Looking for laid-back wine tasting near the ocean? The coastal city of Ensenada Mexico has a thriving wine region in Valle de Guadalupe. And with less than a handful of high-rises, the ocean view is almost always in site when in central Ensenada. Despite being a shorter drive than Napa from southern California many have yet to discover this gem.
One could make a trip out of exclusively visiting the ever-expanding list of wineries. In my opinion good food is just as important as good wine. After all, you need to be well fed in between wine tastings. Enter: my Wine & Dine guide to Ensenada!
I’ve compiled my experiences from four trips to the area. This guide will help you navigate the countless options for food and beverages (not just wine!). If you come across something that isn’t listed that you think should be, PLEASE leave a comment because I’d love to try it out!
Listed in alphabetical order (not by favorites):
Cuatro Cuatros: One of the more popular wineries with U.S. tourists. In the past you could have your wine tasting overlooking the ocean but with the rise in popularity you now have to pay 200 pesos just for the shuttle and 700 pesos minimum/ person for food/drinks. We opted for the cost-friendly wine tasting without an ocean view. We both had the basic wine tasting which was three wines. We also got the cheese board which was very good.
Reservation needed. 400 pesos for a wine tasting = ~$20
Finca La Carrodilla: My favorite winery in the region! It has delectable wine in a beautiful setting. Finca La Carrodilla is an organic vineyard and the wine is made using biodynamic farming. The location cannot be beat with a plant-filled terrace overlooking the valley. I tried the normal tasting of four non-organic wines including two whites (one was “Ir y Venir”), one rosé (“Polen”), and one red. Edgar tried the organic tasting of three wines including a rosé and two reds. Our server Carlos was an absolute legend and after asking what his favorite wine was he brought us each a glass of it. His favorite isn’t part of any tastings but you can buy a bottle. It’s called “in situ” and Carlos described it as a red blend, mostly Tempranillo, that tastes like Christmas in a cup.
Reservation needed. We spent $40 on our two wine tastings.
Vena Cava: The tasting room at Vena Cava is unlike any other in the Valley. Architect Alejandro D’Acosta is famous for using reclaimed materials in his designs. He used old fishing boats as the ceiling with light streaming through small glass windows. It feels like stepping into a cool wine cellar for the tasting. The winery opened in 2005 and currently creates 23 different types of wines. T[-0he “basic wine tasting” consisted of a white (sauvignon blanc), rosé, cabernet sauvignon, and a red blend called “Mezcla Especial”. There is also an organic garden which provides for the Troika food truck on the property.
Reservation needed. $18 per wine tasting
Villa Montefiori: The deck at Villa Montefiori is great and looks out over the winery and valley. There weren’t tons of people here which made for a relaxing vibe. The nebbiolo we tried was fantastic. They also sell tasty small-plate food (more than just a cheese board). We had two different types of mini toasts: a smoked salmon and a brie cheese with apple. This is my second favorite winery in the area! We didn’t have a reservation, but you might need one depending when you go.
Vinos Lechuza: A smaller winery that doesn’t feel over-run with people. The location is right off a busy road but they’ve tastefully designed it so you don’t see the road. There is a food truck on sight (although we didn’t eat there) which is convenient if you are in need of some grub. I tried one of their reds and liked it. We didn’t have a reservation, but you might need one depending when you go.
Vintango: Last but not least is the inconspicuous Vintango. It turned out to be most surprising place in terms of how much I enjoyed it. We were literally the only customers on the small patio which made me question the quality of the wine we were about to consume. A classic don’t judge a book by its cover as the nebbiolo turned out to be fantastic! The very hospitable owner gave us free cheese and crackers with our wine as well. If you are looking for a good hole-in-the-wall this is the place for you. Probably don’t need a reservation.
I’ve been to one brewery in Ensenada and it was great. Wendlandt is named after its founder. The spot is located right by the ocean which makes for an amazing sunset dinner and/or drinks experience. The crisp white walls contrast with a grey stone bar to create a chic ocean meets industrial vibe. I don’t like beer very much but Edgar does and ordered one of their IPAs. The food was great (see below for more details) and we got a spot looking out over the ocean. Another perk of the place is how easy it is to park!
- BREWma Craft Cafe: I’ve tried their kombucha and bought a bag of their whole beans which made for great espresso at home! Bigger than other coffee shops I’ve been to in the area with both indoor and outdoor seating.
- Surco Cafe: I tried the latte with oat milk which tasted a little weak but I would try it again and ask for an extra shot of espresso next time. Cool interior design and friendly staff.
- La Maria Cafe: I’ve physically been here and it is cool! I haven’t tried their coffee but my family says it’s good.
Brekkie is my favorite meal of the day and below are some of my fave recs:
Huevo Republic: large menu with authentic Mexican dishes, pancakes, and more. The vibe is funky with star wars memorabilia and pac-man covering the walls. The staff seems like a group of young-adult friends who all provide great service. We loved our meal!
- La Cocina de Doña Esthela: authentic Mexican breakfast, can be very busy on weekends (Tip: try the Café de Olla)
- Potrero Viejo: Specializing in making gorditas, come here for an authentic Mexican breakfast. A gordita is a masa pocket filled with cheese, meat, beans, etc. We sat at the outdoor bar facing the inside of the restaurant and kitchen. It was fun to see the gorditas prepared right in front of us. We tried the Papas con Chorizo, Gordita de Birria, and Gordita with Frijoles/Queso. We were serenaded by a talented singer/guitarist while we ate, which was a fun surprise.
- Restaurante La Hacienda: an outdoor seating situation surrounded by plants (which helps to hide the crowds), smaller menu than the other restaurants but plenty of choices (they also have a buffet on weekends)
Salvia Blanca: My favorite breakfast spot! I’m going to go in-depth about this place since it is the best.
After 15 minutes of slow driving on bumpy dirt roads we reached Salvia Blanca. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere the property is tranquil and provides beautiful views. The restaurant is within the Contemplación hotel which is comprised of chic stand-alone cabins/villas. As you walk up to Salvia Blanca you are surrounded by a tiny vineyard and garden area. There is an indoor part of the restaurant but we sat outdoors enjoying the cool morning before the heat of the summer sun gained full force. A combination of high and low tables sit on the covered patio overlooking the garden and distant mountains.
The staff and food are both exceptional. Everything down to the water bottles has an elevated feel. I ordered the Machaca con Huevo with freshly squeezed orange juice. The flour tortillas and salsa that came with it could have easily stollen the show. Edgar order the pancakes and a latte. The pancakes came on a stack of three thick discs that looked more like a small cake! Everything was delicious. Would highly recommend Salvia Blanca and I can’t wait to go back to try the dinner menu in the future.
$34 total for our meal: Machaga con huevo (flour tortillas are the bomb and great salsa), pancakes with bacon, freshly squeezed orange juice, latte and water
Taqueria el Trailero is a great option for authentic tacos. It’s located right off Highway 3 as you drive towards the town center of Ensenada from Valle de Guadalupe. The restaurant is open-air with a counter style service. There are different sections where different types of tacos from al pastor to tripas (small intestines of farm animals) are prepared. You order whatever you want, eat it, and then pay for what you got at the cash register. We tried the al pastor, carne asada, and tripas. For seven tacos we paid around $10.
Wendlandt: As mentioned above this is a brewery but they also have great food. We tried the fried chicken sandwich and the ribs which came with a side salad and mashed potatoes.
Being a coastal city means Ensenada’s seafood is ubiquitous. Ceviche, a dish of raw seafood cured in citrus juice, is a specialty of the region and a highlight of any food quest. A famous ceviche food cart that lives up to the hype is Mariscos El Guero. Beware, when a cruise ship is docked it can be packed with people so try to avoid the cruise crowds!
We also tried ceviche from a street vendor in Valle de Guadalupe. We both got the “Especial” on a tostada which consisted of all the different types of seafood combined. We ate at one of the three tables along the side of the road, each with 10 different types of hot sauces to choose from. Don’t be afraid to try the street food here- it’s typically in a small, intimate setting meaning you get to interact with the people making your food and locals.
Limón Limón is a small, artisanal ice cream shop in the plaza near Bodegas de Santo Tomas. I tried the Galleta (cookies n’ cream) and Coco (coconut with chocolate) flavors- both were great but my favorite was the Coco.