The thriving, and ever-changing, region of Baja California is located only a short drive south of San Diego — making it an easy day trip destination or weekend getaway. The coast of Mexico on the drive to Ensenada is reminiscent of Big Sur, with crashing icy blue waves along a jagged coastline. We recently traveled south with Let's Go Clandestino, led by Angel Mirron, to explore Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe. Let's Go Clandestino provides curated tours through Mexico — taking guests to unique spots for drinks, eats, shopping and views (that only the locals and seasoned visitors know to seek).
While some may be reticent to make the trek, Angel handles all your travel needs — including transportation and border crossings. Our first stop was to El Mirador, which boasts one of the best views in Ensenada. Located at the 84 km marker on the toll road, El Mirador once featured a restaurant and a variety of tourist attractions. Today, the colorful and curvilinear walls echo the coast and provide a vibrant contrast to the rocky cliffs and sea below. It was the perfect stop, breaking up our hour and a half drive to Valle de Guadalupe — the famed wine country of Baja.
Located just northeast of Ensenada, Valle de Guadalupe is home to over 100 wineries (and counting). Our first stop was to La Cocina de Doña Esthela, to fill up on queso fresco, fresh tortillas, enchiladas and birria before spending the rest of the day wine tasting. Be sure to try their unique and distinctive coffee before hitting the road.
We began our day with Lechuza, a beautiful winery that seemed to have been airlifted from the hills of Tuscany. Established in 2005 by Ray and Patty Magnussen, Lechuza is now helmed by their daughter Kristin Shute and her family. Their wines tell unique stories, related to family, love and relationships — and each are hand labeled by Kristin herself. Another unique stop in Valle is Encuentro Guadalupe. This eco-hotel features individual lofts, perched along the rocky hills that line the valley. The central structure of the hotel includes a beautiful restaurant, bar and gallery complete with panoramic views of the surrounding environs. We stopped in for a drink before heading towards our final stop of the day — dinner at Deckman's en el Mogor.
Led by Chef Drew Deckman, the restaurant provides a truly wonderful experience that seeks to bring the 'table to the farm.' The restaurant is entirely open to the outdoors, with open windows and door frames. The straw covered floor harkens back to an earlier (and simpler time) while the views of the vineyard before you keep you entirely present. Each coursed meal is made to order, with fresh ingredients that are often grown on the surrounding farm — making them amenable to those with dietary restrictions or sensitivities. Be sure to take your time and enjoy the sunset across the valley.
There were many more wonderful stops along the way, each selected by Angel with our group in mind. Let's Go Clandestino allowed our large group to experience and access Baja with unparalleled ease — and showed us a side of Mexico I had heard about, yet never experienced. I'm so glad I did.