Sunday Driving: Santo Tomas Winery

Sunday is the day we reserve for exploring. Sometimes, it's on foot or on bikes. Other times, it's a long drive, seeing what we can see. This past Sunday, we actually pulled out a map and decided on a place we'd been wanting to go check out: Santo Tomas.

Bodegas Santo Tomas #ensenada #mexico #wine

When we first moved to Ensenada, we thought all the wineries were in the valley northeast of the marina. In doing a little research, I found out that the Ensenada wine region is actually made up of three wine regions: Valle de Guadalupe, the most well-known and closest to town, as well as Santo Tomas and San Vicente, both south of Ensenada on the Transpeninsular Highway, or Hwy 1. While I'd love to go to the Valle de Guadalup EVERY Sunday, I wanted to explore. I also wanted to see the winery that started it all in the Californias. 

A Little History

In 1697, Jesuit priests were given consent by the Spanish crown to enter into the barren, unattractive peninsula at their own risk and expense. The Spanish needed a post on the peninsula to protect trade, but had until then been unsuccessful. The Jesuits did what they could not and were left alone. And, being quite enterprising and not afraid of work, they eventually were able to support their existence in the foreign land. Unfortunately, after nearly 70 years of faithfully working the unforgiving land, they were rounded up and expelled from the country. It seems that they had a some opportunists and royalty against them.

The Franciscans and Dominicans took over the enterprises after the Jesuits left, but with the new Constitution and Reformation Laws, all lands once held by the Catholic Church were expropriated by the Mexican government. Santo Tomas was handed over to Don Loreto Amador.

In 1888, a former gold miner and his friend purchased the winery from Loreto Amador and officially established Bodegas de Santo Tomas. In the 1920's, the Bodegas was purchased by former President of the Republic of Mexico, Don Abelardo L. Rodriguez, under whose hand the winery went through major expansion, including moving the bottling to its current location, Miramar 666 in the heart of Ensenada.

Fast Forward to Our Afternoon at Santo Tomas in 2013

We drove past the winery the first time. I told Mr. Jones, "Hey, that sign said Santo Tomas!" He looked around while continuing to drive and said something to the effect of that couldn't be it, too small, let's keep driving. About a half an hour later and a few miles of off-roading where the highway was under construction, we reached San Vicente, which is south of Santo Tomas. We turned back, drive through the dirt road detours and finally ended up back at Santo Tomas. I tell you this for two reasons:

  1. No matter how much it annoys my husband, I will continue my horrible habit of being a backseat driver because things like THIS happen, and
  2. If you blink, you'll drive right through the town. 

The campesino at the gate scribbled our names in his log clipped to his board and then manually lifted the gate to let us in. Along the drive up to the tasting room were signs that invited us to mingle our senses... taste the air... breathe the sun. Essentially, live life fully. After easily finding a spot in the unmarked lot (there were only two other cars there), we walked past a wine cave, a fountain that wasn't fountaining, and some picnic tables where a group of people were enjoying a bottle. As we entered, we saw two couples at a table near the windows enjoying some wine and cheese and, across the room, a young lady at the counter wearing a panda beanie with tassels and pom poms. It was an elegantly decorated room that clearly didn't take itself too seriously.

Perfect for The Joneses.

Sipping and Noshing

Tasting Room at Bodegas Santo Tomas #ensenada #mexico #wine

We picked out a meat assortment and some cheeses from the deli case next to the main counter and asked for a wine recommendation. The young lady with the panda beanie said that for our meats and cheeses, she thought the Tempranillo would be best. While we were making our purchase, another employee appeared out of thin air, and just as quickly, disappeared with our food. We went to our table with our glasses and bottle, and within a few minutes, the disappearing employee reappeared with our cheese, meats, and crackers beautifully placed on boards.

We sipped and noshed and laughed and talked, all the while, watching a stream of small groups and couples come and go. It's definitely not as busy as the location on Miramar, it does seem to enjoy its share of foot traffic.

We finished our afternoon snack just in time to walk about the vineyards and take some pictures before the sun set. Waving goodbye to the campesino as we drove out the gate, we promised each other to come back and try another bottle on another Sunday very soon.

 

Sunday Driving: Found Farm Fresh Eggs AND Free WiFi at La Flor de la Calabaza in Ensenada!

It's not easy going back to store bought eggs after a year of farm fresh eggs from your own backyard chickens. It took me about a month after moving to Ensenada to finally break down and buy a carton at the store.

The first egg I cracked made me sad. Unlike the robust orange-yellow I was used to, the color of the store-bought yolk was pale. The taste was just as bland. I have to admit, I had to choke back a few tears. I missed our chickens and I missed their eggs. I knew that the feed I gave the girls had a lot to do with the eggs, as well as letting them roam around the yard, playing in the sun. They were happy little birds. We were also eating eggs that had been laid that week, so the freshness contributed to the taste, too.

And those fresh eggs were so delicious!!!

Last Sunday, Mr. Jones and I went out exploring another part of Ensenada, just north of the ships and south of the toll road entrance. We drove over to a surf spot I've been wanting to check out and walked around a bit. We were too late for breakfast at the little kitchen nearby, so we drove over to a nearby hotel and marina to walk around and maybe get some lunch. The staff was late setting up because of a concert the night before that had them all working until 4 that morning. We were as patient as we could be as they set up, but after about an hour of sipping our beer, they still weren't set up, and I was done being patient. We decided to drive up the road to see what we could see.

La Flor de la Calabaza

La Flor de la Calabaza

It was the beautiful flower on the sign of La Flor de la Calabaza that caught my eye. I thought it might be a gardening store, but then I saw "Mercado/Cafe" and thought we might find a bite, but it was too late to pull in, so we had to turn around and go back. Right at the entrance of Las Playas resort was a tiny metal shack of a market that was too inviting to pass up.

Inside, we found local and specialty food items, like honey, jams, olive oils, lavendar, vegetables. We walked over to the xounter to see what we might order for lunch. They were out of a few of the items we wanted, but before I got completely frustrated, I said "What DO you have that we can order?" She smiled as kindly as she could at my hungry, impatient face and sweetly told us our choices. We decided on a sandwich that we both liked and asked if they could split it and add a salad. They were more than happy to do so.

While we waited, I walked around and explored the other side of the market. That's when I found the eggs. I asked the girl at the counter if they were fresh, and she said that they had just been delivered the day before from a local farm.

Happy Sugar!!!

 

La Flor de la Calabaza Mercado in Ensenada

Lunch took a little while, but like they said on their menu, everything is made fresh upon ordering and they appreciate our patience. It was completely worth the wait. Inside the panini was a thick piece of cured ham, thin slices of salmon touched with smoke, and a fried egg, seasoned to perfection. It was served with natural chips and a fresh salad, drizzled with a light dressing that was tangy and sweet. Mr. Jones and I both agreed, it was one of the best things we'd tasted since moving here.

Did I mention the free wi-fi?

My sweet heaven... my patience had been rewarded ten fold.