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Our trip to Ensenada (with a surprise)

Jim and I decided to make a day trip from Mexicali to Ensenada. We set off pretty early in the morning, and headed west on Mexico’s Highway 2, the same route we took on our trip to Rosarito Beach.

Hitting the road to Ensenada

Hitting the road to Ensenada

We were pretty familiar with the road – through the stark desert valley – going up the boulder-like mountains – curves and doglegs – until we came out on high altitude green plain leading to the town of La Rumorosa at an altitude of 4,100 feet. The green rolling hills on the plain make you forget you are so high – it is nothing like being on top of a mountain.

We kept on going until we hit Tecate, the famous beer town. Just outside of Tecate proper, we left Highway 2, and took the much smaller Highway 3, which veered away from Tecate, heading south. Highway 3 is a more direct route to Ensenada, rather than going through Tijuana, and south down the coast.

This time we stopped for a breather on the outskirts of Tecate, at an OXXO, something like a 7/11. We had only gone about 80 miles, but we needed some refreshments and a pit stop for the lady.

The air in Tecate is mountain air – thin and crisp, in fact, Tecate sees snow in the winter.

Highway 3 is a two-lane affair, but, luckily, there wasn’t much traffic. Jim and I didn’t expect the road to be so pretty – green valleys and vineyards along the long descent to Ensenada.

We were in for a surprise!

L.A. Cetto Winery Sign

L.A. Cetto Winery Sign

All of a sudden we found ourselves in front of the great winery that makes the Domecq wine we like so much. Bingo! We were in the famous wine growing Guadalupe Valley, and didn’t even know it! “Well, I’ll be darned,” said Jim “I should ‘a checked the map better.” The Domenq winery was not open to the public that day, but, right across the road, the L.A. Cetto winery (run by Luis Agustín Cetto) had a big sign with the word “Tours” inside a red arrow pointing down their private road. We were on our way to the L.A. Cetto winery – Ensenada could wait!

The place was huge – hundreds of acres of grape vines bordered by olive trees, just about as far as the eye could see. Who knew? We drove down the wide but dusty road, which led us right to the winery parking lot! What a beautiful lush green place! Getting out of the car, Jim and I were like kids out to play in the backyard.

L.A. Cetto Terrace

L.A. Cetto Terrace

A sidewalk led us up to a beautiful terrace with chairs and tables – a sign said “Tours,” “Tasting,” “Welcome.” On the terrace there was another sign, “Tasting Room,” with an arrow. Not knowing what was on, we slowly entered the tasting room. It was a beautiful place, very large with a wood beamed roof, a long bar, and wooden racks of hundreds of bottles of wine.

L.A. Cetto Wine Tasting Room

Summoning up a bit of courage, Jim sauntered up to the bar, and said, in his best broken Spanish, “Se puede, vino, eh?” I think that means, “Can wine, huh?” The lady behind the bar answered, in perfect English, “You have to take the tour and then taste the wine.” “How long ‘s the tour?” Jim asked. “About fifteen minutes, and you can join the group, just outside.”

The “group” of about ten people had moved on a bit but we caught up with them – the guide was speaking Spanish.

L.A. Cetto Wine Vats

L.A. Cetto Wine Vats

The winery was HUGE. Huge buildings, huge tanks of wine, huge trucks with trailers bringing in the grapes, and everything was just so clean and neat. The guide took us into a room the size of an aircraft hanger. It had all kinds of steel vats and valves and stuff, and it was air-conditioned. Deeper into the plant was a room full of barrels of all types of wine and a place where the bottling was done.

It didn’t take long for the guide to hear us talking to each other, and understand that we were Americans. The guide spoke English pretty well, and there was a young man from Mexico City who did too. Between them, they made sure we understood (as best we could) how the wine was made.

L.A. Cetto Wines

L.A. Cetto Wine Barrels

The guide led us out of the large air-conditioned plant, off to see some huge steel vats. I know I’m using “huge” a lot, but that’s the best word to describe the place.

They even had another super-large vat where some of the wine was distilled into brandy. Finally we were led back to the wine tasting room. We each were given a plastic cup, and the fellow behind the bar explained each wine as he filled up our cups. Down the hatch, and another wine! They even served home-grown olives from the olive trees (which are planted to protect the grape vines from wind).

The wine was great, and once the tasting came to an end, Jim and I, pretty well liquored up, bought four bottles to take home with us. The whole group had become like best friends by now. Some even popped open their bottles of wine to have a drink on the terrace.  We had to be on our way so we said our goodbyes to our friends, and, yes, pretty well liquored up, Jim and I headed for Ensenada – fortunately, it was only about twenty miles down the road.

Everything's Immaculate at L.A. Cetto

Everything's Immaculate at L.A. Cetto

Our road, Highway 3, connected up to the main coast road, Highway 1, just three miles north of Ensenada. Jim hung a left and we soon found ourselves driving along the coast and entering the busy city of Ensenada. It’s the third largest city in Baja California with about half a million people.

The weather in Ensenada is great – just like the Pacific coast of southern California. The whole place has a light and airy atmosphere. When we got to what seemed to be the center of town we stopped to take some photos.

Ensenada's Main Street

Ensenada's Main Street

Back in the truck, we headed south driving through Ensenada, checking out some residential districts. We also found a super mall – something like we’ve got in Mexicali. It’s got all the stores – Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Ashley Furniture, McDonalds, Subway, and a lot of others.

Bucaneer Restaurant - Fish!

Bucaneer Restaurant - Fish!

Jim had done a lot of driving, so we pulled up at a restaurant called, “The Buccaneer,” which was right on the coast road in the center of town.  It was a bit early for the locals, so we were the only folks there, until a group of four Americans showed up. We really didn’t know how to order, but, since it was a fish place, the waiter helped us out – and did he ever! He brought me the largest fish I have ever seen in a restaurant. It was baked, all laid out on a platter with parsley, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes. Jim got a smaller dish, as his idea of a fish dinner is a tuna fish sandwich – with plenty of mayo.

Stuffed and satisfied, we got back into the truck for the long drive back home to Mexicali. It got dark on the way back, but the only time we got lost was finding our way through Mexicali to our casa. By midnight we where home. Rex, Twiggy, and Moss were happy to see us, and we them!

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