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Scott Trilling

Ensenada Wine Tour To Valle De Guadalupe

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My wife and I are just one week away from boarding a short cruise to Cabo and Ensenada aboard the Disney Wonder. These short cruises out of San Diego are great as they allow us to leave the kids with their grandparents and share a few days together on our favorite cruise line. Yes, I am still an avid fan of DCL even without the kids. While I have read the many trip reports on Cruise Critic, I never felt I had much to contribute. As we prepare for our upcoming cruise my wife suggested that I get the ball rolling with a review regarding our Ensenada wine tour we took on a previous DCL cruise in 2018. 

 

Wine has been one of my great passions as an adult. I had heard from several friends about the Ruta del Vino or Guadalupe Valle located in Baja California. I was encouraged to visit this area because of my love for wine. Let's face it, wine is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Mexico. I spent a great deal of time researching the area and it seemed to have a number of pricey hotels and equally expensive restaurants. The idea of travel to Valle de Guadalupe was put on the back burner as it seemed from my research to be an expensive tourist trap. Upon booking our Disney cruise to the Mexican Riviera I saw an excursion for Ensenada that visits Valle de Guadalupe. What an excellent opportunity to say I had visited Mexico's wine region and cross this off my list.

 

Sadly, the reviews for the shore excursion offered by the cruise line were not great. It appears that you only visit Mexico's largest commercial winery. I did some research via one of the large travel sites and found several companies offering tours. I reached out to two of these companies to inquire about availability and pricing. The first to respond was a company called Valle Wine Life (http://vallewinelife.com). I spoke with the owner directly who provided with me with the option of an all inclusive tour or transportation to the wine country where we select the wineries and pay our tastings. As we were not familiar with the area we opted for the all inclusive tour. I requested and received an invoice via email to make payment for the tour. 

 

We arrived in Ensenada and had a little time to kill before our 10:30 AM pick up time. We walked around the port area before heading back to the cruise ship dock. We met our driver David at the appointed time. He was easy to find as he was near the security gate holding a sign with our name. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised that we were not part of a larger group. We were informed that Valle Wine Life only conducts private tours as it would be difficult to please everyone with a larger group tour. On the drive to Valle de Guadalupe our driver/guide asked us about our preference in wine and asked about our desired experience and if we would prefer boutique wineries. As we drove we learned a great deal about the varietals grown in the region and how the terroir in Baja California is vastly different than California. We also learned very interesting facts about the history of the wine valley to include Russian immigrants who settled there during the early 1900's. 

 

During the course of the day we visited three wineries. Our day started at Vina de Garza where we tasted both white and reds. I did notice a difference to the taste of Mexican wines. Our guide had mentioned there would be a higher salinity/minerality property to the wines from this region. While the taste was different, it was not necessarily bad. The tasting room staff all spoke excellent English and answered our many questions about the winery. They said we had picked an excellent guide and that David is known in the valley as El Gringo. I would say we enjoyed all but one of the wines on our first stop and absolutely loved two of them. We made our purchases which our guide kept in an insulated wine bag during the day. Our second stop was a winery called Villa Montefiori. Our guide was warmly received by the owner of the winery who is Italian. Our guide introduced us to the owner and we spoke at length about his process and the similarities of Valle de Guadalupe and the Mediterranean. We tried one white and three reds. Our favorite wine was the Brunello of which we bought several bottles. We then headed off to lunch at a food truck serving tapas. We greatly enjoyed the al fresco dining and the owner of the food truck clearly held our guide in high regard. It was interesting to see several winery dogs laying about the property. My wife and I are animal lovers and it is nice to see the contrast of how animals were treated in the wine valley compared to other parts of Mexico. Our final stop on our Valle de Guadalupe wine tour was Vina de Frannes. The main building was very modern while the surrounding buildings were typical of what you would expect to see in Mexico. We enjoyed a tasting of five wines (one white, one rose and three reds) as well as a bread and cheese platter with olives from the estate. The staff was very forthcoming with information on both wine and the property. The winery has a world class wine consultant named Michel Rolland who is from Bordeaux. Favorite wines were their house blend and the Cabernet Franc. The staff informed us that our guide David was also the owner of the company. 

 

Our day spent in the wine country was nothing short of perfect. The area is beautiful and the people of Mexico were very gracious despite our lack of Spanish. David returned us to the cruise ship port with thirty minutes to spare. We said our goodbyes and were gifted a jar of wine honey and a jar of lavender almonds. I can honestly say that we did not expect to fall in love with the Mexican wine region or the wines. My wife and I both agreed that tour was an absolute bargain at just over $100.00 per person. We thanked our guide and promised to return at some point in the future. One year later, we have already booked with Valle Wine Life for our next cruise. This time we will utilize their transportation option as our friends have given us the names of several wineries they think we will enjoy. We are excited to visit this area again and will author a second trip report on the wineries we visit. 

 

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Baja Test Kitchen also does EXCELLENT private and semi private tours to the wine country. For those who think of Ensenada as nothing but a bunch of tacky tourist shops and endless drunks have never seen the beauty that is just a short drive away from the port.

 

BTK is highly rated on Trip Advisor and although not inexpensive, gives a great overall value when you eat and drink some of the best of what the area has to offer.

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Thanks for writing!

Many of us who live in San Diego have also been taking wine tours lately to Mexico.

Tourists who come there also are interested in these sorts of trips so not just for cruisers.

It's great to see a list of the places you enjoyed as we don't know as much about those wineries as some of the others in California!

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Indeed, the Valle de Guadalupe is fantastic for both wine and food. You did right by getting a private tour at the better wineries. We've been on two excursions to the Valle de Guadalupe from cruises and used BTK (Baja Test Kitchen) both times. (about 4 and 2 years ago) We haven't been to Vina de Garza as yet, but have been to Villa Montefiori (twice now) and once to  Vina de Frannes. By the way it seems Montefiori is going to be changing their name to Paoloni, the newer bottles already sport the new name.

 

Food is the other reason to visit the valley. At Vena Cave winery, there is a food truck called Troika that makes some wonderful dishes. My favorite is the octopus tostada.  We recently returned to the Valle for a longer tour (again with BTK, but not associated with a cruise this time so we could spend more time, a 3 day, 2 night tour) and we again had lunch at Troika, so I was able to enjoy those octopus tostadas again.

 

Between the three tours of the Valle de Guadalupe, we've been to at least 10 wineries and 5 great restaurants/eateries. Highly recommend that if you love wine, by all means take a private our of the Valle de Guadalupe, you will not be disappointed. I also recommend using BTK to do so.

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Thanks for the recommendations of other tour companies. I also looked at Baja Test Kitchen when deciding on a tour company. In the end, their complicated website and the fact that a private three winery tour cost $350.00 ++  per person was insane. We paid $120.00 per person and feel we more than received our moneys worth. Why anyone would pay 3 times the amount for what looks like similar tours is beyond me. 

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