Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sprit to Spit - We rent a car and drive around.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind this past week. The boat work is nearly done, the bowsprit got reattached, bottom got painted.

Now we just need to get Cinnabar's name applied and we should be ready to go back into the water. Thursday is our estimated splash date and then departure on Friday or Saturday.

We had a box of parts sent down to San Diego so we drove up there last week to retrieve it and to do some boat shopping stateside.
Art on the border fence at Tecate
 Our agent was Tom's friend's daughter Lisa who works in San Diego. I could kick myself for not getting a picture of her because she's absolutely adorable, not to mention the huge favor she did by receiving our box for us. So thank you Lisa! You rock!!

The biggest West Marine on the west coast is in San Diego. They even have shopping carts!

Tom was in heaven and it was all I could do to keep him to his list instead of stopping every two feet to ogle the wares. It was a constant battle to keep him from purchasing every "gimmicky" item he could get his hands on. (UPDATE: I made Tom put a boat squeegee back on the shelf. Imagine the look on his face today when the boatyard guys cleaned our boat and promptly whipped out a big squeegee just like the one he wanted to buy to clean the water off our hull! I really had to eat crow on that one.)

Of course we didn't get everything we needed so we ended up spending the night and continuing our shopping spree the next day. San Diego is amazingly geared toward the boating community and everything you could possibly need is at your fingertips. We ended our first day there by finding a restaurant with 100 beers on tap. Tom had his choice of good craft beers and I had a big glass of wine which I desperately needed. (I'm not the world's best shopper.)

Bartender Dave pours Tom's beer.
The next day was gloomy and rainy, we had a long wait at the border due to a manhunt, then the gray, wet drive home along the coast, and I was cranky because we were too late to go through the wine country. When we finally got back to Ensenada Tom suggested we go to Manzanilla for dinner and no way was I going to say "No" to that. It is one of Ensenada's most celebrated restaurants and the food was incredible. 
Seafood Risotto and seared Yellowtail
It's amazing how a great meal and a couple of glasses of good wine can fix a bad attitude almost immediately.

Happy again with a local white
I was not to be denied. The next day we were going to visit the wine country or else!! The Valle de Guadalupe is not at all like any of the wine regions back in California. There are a few well-established and fairly commercial wineries, but most of them are very quirky, definitely off the beaten path and they seem to require long drives along rutted, dirt (or in our case "mud") roads. Claire, whom we had met at La Taberna sportsbar, runs the garden at one of the wineries and told us about a few that are her favorites.

The first stop was at Tres Mujeres winery, run by, you guessed it, Three Women. It was very odd to drive up into a small farm with nobody around and just a sweet doggie and a sign that says "Ring the bell". Uh, OK.

Ring the bell

Maria poured our wine
A few moments later a warm and friendly woman named Maria appeared and coaxed us into the cellar. She told us all about the winery, that everything was done by hand, the grapes never touch metal, the wines are aged in barrels and everything is organic. Maria didn't speak English and my telenovela Spanish came in very handy.

Tres Mujeres
Tom even sweet-talked Maria out of some of her homemade oatmeal raisin cookies.

The next winery was just up the road. El Mogor has been growing wine grapes since the 1940s but have only been making their own wine since the 1990s. It's great that the wineries decided to start making their own wines instead of just selling grapes because some terrific wine is coming out of this region. Upon arriving at El Mogor we went to their farmer's market where they sell produce from their organic garden, plus preserves, olives, salsas and sauces all made on site by the family. We purchased some fresh cheese and olive bread for later.

Tom makes some friends

After Tom communed with the fauna we headed back up to the wine cellars where we would enjoy a new varietal I had never heard of. They are the only ones in the valley who grow the Swiss Chasselas grape (the owners are Swiss and French) which makes a light and dry but fragrant white wine, absolutely perfect with the local oysters and ceviche.

There was a group of four young people with us during the wine tasting who were having a great time. Since I am a shameless eavesdropper I overheard one of the guys asking about making a future reservation for a large group under "Life & Food". That really perked my ears up because ever since we got to Ensenada Tom wanted to know how I knew about all about the best places to eat. Well theirs is one of the blogs I had been reading! So I sidled up to the guy Antonio and sure enough he and his wife Kristin are the blog authors. They couldn't have been nicer and I was able to thank them for all their helpful articles and blog posts.

Our wine hostess herded us down into the cava to taste their most famous red, an excellent Bordeaux-style blend.

My sister would love this!

No, we didn't spit the good stuff!
We had only visited two wineries and it was already mid-afternoon! We really wanted to see Claire's farm and the stunning La Villa del Valle B&B and its famous restaurant Corazon de Tierra. We were warned it was several miles along a dirt/mud road but we got into our tiny rental car anyway and headed into the hills. There were twists and turns and side-roads and we would surely have gotten lost if they didn't have a sign at every opportunity pointing us in the right direction. We finally arrived at La Villa de Valle, surrounded by the lavender bushes for which they are famous.

B&B and Lavender
Corazon de Tierra restaurant sits on the other side of the garden from the B&B and is constructed completely of recycled materials such as old railroad bridges, quail coveys, random containers, etc.

View of the restaurant across the garden
The winery is also constructed of recycled materials including upside-down sardine boats. It is all very funky but it works.
Recycled boats, bottles and wood.
We ended our day with yet another LOOOOOONG drive along a dirt and mud road, this time to the alleged best pizza in Ensenada at Ochento's Pizzarustica in the small town of San Antonio de las Minas.

Signs everywhere or we would still be out there looking for it
Once again all I can say is thank goodness for all those handmade road signs or we never would have found the place at the end of the road and perched high upon a hillside overlooking the Valle. Even though Ochento's seemed far off the beaten path to us, it was bustling and packed with large, noisy parties celebrating birthdays and other occasions. The pizza was as delicious as promised and so tasty that Tom didn't even complain (too loudly) when they told us they don't serve beer.

We had purchased a bottle of Bon Voyage wine for our friends on Windjammer but they had left before we were able to give it to them. As bad luck would have it, they had to return to Ensenada to fix an engine problem, so they would be stuck in Ensenada for another day and night while they sorted things out. At least we were able to show up with our wine and beer for an impromptu happy hour.

These guys really know how to roll with the punches
More pictures of the past week plus some random favorite restaurant shots can be found HERE.  

We managed to barely survive Carnaval and I'll post some pictures about that later. The next few days will be full of final boat projects as we prepare to splash Cinnabar and head south for warmer weather. Can't wait!



  1. Will you adopt us? Pleeeeeze!! We won't be any trouble (ummm...) and we are mostly housebroken.

  2. I've always wanted a sweet little girl just like you, heh. You guys would have LOVED the Valle de Guadalupe. We didn't make it to La Lomita though...next time.

  3. Sylvia, I'm watching PBS and the guy is in the Valle de Guadalupe. He just went to Tres Mujeres. I kept looking for you!! Interesting that I just today read your blog about the same places he was visiting. Gotta go pour me some wine... Cheers!

  4. Vin Vino Wine in any language and any wine country is wonderful! I love vin. I love vino. I love wine!
    Sounds and looks like you had a fantastic time!

  5. It seems that you’ve gone through a lot of places during your visit to San Diego. Well, that’s the benefit of renting a car. You can go to any place you want at any time. You know, just by driving around, you can already enjoy yourself especially when there’s a lot of attractions in the area.

    Rob Brummitt

  6. I love your combination bowsprit/anchor roller. I would like to fabricate one for my Newport 41. Can you please share how it is constructed? I have stared at the images on your blog, but I can't figure it out. I'm thinking wood and fiberglass with load distributed along hull/deck joint, but I have a hard time believing wood and glass can withstand the forces of the large assym. Any insight would be very much appreciated. Great looking boat!