Esenada vineyard in the Guadalupe Valley
Grapes hung from an arbor just overhead
L.A. Cetto Winery
Pretty paths wander through the grounds.
These huge tanks were used to make "moonshine"
sherry during Prohibition.
Grapes travel this corkscrew.
Steel tanks for aging wines.
Oak barrels age the more select varieties.
Gilberto pours wine after our tour.
Lots of gracious places for a picnic.
We chose a secluded nook.
Jams, jellies and honeys accompany wine at Doña
Lupe's tasting room.
Adobe Guadalupe Winery.
Adobe Guadalupe Winery
A welcoming property...
...with gracious views outside.
Minerva tells us Adobe Guadalupe's poignant
Kerubiel, Serafiel, Miguel, Gabriel
Arched indoor hallways..
A lovely living room.
Arched outdoor hallways.
A fountain filled courtyard.
Adobe Guadalupe's courtyard.
A great spot to rest for a moment...
Mid-July, 2010 - One of the charms of northern Baja California, and quite
different than the dusty, speedy, beerfest of the Baja 500, is a visit to the
delightful wine country. The Guadalupe Valley is about two-thirds the size
of Napa Valley in California, and has the same climate as southern
France, making it an ideal location for wine making. We had driven
through these pretty vineyard landscapes several times when we drove
up to the border crossing at Tecate, and we had sampled wines at two
tasting rooms in Ensenada, however we had not yet visited any wineries.
During our stay in
Ensenada, the fog
of "June Gloom"
had spread its
chilly, grey misery
well into July, and we were tired of waking up to damp, dark skies and
living under their scowls all day. Knowing that the sun was shining and
summer was happily swinging away just a few miles inland, we piled
into a car with friends for a day tour of Ensenada's wine region along
"La Ruta del Vino," the wine route.
During grape growing season, the Guadalupe Valley is a
desert landscape that gets cooled by breezes from the
same misty spring and summer fog that had engulfed us at
the coast. It is an ideal climate for grapes if not always for
people's moods. This valley, along with the famed valleys in
California, is so perfect for grape growing that, after first
encouraging the development of New World wine
production, Spain ultimately banned it all together in 1699 to
Visiting the scenic L.A. Cetto winery, our tour guide Gilberto explained
that wine making really got established in this area at the turn of the
last century when Russian Molokan immigrants settled the region.
Tracing their roots to a Christian sect that rejected the Russian
Orthodox Church in the 1500's, these faithful Slavs insisted upon
eating dairy products during official Church fasting days, earning them
the label "Molokans" (milk drinkers). In 1904 a few hundred of them
left Russia, bringing wine grape saplings to their new home in Mexico.
We followed Gilberto under a
beautiful grape arbor where
ripe, juicy green grapes
dangled overhead in easy
reach. Passing some towering
tanks, he described life in this
area during Prohibition when
thirsty Americans provided a
ready market for the sherries
and port wines that came out of those
very same tanks at the hands of Italian
Don Angelo Cetto. He set up shop in
northern Baja in 1926, bringing a
knowledge of wine making from his
birthplace in Trento in northern Italy.
Today L.A. Cetto produces a million cases of wine each year,
the less expensive varieties aged in steel tanks and the more
select varieties aged in oak casks. We had joined a family
group of Mexicans for the tour, and we all got a kick out of
listening to Gilberto's presentation in both Spanish and English.
We took turns taking photos of ourselves with the oak barrels in
the background, while we exchanged appreciative nods and
mumbled what we could in each other's languages.
Along with the other immigrant winemakers of the region, Cetto's
winery grew slowly, and in 1951 his son Don Luis Agustin Cetto
took over the reins. The winery's fortunes really changed in 1965
when the talented young Italian winemaker Camillo Magoni joined
the team. He overhauled the equipment in 1967, adding
refrigeration. Amazingly, Camillo is with the winery to this day, and
in 2004 was selected as the top wine maker in the world by the
Dutch magazine Vinbladet.
These days the vineyard is run by grandson Luis Alberto Cetto. The
wines are exported to 27 countries, and in 2010 they received the
Vinalies Paris International Gold Medal for their 2007 Petite Syrah.
While tasting this delicious wine, I marveled at the wall of awards
behind Gilberto's back. I asked him which one the winery was most
proud of. He shrugged, and I got the sense that even with over 130
awards to their credit, award winning is not what makes this place tick.
L.A. Cetto's free wine tastings are offered with an eye towards
educating the public in the joys of wine and its culture. The
lovely grounds shelter a myriad of picnic areas tucked all around
the main building, and visitors are encouraged to buy a bottle
and enjoy a serene moment of classy outdoor elegance. We
settled into a private nook with an engaging view of flowers and
fountains, and feasted on a spread of L.A. Cetto's homemade
bread and olive oil accompanied by a delicious Cabernet. It is no
surprise that when President Obama recently entertained
Mexican President Felipe Caldarón at the White House, L.A.
Cetto wine was served.
We knew it would be hard to top this
introduction to Baja Mexico's wine
region, but we soldiered on. We
stopped at Doña Lupe's tasting room
where little jars of gourmet goodies
filled the store from floor to ceiling.
Jams, jellies and honeys were all on
offer, and we sampled around the
room with delight.
Guadalupe Valley is filled with little
boutique wineries, but many require
advance appointments and most
require a healthy fee for tasting. Our
taste buds had lost a little spark after
tasting at least eight wines at L.A.
Cetto and sharing a bottle in the
garden, so we weren't sure they
deserved much further investment for
the afternoon. However, pulling up at
the gate to Adobe Guadalupe brought
all our senses to a peak once again.
This beautiful winerey / B&B
guesthouse / horse farm is the delightful opposite
extreme to L.A. Cetto. After taking photos at the gate,
and of the gatehouse itself, a little man came out and
explained to me that there was a group arriving at 3:00
to take a tour. I asked if we could join them, and after making a phone call, he said yes.
The short wait until their arrival gave us time to wander around outside the gate and get
a few photogrpahs. Horses are near and dear to the owner's heart, and I especially liked
the picture Mark got of a Pegasus-inspired sculpture.
The vineyard is set back from the
main road, and the entire property
feels like a desert oasis basking in
the sun. The rows of grape vines
seem to stretch all the way to the
distant mountains, and the
buildings, although new, have a
delicious old world feel.
Unlike L.A. Cetto where the history
of the vineyard is intertwined with
Mexico's history of the settling of the Baja Peninsula, the winery called
Adobe Guadalupe was created just over ten years ago to be a living,
spiritual memorial for a lost and beloved son. Tru Miller's adult son Arlo
died tragically in a car accident. While in Paris shortly after his death, his mother visited
the Notre Dame cathedral and received what she felt was a sign from God telling her how
to share and honor his memory.
Arlo had loved Mexican culture,
and there inside Notre Dame
Cathedral his mother saw a
Mexican chair covered with a
Mexican serape. Upon a return
visit to the cathedral two years
later, she found the chair had
been incorporated into a altar
dedicated to the Virgin of
Guadalupe. She decided right
then and there to settle in
Mexico's Guadalupe Valley, and
together with her husband Don,
they have created a property as
relaxing and welcoming as it is
stunning in its beauty.
Our hostess, Minerva,
told us this tale as she
poured our selection of
seven wines, each
named for an arch
angel. As we savored
these rich bodied red
wines, we all scratched
our heads trying to
remember the English
names of the arch
angels, and stumbled a bit
over whether there were
really four or seven. Miguel
and Gabriel were easy, but
Kerubiel had us
showed up in
our glasses at
the end, we all
who he was.
Tru and Don live
in this glorious
property, but they keep most of it
open for visitors to explore.
Minerva led us down some
fantastic arched walkways into a
bright and airy living room. Six
guest rooms are available in the
B&B, and I could easily imagine a
fantastic weekend of rest and
relaxation in this romantic setting.
We were led outside through
another hallway of arches and
then stepped into a palm tree
filled courtyard that embraced a
sparkling fountain. Our cameras
snapped continuously as we
Finally emerging on the far side of
the building, a row of lounge chairs
lined up in front of the swimming
pool and invited us to take a load
off. I have to admit that our heads
were spinning a little by this time,
what with all of the heavenly arch
angels paying us a visit through
their rich red nectar. When we
finally left, our spirits were high and
our souls were refreshed. I had
been waiting for a special day and
special friends to share a waltz
through Ensenada's wine country,
and this had been the perfect day.
All this wine and good cheer meant it was time to get serious
about our waist lines once again, and two Ensenada running
races got us inspired to get a little fitness back.
Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.