To ring in the New Year we took a three hour drive across the border to Ensenada, a coastal city in Mexico. We stayed at Coral Marina Hotel and celebrated the New Year with a beautiful sit down dinner and a live band. We also spent a day wine tasting in Valle de Guadalupe— Mexican wine country. As well as visiting some of the most celebrated eateries in Ensenada. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite moments from our trip. Here is more on ringing in the New Year in Mexico.
This was my third time crossing the border from San Diego, California to Ensenada, Mexico. Mauricio and his family grew up crossing the border all the time, and he spent his youth partying it up in Tijuana. When we were trying to convince some of our friends to ring in the New Year with us, most were reluctant. Tijuana has a pretty bad reputation. Crime and violence have always been high. And the experience of crossing the big bad wall to Mexico can feel scary and daunting, if you’ve never done it.
The border does feel intimidating, and the wall sketchy and sad. But once you end up on the other side, the scenic coastal route to Ensenada is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever experienced. As we zipped through a mountainous paved road overlooking the Pacific, you can’t help but feel so incredibly lucky to be so close to the ocean and all of its glory. The drive is just spectacular.
Ensenada was a secret destination for a long time, especially for San Diego residents. One hour and you can be across the border, enjoying fresh seafood, and cocktailing and partying for much cheaper than in US. But now Mexican wine country is gaining notoriety, there is even an article in Vogue, and a feature in The New York Times. Not to mention, yours truly wrote a little something for our local Newport Beach Magazine.
This was my second time visiting wineries in Valle de Gaudalupe and it’s a beautiful experience, if you set yourself up for success. First, most wineries require a reservation and second they are hard to find. Outside of main roads, wineries are hidden and it gets a little tricky without road signs or paved roads. But, if you know the name of the winery GPS will help you find it. So make sure you have an international plan or a working GPS.
This to me also makes it a bit more fun. Finding the wineries is like uncovering a little secret. It’s dirt road, chickens walking around and then boom. A magnificent structure with water fountains, and breath-taking views of the land.
This time around we visited Santos Tomas, and their Tempranillo was my favorite. I wrote about how I didn’t realize that wine tasting was such a family friendly environment, until we went to Napa. And sure enough, there was tons of other folks there with their kids. Baby FLO had lots of fun running around, and I was grateful for lots of extra eyes to keep an eye on him.
A few years ago we also visited Adobe Guadalupe. It’s a gorgeous winery with an inn. I can’t recommend this one enough. Their wines are kept in steel, and I always seem to like that much more than oak barrels. There are over 100 wineries in the Valle, and the first folks to start growing wine in the region were Russians escaping religious persecution. So I definitely feel a kinship with this area, even though most of the Russians are gone, with the exception of one winery. Next visit Bibayoff is definitely on my list, they even have a little Russian museum.
One of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had was eating seafood in the middle of the street from a food cart surrounded by men and women shucking oysters and mixing shrimp cocktails right in the middle of the street for you. I would have never tried it, but you can’t resist a line of people waiting to place an order. Once I ate their creations though, I couldn’t believe the freshness of the seafood. This is the one we tried, and it’s also the same one Anthony Bourdain raved about on his show.
Another gem is we found was Finca Altozano. The food is prepared by a local chef who has a handful of award winning restaurants in San Diego, so obviously everything is delicious.But, what truly won me over was the space. Outdoor dining, in the middle of seemingly nowhere, save for the farm animals and garden from the restaurant. Baby FLO walked around checking out the pigs, chickens and also the vines. It was such a fun dining experience. Also their sangria was pretty magical.
Each time we came to celebrate the New Year we have stayed at the Hotel Coral & Marina. It’s a hard package to turn down. The hotel decorates a ballroom with a different theme each year, serves a 4-course dinner and also has a show and a live band to ring in the New Year. The next morning there is a buffet breakfast that feels like you’re at the Ritz and there is a little playground by the Marina and a beautiful pool.
Hope this little write up about our trip and stay makes you consider Mexican Wine Country for your next vacay. It’s truly a wonderful trip. Any trip is wonderful really, just getting out there and exploring and collecting new experiences, right?
If you have any questions about anything, I’m super happy to answer anything. Email, call, text, leave a comment. I promise to answer!