<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> RVers Guide to Mexican Wine Country
NOTE: While this is designated as an ARCHIVE FILE, it is retained despite the date of first publication because it offers information of continuing current interest and/or for its historical perspective. Please be guided accordingly.




By: David Eidell

Touring Mexico's wine country is quite enjoyable and very easy to do. If you find yourself in the San Diego area and have nothing to do for a day or so, consider touring the verdant Guadalupe Valley which lies approximately forty road miles south of the border at Tecate (which is thirty-eight miles east of San Diego). Three major wineries (Pedro Domenq, LA Cetto, and Monte Xanic) are separated by a scant seven miles so touring all three is a simple matter for a day's itinerary.


From San Diego, take Interstate 8 (I-8) East to El Cajon. Exit at Second Street, and turn right at the signal at the bottom of the ramp. This is Jamacha Road. Follow Jamacha for about eight miles until you arrive at Rancho San Diego. Turn left onto CA 94 (Highway 94), which will be the second twin left turn lanes that you'll encounter on Jamacha Road. A sign marks the intersection (Tecate, Campo).

Follow highway 94 as it winds it's way up into the hills (Note: This is a very scenic drive especially in deep summer). Twenty two miles up CA 94 turn right at the marked intersection to Tecate. This highway is numbered CA 188. A scant two miles later you will encounter the border. On the left just before the border is a gas station that sells Mexican Automobile Insurance. Your US policy does not cover Public Liability and Property Damage in Mexico. Crossing into Mexico is about as hard as crossing a state line in the USA. For driving tips refer to the mini series "Rv'ing Mexico". After you enter Mexico, you will need to dogleg left at the first traffic light. So make a left and then a right at the next block. You will be on the main road to the wine country and Ensenada (Hwy 3). Watch for stop lights and stop signs as you progress through the urban sprawl. When you encounter the traffic circle, all oncoming traffic turning in front of you has the right-of-way (important so please don't forget this rule). After you dodge a couple of cars keep going straight. The road will wind up a hill and soon the urban congestion will ease. Soon you will be in the midst of boulder studded grassland and chaparral. Keep your eyes open for slow trucks ahead and fast buses behind. After winding your way up and down a series of grades (about thirty-five miles worth) grape vineyards will appear on both sides of the road. The LA Cetto winery is on the left about two miles down a well-graded road (there's a highway sign). The Pedro Domenq winery is on the right, near the highway in an imposing concrete structure.


The LA Cetto and Pedro Domenq wines have been improving over the years and today they are a fine value for the money (Pesos and Dollars accepted for purchases but only one liter per person allowed back into the USA). Try the varietals especially the Petit Sirah which I consider to be superb. LA Cetto has a modern tasting room which rivals anything in the Napa Valley.


Continue past the Pedro Domenq and LA Cetto wineries until you approach a very tiny village (Guadalupe). The road will "Y", the main road curves off to the left, the road you want continues straight. There is a new Pemex gasoline station just ahead on the right. There will be occasional speed bumps so take it easy. Keep driving, the pavement is going to end, and the graded surface is rather bumpy. The road takes a gentle curve to the right. The tiny museums you'll see chronicle Guadalupe's early days with Russian Molokan settlers. A vineyard appears on the right. Crane your neck to the right. The big building setting up on that low bluff is Monte Xanic. You will encounter a wrought-iron gate. Swing wide, and honk. A guard will open the gate for you and ask you to sign in. Drive onto the grounds and note the surface of the driveway has been paved with dregs from the pressings. The driveway is signed up to the parking area which is rather hap-hazard.


Take a deep breath. You are about to enter a totally undiscovered winery. Cast away thoughts of those samples of LA Cetto, and Pedro Domenq wines.They were merely a sample to whet your whistle. If this sounds somewhat confusing, then try this on for size: Forget about most of those so-called premium wines from the Napa Valley. Now switch gears, and think really high, such as the lofty perch of Stag's Leap, Heitz Cellars, and Freemark Abbey. Concentrate and think expansive thoughts. Ready? Get ready to sample some of the finest red wines anywhere!

Monte Xanic (sha-NEEK), bottles both whites and reds. The whites are ordinary (excellent but ordinary). The reds are tremendous, lusty and ripe. Complex symphonies of taste and aroma that will leave you astonished and shaking your head. Monte Xanic does not retail their wines. They are sold inside Mexico and only to restaurateurs at the finest luxury hotels like the Camino Real, Acapulco Princess, and Krystal (where suites run to two thousand dollars US). My opinion of Monte Xanic Merlot is that it is the best in the world, bar none. The Cabernet Sauvignon is (at least) on a par with the best of the ultra snobbish Napa Valley vintages, and the blended red which compares to French Bordeaux, makes you stop and compare four, five or more sips needed, to a good Chateau Mouton or Haut Brion. And the really neat part about it is, no one knows about this winery or it's wines. Absolutely undiscovered, and rarely visited by Americans. The wine maker claimed to have perhaps a half-dozen Americans all year!


On the way to Pedro Domenq, LA Cetto and Monte Xanic, you passed by a well-run RV park (Rancho Sordo Mudo). Retrace your steps just a little past LA Cetto. There will be a billboard type sign on the right for Rancho Sordo Mudo. Turn right and pick out a spot. The park is verdant and green. The restrooms are clean with hot water and showers. This rural park is administered by the Rancho Sordo Mudo (Deaf Mute Ranch) across the highway. Someone will be around to collect a donation in the morning--this is a charitable organization to assist the disabled, please reach deep into your billfold.


Continue south to Ensenada, or return back to Tecate? The choice is yours. Really smart RVers would have brought steaks to barbecue to go along with that "extra" bottle of Monte Xanic. One liter per person is the allowable limit to bring back into the states. Perhaps a bottle of Merlot to go along with some Chateaubriand grilled over shimmering mesquite coals? This is a fine adventure and fine booty to stock your wine cellar. If you have pretentious friends who claim to be wine snobs, imagine the look on their faces when you announce an occasion special enough to enjoy a bottle of "Mexican Red". I wish I could be there with you to enjoy the spectacle.