North of Ensenada on the toll road, Mexico's two lane Highway 3 winds northeast through the Valle de Guadalupe and Baja's famous winery regions, through chaparral & boulder-covered hills, eventually ending up in the peaceful border town of Tecate.
It is a pleasant, quiet drive with many opportunities to stop and enjoy a bit of backcountry Mexico.
First stop - San Antonio de la Minas
This pueblo is the beginning of Baja California's wine country.
There are two good restaurants here:
La Mesion - located in a low-slung brick building on the right side of the road... this is a popular breakfast place and for good reason - outstanding selection, prices and service. A table is reserved in the back for truck drivers..and
you know they say that truckers know the best eats on the highway. This place is also a bakery.
Restaurante Mustafa - the last building before you head out of San Antonio de la Minas - on left hand side of road - you can't miss it. Moroccan specialties and good seafood. Octopus
salad, as it comes dressed up nicely on a bed of red cabbage, is highly recommended.
Bodegas San Antonio is also found here and tours are available. Please call the number listed in the wineries section of this guide.
One other point of interest just northeast of San Antonio on the Highway is Punta Morro Organic Herb Farm with over 175 different kinds of culinary and
medicinal herbs. Tours not only net a wealth of information
but a page full of fresh cut herbs and a tour of their wreath making factory.
Hours 8-3:30 Monday-Friday/8-noon Saturday. US phone number to set up guided tours and get directions - (619) 794-0570.
Towards Guadalupe Valley
Though there are probably at least eight wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, the top three with tours are:
Monte Xanic is located west of the Valle proper - at intersection turn west towards Pueblo Francisco Zarco. Hours are unknown right now and a phone number is unavailable.
On the way there is a little museum which traces the history of the Russian settlement of Valle de Guadalupe. Known as Colonia Ruso a small cemetery, church and some Russian-style homes still exist from the migration of Russian Molokan religious order which was granted land in 1905. At one point about 500 Russian immigrants lived here.
L.A.Cetto can be found on the highway about a mile from the main intersection in town. You will come to a straight stretch in the road - on the right is this winery. They have tours Monday through Saturday. Best to get there around noon to make sure you don't miss the tour or at least the sampling of their stock. Pretty ride through the vineyard to get to the bodega.
Domecq Vinicola is across the highway is this vintner. They too have tours Monday - Friday from 10:00AM - 4:00PM and Saturdays from 10:AM - 1:30PM. You'll find telephone number under Wineries.
Valle Guadalupe Highlights - at the intersection by the big bridge you will see a house with a cart out in front - This is Irma's place. Fabulous carnitas....quail in a light chili sauce or rabbit birria. She also sells processed/frozen quail raised on her ranch..and they are in the process of setting up the same system for the rabbit. Irma makes great Salsa de Chili de Arbol. (Look for the Carnitas sign painted on her house just as you cross
You'll notice Rancho Sordo Mudo as you approach L.A. Cetto & Domenqc wineries. It is a school for Deaf/Mute children founded by a Baptist missionary couple around thirty years ago. Their sons and wives work there also. (The sons spent much of their youth on the ranch) The children learn home sign and tasks that will enable them to earn an income in the outside world. They have Apple computers and are always looking for software - in Spanish.
Continuing down Hwy 3
Six miles before you get to Tecate (just past a scary right-hand
hairpin turn) there is the Rancho Tecate Resort - this resort was started by John Alessio (the one & only Mr. A of San Diego fame) - good food, nice atmosphere - and the BEST Sunday brunch - plus you might get to see Mr. A walking around the grounds.
Upon entering Tecate, visit the town's legendary Tecate Brewery. The brewery now has a beer garden and tours of the plant. To get there, make a left at the light just after the crossing the railroad tracks, it is two blocks down on the left.
Once in Tecate, head for the zocalo (main plaza) and relax under the shade trees in Baja's oldest border town. Across the street on the east side is La Placita, a small restaurant famous for their nopolito (cactus) tacos. You can also take in a baseball game if the home team is in town.
Lodging is limited to a couple of hotels and a few RV campgrounds. Supplies can be found through the town and you can take Hwy. 2 east to Mexicali or west to Tijuana. Hwy. 94, once you cross the border leads to San Diego (west) or the Imperial Valley & Arizona (east).