We’re back with our last episode of San Diego, California. Lack of WiFi and data service kept us offline for several weeks. Then my laptop needed an update to connect via WiFi. Now that we’re home, we can continue with our regular blog schedule. In this episode, we visit Valle de Guadalupe, B.C. Mexico and look at the construction taking place at the old Jack Murphy Stadium.
A Wine Tasting Tour in Baja? What about COVID? We heard Mexico’s protocols were more stringent than those in the United States. They continued with social distancing and wearing of masks, whether vaccinated or not, except for drinking and eating, making us feel comfortable and safe.
On Saturday, June 12, 2021, Kevin, Bailey, Jon and I crossed the border at Tijuana as foreign pedestrians. After crossing to the Mexico side, we met Jaime, our tour guide for the day. Bailey served as our interpreter since the rest of us Gringos only spoke English.
It was a scenic one and a half hour drive. As we passed Rosarito Beach Hotel, Jon and I laughed as we remembered the hotel when we visited in 1975 or 76. Our accommodations were not in the multi-story building we had just driven past. Instead, the “hotel” was composed of a few rows of single-story manufactured buildings with maybe four or six rooms per unit. I’m sure the bed was lumpy, the linen suspect, and unless my memory is faulty, a shared bathroom was involved. My, how things have changed over the past 47 years.
The landscape had also changed with the added freeway and toll roads and the amount of growth south of Tijuana and into Ensenada. Nothing was like we remembered.
When we turned off and headed east into Valle de Guadalupe, it was as if we were driving into Sonoma or Napa, California. Vineyards blanketed the bowl-like valley below brownish hills. One notable difference was the sparseness of paved roads. Although the main roads were paved, dirt roads usually led the way to the wineries.
Our first stop was at Sol Y Barro, which translates to sun and mud. It’s the sun and mud, or soil, that makes the wine, or so our server told us. We liked the winery for its comfortable rustic atmosphere amid the vineyard. Nothing fancy there, just good tasting wine and friendly service.
The second stop was supposed to include lunch. When our guide pulled into the parking lot and saw five tour buses sitting there waiting for their passengers, he chose a different winery instead. That was fine with us. We weren’t ready to get up close and personal with a bunch of people we didn’t know, even if our stomachs were growling.
Our guide had arranged a tour at Baron Balch’e followed by a tasting. The winery tour guide told us about the wine-making process while escorting us through the steel vats, barrel room, and bottle room. It shocked me to learn they use egg whites (1 to 2.5 egg whites to 60 gallons of wine) during the process. The egg whites contain albumen which reduces harsh astringent tannins. I had never heard of that before.
Our final stop was at El Cielo Winery. Food at last. Was it our hunger, or was the Baja-Yucatan fusion cuisine really that delicious? I’ll give all the props to the chef at Latitude 32 for his inspired dishes. With our bellies full, we proceeded to another round of fine wine tasting and entertainment by the resident peacock that wandered through the tables and delighted the guests.
We let Jaime do the driving back to the border. We were all tired, a bit tipsy, and wanted to get home. But first we had to navigate a line to meet with the border agent and reenter the United States. Our day trip to Valle Guadalupe was a great adventure even if we were all wiped out from the wine, food, and long drive back. Next time, it would be fun to stay overnight.
Before I wrap up the San Diego series of our Summer 2021 Tour, I want to take one last look at San Diego Stadium (also known as Jack Murphy Stadium (1981-1996), Qualcomm (1997-2017), and SDCCU (2018-2020). The stadium sat for decades at the foot of Mission Village Dr. on Friars Road where the Chargers played their first game on August 20, 1967.
Instead of a concrete structure, we saw piles of dirt, work trucks, and equipment preparing the acreage for its new life.
Although the stadium is gone, college football, other sports, and events will continue at the site when San Diego State University completes the new stadium. Besides a new stadium, the $3.5 billion project will include housing, office and retail, hotels, 80 acres of parks and open space, and a 34-acre river park on city property. These amenities are expected to roll out over the next 8-10 years.
It was sad to look at the rubble that was once the stadium and parking lot. However, after learning about all that will replace the aging Jack Murphy Stadium, I can see the benefit of letting go of the past and looking toward the future.
I finished taking photos of the construction site, and then we went to The Original Pancake House for breakfast. We arrived early enough so that we only had about a 10-minute wait for a table. My mouth waters just thinking about the apple waffle with apple syrup I had and Jon’s pecan pancakes and side of sausage looked pretty good too.
Next up: All appeared clear for travel in New Mexico, so we pointed the truck east toward Ruidoso.