La Ruta de Vino: My Third Trip/Experience

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I just completed my third and very successful trip to Valle de Guadalupe(VdG) and would like to share my experience in one blog rather than break it down into individual posts. It was a special trip, my sister was able to come down from Seattle, we haven’t seen her in a year and a half due to Covid, so we were celebrating the birthdays and holidays we missed these past months. My first trip was with my sister, my second trip which was this past February was with my brother so this trip was with both sister and brother, Dee and Jeff.

Dee found the perfect AirBnB with 2 bedrooms, WiFi, great shower pressure and the location was close to most of the spots that we were going to be visiting. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and our first dinner reservation was at Finca Altozano, our favorite restaurant. Finca was founded by Chef Javier Plascencia, with a menu that you can enjoy seven days a week. Beef, Pork, Lamb, Seafood are all represented on the menu, with tasty appetizers and desserts, the wine selection is also vast with great choices of Valle wines. You can probably walk up without reservations but I highly recommend them. Even with the pandemic, business has been pretty steady for most places of business and the weekends are packed. The one thing that I really like about Finca, besides the food of course, is the pace, no rush, you’re allowed to sit back and enjoy your meal, drink some wine, look out at the horizon, the view is so relaxing, it overlooks a farm that spreads out in every direction complete with farm animals, goats, sheep, pigs. Dogs are also part of the landscape, they are enjoying their best life, looking for some leftovers. We shared 2 bottles of wine, a white with our appetizers and a red with our main course, both were outstanding. I felt the highlight was the appetizer we shared, Mediterranean Cauliflower, it was roasted and on the bottom of the bowl was a fantastic sauce with pepitas. I could have enjoyed it as a main course it was so satisfying. After dinner we stopped at Cava Las Animas de la Vid for a bottle of wine and some olive oil. It’s on the same road as Finca which was the road our AirBnB was on, right across from Resturante Laja.

The next morning we awoke as early as possible, slight hangovers, but we were going for breakfast at La Cocina de Doña Estela and if you don’t get there by 8:30 or so you’re going to wait from 45 minutes to one hour and a half. I’m serious. We arrived at 8:15 and didn’t have to wait, we were seated right away. It didn’t take long for the crowd to arrive, it was Friday but the Baja 500 was going on and Ensenada was packed! This was my third visit to Cocina and I usually order the machaca breakfast but today I went with Chiliquiles verdes with 2 eggs and beans. MMmmmm….perfect! Dee ordered the sweet elote pancakes with eggs, if you ever visit you MUST order these pancakes, they are phenomenal. Jeff ordered an omelette filled with machaca and chorizo! DAMN. Jeff has worked nonstop since the pandemic started, he works at Ralphs and works hard so he deserved the time off and he deserved that breakfast 😄 We finished our meal and went back to rest for our next adventure. Ensenada!!

Last September Jeff and I came down to Ensenada to watch a Monday Night Raider game with our friends, Tony and Cynthia, they live and work in Ensenada while raising two growing boys and they both love da Raiders! I was also on a mission, I wanted to find a liquor store off the beaten path to buy some tequila and mezcal that was small batch, boutique. We had found an AirBnB that was about ten minutes from the main tourist area, Ensenada is a big city, over 500,000 live here, it’s more than a beautiful beach resort. I found a great liquor store called La Catrina, follow them on Instagram @licores_lacatrina. I bought must outstanding tequila and mezcal so after we rested from breakfast we got ready and drove down to Ensenada so I could restock my supply of mezcal. I bought 2 bottles of mezcal and a four pak of very hard to find craft beer from Insugente, their XocoVeza. Jeff bought some wine and craft beer, It’s worth the short drive into town to shop at La Catrina if you ever go down to Ensenada and are looking for great selection of tequila or mezcal. We hurried back to Valle to rest up for our dinner at Baja Omasake which is located at Deckman’s.

Deckman’s is an award winning, sustainable restaurant located in the heart of the Valle. In 2019 Drew Deckman partnered with Chef Toshi Tsutada and opened Baja Omakase. They offer a very intimate dining experience, at our sitting there were only 10 people, we opted for the 12 course pairing, 2 different sakes, a craft beer from Agua Mala and 3 different wines. I had never experienced an Omakase style sushi dinner, I was a little hesitant about eating some of the raw fish that I had seen on a YouTube video about Baja Omakase but I tried everything and it was amazing. Raw shrimp, raw halibut, raw snapper, raw clams, everything was local and sustainable. Three hours went by in a flash. We never really met the folks across from us, they waved hi and were friendly and having a great time but we did meet the couple closest to us, Omar and Lindsey from Brea. Small world. In fact Lindsey worked at the courthouse in Santa Ana and their kids went to El Sol on Broadway. They had four small children and this was their first outing in over a year. They were attending a wedding in Puerto Nuevo on Saturday and decided to stay Friday in Valle and do the Omakase experience. Oh, the kids were at home with Grandma. 😎 After dinner we said goodbye to Toshi and our new friends, went to our AirBnB and talked all night about what a great time we had.

Dee had made reservations for wine tasting at Lomita Winery. Some wineries require reservations, some don’t so make sure before you go if they are necessary. We went to breakfast at a small place called Wara’s, the servings were huge and picture perfect, so if you are really hungry it’s worth it. Lomita is located close to Cocina de Doña Estela, in fact it once you are in Lomita it overlooks Cocina and you can see all the AirBnB’s that are being built throughout that area. We went with the four tasting option, two young and two mature wines, they were all good and we purchased bottles of the mature wines. One of the top retaurants, Lunario is across from Lomita and also requires reservations. We weren’t hungry so we drove about 5 minutes to a brewery just up from Lomita, Ludica Valle, @ludica.valle on Instagram. They also have a location in Tijuana, but this is a full on resort with cabins to rent, a pool, a restaurant and plenty of room to relax. I had a Kolsch and it hit the spot! The next spot we visited is very close to my heart, well left knee to be exact.

In February, Jeff and I were in Valle to relax and watch the Super Bowl. We were here for four days and on our last afternoon we stopped in at Castillo-Ferrer Winery. We were the only ones there on a quiet Monday afternoon and ordered a glass of wine which turned into 2 glasses plus a few tasters. The owner Gabriela Castillo was a great hostess, she gave us samples of the balsamic oils they have, and even though she spoke no English and our Spanish sucks we were having a blast. Until. I go to the restroom and I tripped. I fell on my left knee and as soon as I fell I know I screwed up. I couldn’t get up, I was texting Jeff when Gabriela’s husband came by and helped me get up, I could barely stand so he ran off to his workshop and sawed me up a walking stick. I still have it. He also let Jeff bring my truck all the way up to the restroom so I could get in since I could barely walk. I never said thank you to Gabriela, we drove off, Jeff packed up our stuff and we headed to a hospital in Ensenada. That’s a whole other story.

We drive in to Castillo-Ferrer Winery and it’s happening, they also have a ten room motel and a restaurant that they rent out, La Justina, there was a wedding that was going off! we found parking, we walk up to the winery where they had live music in one section, a playground for the kids, and another section for wine tastings. People were everywhere have a good time, we walk into the bar area were Gabriela is delegating like a Boss, I pull down my mask and say, Do you remember us? 😁 Yes. You fell. (in Spanish) I do my best to apologize and introduce Dee, Gabriela was super busy but she gave us all her attention as we drank a few glasses of wine. Her husband came by to say hi, I joked with him that we couldn’t find parking and we were going to park by the restroom. He said, Anytime you visit only you are allowed to park there! We laughed so hard, they treated us like family, when we left we bought some wine and Gabriela told us to grab 2 bottles of wine as gifts. 😥 I almost cried. I’m so happy for their success, she said it’s been busy even with the pandemic. Good for them.

Dios de bendiga.

We got back to our place and took naps. Finally we woke up and Dee and Jeff found a taqueria for some grub. Nothing fancy just good Mexican food.

Sunday was designated as our brewery day. But first we went back to Finca for coffee, they have a separate coffee stand that opens at 10 am. We were the first ones there, Dee actually had to open the gate so our truck could get in. While we enjoyed our coffee we noticed that the other food stand, LUPE, was getting ready to open at 11 am, so we waited and walked over. LUPE is an Airstream converted to kitchen that serves tortas. It has a big patio that is covered for shade and the ceiling has fake bird nests as decoration but there were some real bird nests. I ordered a torta with skirt steak, Jeff ordered a smoked brisket torta and Dee ordered a Gyro torta. We also ordered papa fritas, they come with garlic and parmesan but we ordered them without and they were great, perfectly fried, crispy not soggy. We also ordered tacos de frijole that they cut in half. YUM!! That meal deserved a nap so we went back to rest before we hit the brewery 😋

Cerveceria Bellinghausen was our brewery for the day, @cerveceriabellinghausen on Instagram. The brewery is owned and run by husband and wife, Todd and Erika, they have created a super comfortable space for craft beer lovers. The brewery is both kid and pet friendly, they offer pretzels and brats but will also call to order a pizza to be delivered. I had three beers and they were all spot on, Oktoberfest, IPA and a Kolsch. As a homebrewer I could tell that Todd does not take any shortcuts and only uses quality ingredients. The flavors were all full bodied, with clean finishes, no weird aftertastes. They also have cabins to rent, so Todd will close the brewery around 8 pm so that it’s not too noisy if you’re staying there. We really felt at home here, I can’t wait to come back to try some of Todd’s brews and have a brat! Cheers!

Well thanks for reading, that was quite the trip, I try to try something new everytime I visit. I also like to go back to Finca Altozano and La Doña each time I’m here. Here’s a link to a great map if you decide to drive down. Valle de Guadalupe is growing, I always see something new being built, with over 100 wineries there is so much to discover.

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