We had a full day to add more dust to our car as we continued to visit wineries to sip and swirl, and outdoor restaurants to pretend we were not widening our thighs. The food was so tasty, the atmosphere perfect, we were with great friends, there are times to just indulge and this was one of them. On our first day, we knew we would come back with our rollicking band of friends in tow.
We have determined our lives consist, in part, of a growing and exciting list of places to venture to while also being supremely content and busy in San Miguel. That was our plan, and we are sticking to it.
With an abundance of places to choose from, we only had time to visit the tip of the iceberg. Construction projects dot the Valle, and a budding reputation as a foodie destination, alongside the wine industry, means this probably won’t be stopping soon. And that plan of ours to return? Choices will become even more baffling.
Restaurants for breakfast are limited. We found out that several opened later than we wished. And many are only open on certain days of the week. During our first couple of days at Xaroma, we received mixed messages about the included breakfast. Originally we were told that coffee is available at 10 am, and breakfast at 11, and we wanted to be off much before that for merry exploration and sipping around the Valle. We missed breakfast there the first two days; going to Hacienda Guadalupe the first morning and Salvia Blanca the second after Kim and Phyllis had joined us. Then on our last day, we got the real info that coffee starts at 7 am and breakfast was early enough to make us happy. As a newish property, I guess they are still working things out, and staff takes a casual attitude.
Salvia Blanca is on a hill and is the restaurant part of Hotel Contemplacion. This combined hotel/restaurant property seems to be almost de rigueur. The Valle is strewn with them. We grabbed a table with a pleasant view on the lower level of the large and pleasurably rustic terrace. There are seating areas and vistas throughout the property, often housing fire pits and hammocks. And then there is a totally out-of-character “fantasy garden” with gnomes, and do-dads; it looks like a child opened its toy box and was allowed free reign. It was funny to walk through, but given the price of the bungalows and restaurants, I just felt at odds and had a big question mark hovering above my head.
Cavas Sol y Barro had to be one of my favorite wineries. First, I am a sucker for alternative building materials and the property boasted a red earth structure. Other earth structures were located around the property. Right away, I loved that whimsical building with its mural on the outside. What started as a retirement project for a man from Switzerland has turned into a lovely little wine spot. We had a delightful chat with the very knowledgeable Daniel in the tasting room, then headed outside for our tasting. An agreeable way to start the day.
Up the hill on the same road is the unique Hacienda and Cava Martlot set within the hillside of boulders. Welcoming us in the parking lot was a funky VW bug painted like Van Gogh’s Starry Night – Van Gogh painted on the driver’s side window. At the top of the driveway is a restaurant and deck area that are no less colorful. Mosaics are everywhere, there are colorful glass light shades, and the restaurant sports an enormous boulder in the middle of it. We hung out on the deck, snapping pictures, sharing a bottle of wine, and munching off a cheese platter.
Not only is Cava Martlot built within the boulders, but these huge rocks are located all over. If they were all in alignment, I would call them the Carnac stones of the Valle. But they aren’t and we haven’t yet been able to find out the reason the boulders are there. They make for a very cool landscape, though.
The next day, after breakfast at Xaroma, we drove to the other side of the river, crossing the bridge and passing through the very tiny town of Guadalupe. It was a mass of color as the main street, and its offshoots were the site of a flea market. I, of course, wanted to browse, as did Kim, but the others knocked those thoughts down in their desire to sample more of the fine bottles perched on tasting counters. It didn’t take more than a minute for us too, to focus our eyes away from the racks of clothes and onto the yellow brick road to the wineries ahead.
Next on our list was El Cielo. We had a hell of a time finding it. The signs suck. And then, when we did, we found we needed reservations. Damn. We learned our lesson and made a reservation for when we returned and dined at Latitude 32, their Baja – Yucatan – Fusion restaurant. For me, the property was just too big and kind of impersonal. But the food was nice, and we got to watch Instagram posers snap selfies in bought for the occasion outfits all evening. It was entertaining.
That morning, though, not to worry, Shedeh Vinicola was across the road. After passing by several times over the past 2 days, the big kraters that stood out front hinted that this winery would be worth our time, so in we went.
Rustically quaint. That was my impression. There were chandeliers made from pieces of wine barrels, wooden tables and chairs, an Egyptian mural in the tasting room, wooden slat “mosaics,” and a wonderfully knowledgeable and fun to talk to wine dude. There is a restaurant on the property that is supposed to have excellent food, but when we were there, it was closed and it looked like it could use a bit of work. Perhaps the ambiance is different when it is full of patrons, tiny lights are bright and the band is playing.
Back over on the other side of the river is a place we had seen buckets of accolades about. That place is Deckman’s en El Mogor. I will mention that this is a farm-to-table BBQ restaurant, but also that most of the places in the Valle have that distinction. A reservation is a must and those fill up quickly, we had made ours well in advance. When we arrived, we happily went through the requisite temperature, sanitizing gel routine. And then they showed us to our table right next to the vineyard and near the open-air kitchen/BBQ area, where a tantalizing aroma flitted over to our table. We loved the decor! All earthy and hay-baled. Right up my alley. And they placed the tables well apart from each other, so we all felt good about that.
There are a lot of mixed reviews on Trip Advisor. Most diners enjoyed themselves and the food. Others complained about inappropriate cutlery, a long wait for food, not being able to have a large group sit together (it’s COVID protocols folks, deal with it), that the restaurant was cold (it is open-air! And they were there in winter) that smoke hit their face (it is a BBQ). It was too expensive (our meal was satisfying and well worth the price). All things that, yes, could set someone off. But it did not do so for us. Not that in the four years we have lived in Mexico, we have lowered our standards. They are pretty fluid anyway, but we have slowed our lives down and places that have an environment that isn’t perfect draw us to them. We had that regulated and sterile, and rushed experience in the United States. I wasn’t a fan.
Our time at Deckman’s was delicious and relaxing. The food was excellent and perhaps we ordered too much, but everything on the menu beckoned. I don’t remember the names of what we ordered, but we would get them all again in a heartbeat. Beers, wine, good food, ambiance, and a vineyard view. Well, there you have it.
We planned our Deckman’s reservation strategically. Enough time after breakfast to make sure we were hungry again and before the 3 pm check-in at our next accommodation – The Airstreams!
How adorable!! The Arre Lulu Baja – through Airbnb, has two sister airstreams (Dos and Tres) in the same location. All three staggered up a hill and behind a locked gate. I was in heaven! I love alternative abodes. And have a particular fondness for remodeled travel trailers, vans, buses, etc. So when I saw these available for our dates, I pounced and talked Glenn into them. Phyllis and Kim were on board and they delighted the four of us with the comfort, boho atmosphere, stunning view, large decks complete with fire ring, and yummy coffee provided for the mornings. Sunrises and sunsets were complimentary. I am itching to return to them.
As you can tell from the three posts so far; there is at least one more, and we were only there six days, we fell in love with this area of Baja Mexico.
Next year, after we return to San Miguel in March from our three-month southern Mexico vacay, we plan on taking one week a month to go somewhere in Mexico. We need to calm our itchy feet from other vacation plans we could not fulfill because of COVID. Somehow, I don’t think hanging out for another year is going to be a hardship, and a return to Valle de Guadalupe is imminent.