, which has caves in which to taste wine, as well as providing a B&B on site (local dogs included) is just one of many that have something to say about the state of Mexican wine making. Las Animas is right down the dirt road from Finca Magoni, which is another one of those slicks, heavily marketed wineries above mentioned. The contrast is notable.

My friends and I stayed at a lovely place called Villa Victoria 011-52-646-1171718 (named of the owners’ daughter), operated by a wonderfully welcoming couple, Julio and Estella. We rented an entire 2 bedroom, 2 bath house named “Buganvilla”. This little slice of heaven, with valley views, tranquility and, yes, dogs (Gordo and Spotty) was the perfect place to enjoy wine country. Due to heavy rains this past winter and spring, the 1-kilometer-long road off the main highway to our accommodations was in horrible condition and had to be driven at turtle-like speeds, but that was the only negative I can think of about staying there.

One other suggestion if you visit Valle de Guadalupe – The Wine Museum. Well worth the price of admission and a wonderful way to learn about the history of winemaking, worldwide. If you have the time, go visit Valle de Guadalupe. Savor its authenticity and flavor, before it becomes another Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta or…Puerto Peñasco.