We visited the Domecq Winery and La Casa de Dona Lupe on our last day in Baja California. Then, we got up early the next morning to head for the border at Tecate with our entire RV caravan. We have included a video that shows exactly what you can expect at the Tecate border crossing. As you will see, it is like doing an obstacle course – easy enough if you are in a small vehicle, but challenging if you are towing a large rig.
As throughout the 30-day trip, we were organized and led by John and Becky Smith of Baja Winters, with tailgunners Jerry and Kathy bringing up the rear. You can find links to all our RV Baja posts and videos here.
Domecq Winery, Guadalupe Valley, Baja California
From our campsite at Sordo Mudo RV Park in the Guadalupe Valley, we took a short drive north on Mexico 3 to visit the Domecq Winery. There, we enjoyed one of the best wine tastings and winery tours we have ever experienced, anywhere.
This map shows where the Domecq Winery is. You can zoom in and out on this map, and switch it to satellite view.
We enjoyed tasting a total of five wines, two whites and three reds. All the wines were wonderful, but we were totally astonished by the Domecq XA white wine. It was flavorful and crisp with fruity undertones … a perfect afternoon or lunch wine. Best of all, it was the cheapest wine ($6 USD/bottle) we ever found in Mexico! We brought back several bottles, and thoroughly enjoyed them all.
The winery itself is very upmarket, with a large wine tasting lounge and patio featuring industrial materials repurposed for the décor. It struck me as very European. It also had the cleanest bathroom in Mexico, which our entire group marveled at.
The Tour at Domecq Winery
The tour guide at Domecq was excellent, and knowledgeable. Again, we thought that we could just as easily be in the Napa valley as in Mexico. First he conducted a wine tasting with us, and then he took us on an impressive tour of the wine museum “La Mezquita.” This is a gorgeous facility with whitewashed walls and Moorish archways cradling the maturing barrels and aging bottles of wine.
Thanks to our tour guide, we quickly learned that the distinctive European flair was not accidental. The origins of the winery lie in Spain in the 1700s. The winery is currently headed by Beltrn Domecq, a member of the founding family.
Domecq Winery is located in the Valle de Calafia, a micro valley inside the Guadalupe Valley, across the street from El Cetto Winery. El Cetto is the #1 winery in Mexico, while Domecq is #2. However, after visiting Domecq, we had all the wine we needed, and we were too tired to visit El Cetto. Also, we had already enjoyed many bottles of El Cetto wine in our 30-day trip through Baja California and Baja California Sur.
Overall, this was the most impressive wine tour and winery that we visited in Baja, and we would visit again, any time! We would even recommend a day trip from the USA to Domecq Winery – it’s that good, and the roads are good too. Be sure to phone in advance to book a tour!
We would recommend a day trip from the USA to Domecq Winery – it’s that good, and the roads are good too. Be sure to phone in advance to book a tour!
At the end of the tour, we had the opportunity to buy wine, and most of us did.
La Casa de Dona Lupe, Guadalupe Valley, Baja California
Next, we traveled a short distance to La Casa de Dona Lupe, near the El Cetto Winery. This establishment includes a farm, a highly recommended restaurant, a pizza bar, and two stores. There is outdoor patio seating, with vibrant music playing. You can relax and enjoy the music and the views of the vineyard.
This map shows where La Casa de Dona Lupe is. You can zoom in and out on this map, and switch it to satellite view.
This very short video shows an aerial view of La Casa de Dona Lupe.
The visit to La Casa de Dona Lupe was a delight. The two stores offered artisanal cheeses, spices, breads, jams, salsas, and much, much more. We did not eat at the restaurant, but judging by the number of people visiting on a Sunday, we were sure the food was delicious. There were wine tours and tastings, as well as wine for sale. However, after visiting Domecq we doubted that anything could compare.
It would have been lovely to stay for a meal and take a longer walk through the stores, but the day was winding down and we had to prepare our rig to cross the border the next morning. This included Joe cleaning off a thick layer of mud that we had collected on our trip north.
Border Crossing from Mexico into the USA at Tecate
In the Sordo Mudo RV Park next morning, we exchanged emotional good-byes with our group. We had come so far together and experienced so many difficult challenges. We all felt we had grown along the journey and had become better drivers in the process. By this time, we knew each other well enough to admit that we had all found the driving very daunting, and felt proud to have done it.
From the Sordo-Mudo RV Park, we drove less than 60 miles to reach the border crossing at Tecate. It was actually quite surprising when we realized we were almost there!
As we approached Tecate, I felt a familiar feeling of sadness at leaving Mexico. This often happens to Joe and I, because we love Mexico so much. This trip in particular cemented Joe’s love of the country. This was because he had often asked me on previous resort vacations: “Are Mexicans really this friendly, or is it just their job to be friendly?”
Because I have traveled extensively in Mexico, I knew that the Mexican people are among the kindest, friendliest, most generous people on Earth. But you can’t make people believe that. It must be experienced, and Joe has now experienced it too. The people of Baja were simply wonderful. We were going to miss being in places where everyone smiled and greeted you; a place where a young person would immediately offer assistance to any of us “oldsters.”
Follow the Signs to the Tecate Crossing Carefully!
We approached the town of Tecate on Mexico 3, following the signs to the border entrance, which is to the right of the main town. You really have to watch for the signs as they are not always big and bold. Fortunately, we were with our caravan, so we received constant directions on our CB radio from Wagon Master Becky. That was helpful as we drove through the complicated, busy streets of Tecate.
We followed instructions until we got really close to the border crossing.
As we approached the border crossing there were two lanes of traffic. The right lane is designated for commercial vehicles, so Becky strongly advised us to keep left. Apparently, you can get into trouble for using that lane. The left gate also affords ample space for large RVs to approach the crossing point. We were in the line-up to cross the border for less than an hour, which was a pleasant surprise.
As we waited, we viewed the endless graffiti art on the border wall, and the enterprising entrepreneurs who make every effort to sell goods such as cold drinks. Many of them stand in the middle of the road to do this, so we had to drive extra carefully.
Our wagon masters had advised us to bring no fresh food back across the border. So, we were very confident in answering the border agent’s questions. To our surprise we were waved through without any inspection at all. Everyone in our caravan had this experience. It might be that it was because we were in a guided caravan, so were scarcely likely to be drug dealers!
The hard part is over, we thought. Oh no, it wasn’t! There were many curves to navigate before we were clear. I guess they make it difficult to navigate the crossings in case anyone does a runner, but really! One curve was so tight that I had to back up while Joe held up the vehicles behind us, and guided me from the rear. This video shows the whole experience: finding our way through Tecate, which turns to take, waiting in the line-up, and the complex obstacle course we had to do after we got through the border crossing.
And then, finally, we were through! All that was left to do was to park on the side of the road in Tecate, just a few feet from the border. There, Joe went into an office to convert our pesos back to USD. Then we drove the six miles back to our base at Potrero County Park. We were still missing Mexico but happy to be back in a park that had electricity, safe drinking water and … best of all – sewers, sani-dumps, and clean, hot showers. Oh, and big, beautiful shoulders on the sides of the highways.
Hasta Luego, Mexico!
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