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Playa y vino: best bets for a Baja weekend

Escape to La Misión (K-59) and these Guadalupe Valley vineyards.

Under-two-hour-drive views from La Misión (top) and L.A. Cetto (bottom) (photo: L.A. Cetto).
Under-two-hour-drive views from La Misión (top) and L.A. Cetto (bottom) (photo: L.A. Cetto).
Balcony view in La Misión.

Like many other folks, my wife and I like tasty wines and panoramic ocean views, especially if they’re less than an hour away.

Video:

La Misión beach

So we often head out to La Misión, a tiny Baja village at KM 59 between Rosarito and Ensenada.

Beach R&R in La Misión

At the bottom of a cliff the village sits on, there's a broad, sandy beach worth exploring. Surf's up, and the waves are loud – the thunderous crashing stands out even up on the rooftop patio, with its view of Playas La Misión to Calafia, because it’s so peaceful here otherwise.

We stay in a beautiful Airbnb apartment overlooking a stretch of beach at the bottom of a winding stairway. Nearby Poco Cielo also offers rooms at reasonable prices; pets welcome.

Poco Cielo's patio.

Mornings and evenings in La Misión are spent walking, swimming and horseback riding on the beach, and dining with the Pacific as our backdrop.

Where to eat

There are lots of good restaurant options in and around the La Misión area, including Sheryl’s Poco Cielo (left), serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reasonably priced good food – try the clam chowder.

Bar at the Lighthouse.

At Dmytri's La Fonda, brunch Bloody Marys are free and the Mexican buffet goes on forever. Magaña’s Restaurant, K-64, where the locals eat, offers a great menudo and extensive breakfast/lunch/dinner menu. And Lighthouse Sports Bar and Restaurant, just off the highway at K-59, has floor-to-ceiling ocean views and music on weekends.

Guadalupe wineries

During our Baja getaway, we also explored wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, 45 minutes away. Valle wineries are dramatically improving in their wine taste, variety and quality.

In no particular order, here are my picks of the many we tried:

1) Chateau Camo, a French-inspired winery on a mountainous estate. Choose from award-winning varietals like Blanc de Blancs, Bordeaux-blended Clarete, Zinfandel, golden Chardonnay, Gran Vino Tinto, Gran Vino Blanco, and the scandalously good dessert wine El Gran Divino. (A tour includes tasting, barrel sampling and delicious lunch: carne asada, ostrich, quail or paella.)

2) Hacienda La Lomita welcomes wine tasters with a waterfall, traditional hacienda-style façade and great views. Contemporary vinification methods create bold wines, including a seductive Grenache, sparkling Chardonnay with notes of honey, syrup and wheat, and an acidic, blue-violet Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend.

3) Casa de Piedra, a modern winery housed in a stone farmhouse covered in bougainvillea and flanked by fields of grapes. Their velvety red Vino de Piedra is a Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon blend aged in oak, while Piedra del Sol reveals the character of the Chardonnay grape sans adulteration or layering.

4) Domecq has flourished as the first commercial winery established in the valle (in 1972). It's got beautifully maintained rows of vines and an elegant, white-walled mission-style warehouse.

Interior of mission-style Hacienda Guadalupe. (photo: Hacienda Guadalupe)

5) Hacienda Guadalupe, a retreat just off the Tecate-Ensenada highway, produces a Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a 100% Merlot and a Nebbiolo. Additionally, they’ve got over 70 wines from local wineries in their wine cellar, which can be purchased as part of a tasting or paired with gourmet meals prepared by the restaurant. Enjoy panoramas of the countryside on their terrace.

6) L.A. Cetto, Mexico's largest wine producer, has won awards for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, Vinifera and Zinfandel. They offer an in-depth tour, and the tasting room is spacious and elegant, with a long bar under a beautiful wood-beam roof. More postcard-worthy views from their popular picnic area (top), overlooking the vineyards and valley below.

7) Doña Lupe and her son Daniel produce olive oil, pesto sauce, marmalade and homemade bread, in addition to dessert and blended wines. Those include a Grenache-Sauvignon Blanc blend, honey wine, a wine made from raisined grapes, and ruby Cabernet and Nebbiolo-Cabernet blends. In the tasting room, be sure to sample the grape preserves with locally crafted cheese on homemade bread. So good.

8) Bibayoff is owned and operated by descendants of Russian families who emigrated here in the early 1900s. There’s still a Russian presence, including a Russian museum at the winery. Bibayoff developed an outstanding Chenin Blanc-Colombard-Muscat blend that won a number of prizes.

9) Adobe Guadalupe, a classic hacienda-style building, houses both the winery and a B&B, surrounded by 60 acres of thriving vineyards. They feature unusual mixtures of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Viognier, Grenache and Syrah.

Taking in the Baja sunset.

More Baja options

Ensenada is a 45-minute drive from La Mision, and Puerto Nuevo is 10 minutes north. The Popotla fishing village is just a little bit further, and lobster meals are cheaper there. Ed Bedford, take note!

Map

K-58 exit, Baja Highway 1

K-58 exit, Baja Highway 1
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Under-two-hour-drive views from La Misión (top) and L.A. Cetto (bottom) (photo: L.A. Cetto).
Under-two-hour-drive views from La Misión (top) and L.A. Cetto (bottom) (photo: L.A. Cetto).
Balcony view in La Misión.

Like many other folks, my wife and I like tasty wines and panoramic ocean views, especially if they’re less than an hour away.

Video:

La Misión beach

So we often head out to La Misión, a tiny Baja village at KM 59 between Rosarito and Ensenada.

Beach R&R in La Misión

At the bottom of a cliff the village sits on, there's a broad, sandy beach worth exploring. Surf's up, and the waves are loud – the thunderous crashing stands out even up on the rooftop patio, with its view of Playas La Misión to Calafia, because it’s so peaceful here otherwise.

We stay in a beautiful Airbnb apartment overlooking a stretch of beach at the bottom of a winding stairway. Nearby Poco Cielo also offers rooms at reasonable prices; pets welcome.

Poco Cielo's patio.

Mornings and evenings in La Misión are spent walking, swimming and horseback riding on the beach, and dining with the Pacific as our backdrop.

Where to eat

There are lots of good restaurant options in and around the La Misión area, including Sheryl’s Poco Cielo (left), serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reasonably priced good food – try the clam chowder.

Bar at the Lighthouse.

At Dmytri's La Fonda, brunch Bloody Marys are free and the Mexican buffet goes on forever. Magaña’s Restaurant, K-64, where the locals eat, offers a great menudo and extensive breakfast/lunch/dinner menu. And Lighthouse Sports Bar and Restaurant, just off the highway at K-59, has floor-to-ceiling ocean views and music on weekends.

Guadalupe wineries

During our Baja getaway, we also explored wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, 45 minutes away. Valle wineries are dramatically improving in their wine taste, variety and quality.

In no particular order, here are my picks of the many we tried:

1) Chateau Camo, a French-inspired winery on a mountainous estate. Choose from award-winning varietals like Blanc de Blancs, Bordeaux-blended Clarete, Zinfandel, golden Chardonnay, Gran Vino Tinto, Gran Vino Blanco, and the scandalously good dessert wine El Gran Divino. (A tour includes tasting, barrel sampling and delicious lunch: carne asada, ostrich, quail or paella.)

2) Hacienda La Lomita welcomes wine tasters with a waterfall, traditional hacienda-style façade and great views. Contemporary vinification methods create bold wines, including a seductive Grenache, sparkling Chardonnay with notes of honey, syrup and wheat, and an acidic, blue-violet Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend.

3) Casa de Piedra, a modern winery housed in a stone farmhouse covered in bougainvillea and flanked by fields of grapes. Their velvety red Vino de Piedra is a Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon blend aged in oak, while Piedra del Sol reveals the character of the Chardonnay grape sans adulteration or layering.

4) Domecq has flourished as the first commercial winery established in the valle (in 1972). It's got beautifully maintained rows of vines and an elegant, white-walled mission-style warehouse.

Interior of mission-style Hacienda Guadalupe. (photo: Hacienda Guadalupe)

5) Hacienda Guadalupe, a retreat just off the Tecate-Ensenada highway, produces a Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a 100% Merlot and a Nebbiolo. Additionally, they’ve got over 70 wines from local wineries in their wine cellar, which can be purchased as part of a tasting or paired with gourmet meals prepared by the restaurant. Enjoy panoramas of the countryside on their terrace.

6) L.A. Cetto, Mexico's largest wine producer, has won awards for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, Vinifera and Zinfandel. They offer an in-depth tour, and the tasting room is spacious and elegant, with a long bar under a beautiful wood-beam roof. More postcard-worthy views from their popular picnic area (top), overlooking the vineyards and valley below.

7) Doña Lupe and her son Daniel produce olive oil, pesto sauce, marmalade and homemade bread, in addition to dessert and blended wines. Those include a Grenache-Sauvignon Blanc blend, honey wine, a wine made from raisined grapes, and ruby Cabernet and Nebbiolo-Cabernet blends. In the tasting room, be sure to sample the grape preserves with locally crafted cheese on homemade bread. So good.

8) Bibayoff is owned and operated by descendants of Russian families who emigrated here in the early 1900s. There’s still a Russian presence, including a Russian museum at the winery. Bibayoff developed an outstanding Chenin Blanc-Colombard-Muscat blend that won a number of prizes.

9) Adobe Guadalupe, a classic hacienda-style building, houses both the winery and a B&B, surrounded by 60 acres of thriving vineyards. They feature unusual mixtures of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Viognier, Grenache and Syrah.

Taking in the Baja sunset.

More Baja options

Ensenada is a 45-minute drive from La Mision, and Puerto Nuevo is 10 minutes north. The Popotla fishing village is just a little bit further, and lobster meals are cheaper there. Ed Bedford, take note!

Map

K-58 exit, Baja Highway 1

K-58 exit, Baja Highway 1
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