Category Archives: Wine & Food

Fun Photo Friday — Baja Test Kitchen Tour Favorites


Wine bottle still life

Below is today’s photo gallery and slide show of Baja Test Kitchen tour favorites of the Ensenada wine country:

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Filed under Fun Photo Friday, Photography, R. Doug Wicker, travel, vacation, Wine & Food

Baja Test Kitchen Tour — Las Nubes & Vena Cava


Valle de Guadalupe

Today we take one last look at Las Nubes winery, and then head off to our next rather unique destination — a winery built beneath the overturned hulls of large boats!  After that, on our return to the ship, we were met by some very tame sea lions.  That should keep you reading to the very end.

Las Nubes window

On Monday I promised some exterior photos of the Las Nubes winery, including the Tuscan architecture.  Here you can see that, and the charming outdoor tasting patio:

Las Nubes’ Tuscan architecture

Las Nubes tasting patio

Las Nubes tasting patio

Las Nubes overlooking Valle de Guadalupe

Beyond the tasting patio are some great views of the surrounding hills and the valley below.  Fortunately, the rain had tapered off by the end of our tasting, and blue was beginning to peek out from behind the clouds:

Orange orchard

Hills above Las Nubes

Valle de Guadalupe

The highlight of the tour was lunch at our next destination, Vena Cava.  Unfortunately, the clouds returned, the sky closed up, and the rains started to fall.  The dirt road leading to Vena Cava flooded, and we had a short adventure when the engine on our tour minibus stalled in rapidly flowing water.  Fortunately, our Baja Test Kitchen guide Chris Meija managed to restart the engine, but not before some pretty tense moments and several failures.  Each time the engine restarted and Chris took his foot off the accelerator to shift into drive, the backpressure in the tailpipe stalled the engine again.  Chris managed to overcome that by keeping one foot on the gas and the other on the brake as he engaged the transmission, and off we went

Alas, the return of the rain precluded once again any outside photography.  The photo above, as well as the next one, are contained in an NPR article entitled The Hippest Winery in Mexico is Made of Recycled Boats:

Overturned boat hulls make for an interesting interior.  Here our group enters into Vena Cava’s central wine tasting room:

Vena Cava — Inside an overturned boat hull

The wines here at Vena Cava were as impressive as the unique choice in building material.

Vena Cava wines

Wines here were very traditional in the European sense, heavy on the Bordeaux grapes along with very drinkable Tempranillos.  I rate Vena Cava and Château Camou as the two wine tasting hits of the tour.  Las Nubes wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, and the views were spectacular.  However, for sheer fun, it’s hard to beat being inside a winery made from old boat hulls.

Vena Cava

It was here that we enjoyed our promised gourmet lunch, and it certainly lived up to its “gourmet” billing.  All of the food presented was local, and much of it was traditional Mexican fare with some rather interesting touches.  It’s been a while, so I don’t remember what was served and the lighting was less than ideal for photography.  I do recall one of our group was pleased that our lunch satisfied his taco craving on the final course.  You can enjoy the sights of past tour lunches at this site:  Tasting Tour Gallery

Vena Cava tasting room

I would like to thank Joyce Verette for putting together this tour for our group.  I would also like to thank Chris Meija for safely herding us around during inclement weather and over poor roads, all the while entertaining us with wine facts, stories of the local area, and interesting tales on the way back to the ship.  I highly recommend him and his Baja Test Kitchen, and Ursula and I look forward to joining him in the future for some of the other tours he offers.

Wait . . . .  I promised some sea lions.  Upon our return to ship we were greeted by these gentle giants, who took absolutely no notice of our close presence to them except to pose:

Sea Lions taking a snooze

Sea Lion

On Fun Photo Friday I’ll present my favorite photos from this tour.

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Baja Test Kitchen Tour — Cavas Camou & Las Nubes


Las Nubes Winery and Vineyard

January of this year found Ursula and me taking a cruise we’ve done several times before, a short three- to four-day excursion from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and Ensenada, Mexico.  This was actually the second of back-to-back cruises aboard the same ship, and it followed a ten-day cruise we’ve now done three times into the Sea of Cortez.  On this trip we did something a bit different, however, thanks to Joyce Verette.

Joyce and Rod Verette

Joyce is a fellow member of Cruise Critic, and she put together a wonderful day tour of the Ensenada wine country, which is actually in the nearby Valle de Guadalupe.  The tour company was Baja Test Kitchens, and the co-owner (along with wife Jen) and operator is Chris Meija, who personally gave us the tour.  This tour was an all-day affair, taking us to three wineries with a gourmet lunch at the third before returning us to the ship.

Chris Meija — Co-owner and operator of Baja Test Kitchens

The first winery on this somewhat gray and drizzly day was Château Camou.  Fortunately, wine tasting is mostly an indoor sport.  Unfortunately, gray skies rain and landscape photography do not mix very well.  But wine is why we came, and we certainly were not disappointed in Chris’ selection of vintners.

Château Camou

Château Camou has a rich history.  It was started by a gentleman who learned his craft in France’s Bordeaux region, and who would later revolutionize the design of wineries, Dr. Victor Torres-Alegre.  Needless to say, Camou’s Bordeaux-style reds were quite good, and the whites also did not disappoint.

Château Camou tasting room

Château Camou tasting room

Château Camou

Our tour began and ended in the tasting room, where we were given many samples to try.  In between we toured the wine making operation and the bottle storage facility:

Château Camou fermentation tanks

Château Camou

Not really relevant to the tasting, but a nice touch, were the bottle- and cork-centric decorations in the tasting room:

Château Camou tasting room

Château Camou tasting room

Only a short drive, less than ten minutes, separated our hearty crew from Château Camou and the next winery on the tour, but it was an interesting drive.  The road was rain saturated, slick, and extremely bumpy, but the drive through the vineyards and then up a hill to a Bodega with spectacular views was well worth it ride.

Tour group at Las Nubes

This facility was much more modern looking than either the preceding Château Camou or the winery that was to follow, but more on that later.  This was Las Nubles Winery and Vineyard, and the buildings definitely had a Tuscan flair.  You’ll get to see the exteriors on Wednesday’s article.  For now let’s talk about the wine tasting.

Las Nubes Bodegas (winery) y Viñedos (vineyard)

Whereas Château Camou favors the Bordeaux style, Las Nubes relies heavily on grapes more often associated with Spain (Tempranillo and Carignan), northern Italy (Nebbiolo), and the southern Rhone (Grenache/Garnacha) in blends with other Bordeaux grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  I’m rather a sucker for a really good GSM, but this stop was not it.  The wines were interesting, but the consensus was that Las Nubes’ offerings were not the best of the tour.  Nevertheless, they weren’t bad and the scenery more than made up for any shortcomings.

Chris Meija talking to our tour group in the Las Nubes tasting room

The tasting room has glass views on two sides with great views of the surrounding hills, the vineyards below, and even an orange orchard.  The room itself has a wood-slated high ceiling.  In addition to wines, the tasting also included cheese and other nibbles.  Nice touch.

Las Nubes

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