A Jeep Experience And Wine Tasting In Ensenada
On our cruise along the California coast with Oceania Cruises, we had one stop out of California. The ship sailed down the coast about 75 miles (125 km) to the large city of Ensenada in Mexico. We booked a jeep tour out into the Guadalupe wine valley. And we had the most delightful experience wine tasting in Ensenada.
It was a year of wine tasting around North America.
We started the year at home with ice wines in Ontario. Our visit to California brought us classic varietals in Napa. And we finished the year with a sweet experience doing a cupcake and wine tasting tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley. So it was interesting to learn that the wines from Ensenada certainly stood up to the competition.
A Fun Jeep Ride
It was a fun day on the water in Catalina Island with playful dolphins and sea lions. On this port day, we headed for a land adventure.
We were picked up by Alfonso from Ensendada ShoreX from the cruise port in Ensenada and went to pick up our jeeps. There were only 6 people booked on the tour. Four guests rode in one jeep. And we rode with Alfonso in the other jeep.
We saw a little of the city of Ensenada on our way out of town. As always, we were drawn to the colourful murals we found along the route. Not surprisingly, there was a sea theme to this long wall.
We were not sure what route we would take to the Guadalupe Valley. When we went on an off-road jeep excursion in Moab, Utah we got a wild ride up and down sheer rock faces. So our expectations were tempered by experience. Alfonso told us we would not be climbing rocks. But he made sure we still had some fun.
Through The Countryside On A Jeep
We drove on city streets and the local highway for awhile. After we passed the sign saying we had entered wine country, we exited at a small community.
We moved onto rough dirt roads across the countryside. Rains took their toll on the roads. We bounced over the roads and constantly swerved to stay out of deep ridges or deep puddles.
As we moved inland, hills appeared all around us. We were amazed to see very large boulders littered the ground everywhere. Alfonso explained that this part of the Guadalupe Valley used to be underwater. That explained the rock and sand we saw everywhere.
We passed small farms and large houses on the hills. When we got further into wine country, the vineyards started to appear. We passed one vineyard that offered accommodations inside old wine barrels. We were sure that would be a fun experience.
The scenery was beautiful. We saw the mountains all around us. After a brief ride on a paved road, we exited again for the path into the Monte Xanic Winery. It was time to go wine tasting in Ensenada.
History Of Wine In The Guadalupe Valley
We drove along the wine route and went past the Vine and Wine Museum opened in 2013. During our drive, we learned a little about the history of wine making in the Guadalupe Valley as we drove.
The Guadalupe Valley was originally settled as a Dominican mission. In 1888, the former lands of the Santo Tomas Mission were sold to a private group which established the first commercial winery (Bodegas Santo Tomas). We passed this winery on our drive.
While the early wineries were established by the Spanish, there was a large influx of Russian Molokins that fled Russia after the Revolution. They bought large parcels of land and brought European wine technique with them. Most of the Russians departed around the time of WWII.
The wine industry suffered during the Mexican Revolution. But in the 1980’s there was a resurgence. Dry hot summers, humid winters and sea breezes provided ideal conditions for growing quality grapes in the Guadalupe Valley. Small production quantities drove higher prices for the premium wines.
Today there were over 100 wineries in the area. And this area produced about 90% of the wines that came from Mexico. Wine harvest started in August in this region.
Arriving At The Monte Xanic Winery
We drove up the dirt road between rows and rows of harvested grapes. In the distance over the pond we saw the mountains surrounding the Guadalupe Valley. It looked like an idyllic location for a winery.
The winery was all decorated for the holiday season. We had a little time to walk around the wine shop before our wine tasting. We expected a very narrow range of wine varietals. So we were delighted by the variety we found. And the number of award winning wines.
The outside terrace was set up for a large group. It turned out that this was another Oceania Cruises tour group. We were delighted when Alfonso managed to move the wine tasting for our small group to the inside tasting bar.
Wine Tasting At Monte Xanic Winery In The Guadalupe Valley
We were introduced to Rosalina who led us through our wine tasting. Our tasting started with white wines. We had a very nice Sauvignon Blanc. And then moved on to a Chenin Colombard. Both white wines were very nice. Not too tart, easy drinking wines.
We then tried the Calixa Cabernet Sauvignon. We were impressed with how smooth this Syrah blend was. For a treat, our next wine was the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot. This was aged longer and boy did we taste the difference. It was so smooth and deliciously fruity. Someone in our group went home with 4 bottles of this wine.
We also tasted the olive oil made on the property. It was a light but tasty accompaniment to our wine tasting.
We thought we would get mostly Tempranillo grapes when we went wine tasting in Ensenada. So we were definitely pleasantly surprised with the variety and quality of wines we tried at Monte Xanic Winery.
A Cellar Tour At Monte Xanic Winery
After we finished our wine tasting, Rosalina took us for a tour through the production rooms. We started in the large fermentation room. It was filled with row after row of stainless steel tanks.
We moved through the bottling room filled with cases of wine. And finished with a view of the vast cellar filled with French oak casks.
Before we left, Rosalina let us into the private tasting room. It was filled with older vintages, including the first wine produced at this vineyard. The history of the Monte Xanic Winery was visible in the displays.
It was great to get a view of the cellar when we went wine tasting in Ensenada. It provided one last view of the winery before we left.
We Got A Wonderful Surprise Wine Tasting In Ensenada Mexico
Our route back from the Guadalupe Valley to the cruise ship was more direct. The jeep stayed on paved roads. But Alfonso had one more great surprise for us.
We left the main road and climbed through a sub-division to a high hill that overlooked the harbour. Far below we got a great view of Ensenada. With our cruise ship sitting in port.
We were delighted with our jeep tour to the Guadalupe wine valley region. Wine tasting in Ensenada at Monte Xanic was so much better than we expected. It was a great winery. And the wines were varied and tasty.
This was definitely a wine region we wanted to re-visit. We were so glad we made this brief stop in Ensenada on our cruise along the California coast. After we left port, we had one day at sea before we arrived in San Francisco to enjoy the day visiting with friends.
Have you done wine tasting in Ensenada Mexico? Was it a wonderful surprise?
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