Just to be clear, this adventure is nothing I would have signed up for on my own…I and my pals were all over the idea of a gentle wine tasting afternoon. No way would I be caught scooting around on a motorized vehicle, even if it meant discovering amazing hidden thermal springs or palm-studded canyons. But it is always fun to see how other people like to experience Baja, isn’t it?
We paused at the winery’s entrance to examine some local artisanal products that were for sale, including marmalades, olives and handcrafted items. The Barón Balché staff welcomed us warmly, but seemed flummoxed by our query as to the whereabouts of the off-roaders. And, truth be told, it was hard for me to imagine the peaceful vineyards and dirt roads suddenly coming to life with the rev of engines that most certainly would herald the ATVers (and UTVers which are Utility Task Vehicles).
As I gazed around, I remembered the last time I had visited this upscale winery to attend their famous tango and wine event held each August during the Vendimia (harvest festival). The balmy warmth of a summer evening, passion-filled dancing punctuated by the staccato click of heels, and the mouth-feel of a Tempranillo-Cabernet or Chardonnay rolling around in my mouth – that is the kind of night that brings me and others back time and again to the wine valley. It seemed a far cry from the off-road concept.
Lost in my reverie, it took a second for me to hear the distant rumble. We gazed out over the vast acreage of vines towards the hills…and then began to see a thin cloud of dust coming straight at us from the dirt road. As each ATV spun into the main courtyard area, it suddenly seemed like a perfect idea – the concept of riding around the beautiful (and inaccessible by car) hills and canyons of the wine valley, at one with nature, and then stopping at different locations for lunch, tastings and even to spend the night in a cozy hostel or posada. When the dust finally settled, there were approximately 20 people who, with big smiles on their faces, got off their ATVs and headed into the winery. And, without exception, every person I and my friends spoke with said that so far it was a great experience – they could hardly wait to try it again!
Craig and Chris Mungary from Fresno, and Sky Seals, were in agreement that even though the day was on the nippy-cool side, the chance to see nooks and crannies that other wine valley visitors might never see was appealing to them. They waxed poetic about the off-roading that lead them from Rosarito Beach and a hearty Mexican breakfast to the wine valley; the excellent carne asada lunch at Rancho Mentada, and the fact that The Grape Adventure leader, Armando Carrasco, had put together a fun and fascinating journey for them. Some of the participants would finish up the day’s wine tastings and then head to Rancho Maria Teresa in the Valle de Guadalupe, to spend the night before heading back to Rosarito Beach.
“It is a very cool adventure,” said Sky, “Well organized, and anyone from kids (there was a six-year-old on this trip) to adults can do it.” One rider noted that this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for him, but that he was going to make sure he did it a second and even a third time!
Armando is not a novice at putting together this kind of activity and knows the ins-and-outs of meeting travelers’ needs. As the head of Too Much Fun Promotions, he has quite a track record of event organization: the Playa Motocross at the Cantamar Sand Dunes, soccer tournaments, and concerts. He works directly with visitors to make sure that they have transportation across the border, correct paperwork in place, and a full and clear schedule of where to meet, where to eat, and what’s in store. And he is one of the riders, as well, so that The Baja Grape Adventurers always have the security of knowing that he is there to handle any hitch in the git-along.
Each journey that The Baja Grape Adventure embarks on is slightly different and can be customized, depending on the group. Suffice it to say, it involves authentically delicious food, a whole lot of laughs, and an insider’s view of the beauties and challenges of Baja.
My friends and I shivered a little bit in the breeze, and adjusted our fluffy cashmere scarves a little tighter around our necks, watching as a young girl from the Grape Adventure passed by. She was all smiles – in spite of the thin shirt she was wearing on this cold winter day. True, she was young…but it was obvious that the sheer adrenalin of the trip made her oblivious to the minor discomforts that we were feeling.
Armando noted that the next Baja Grape Adventure will probably take off in the spring. And, believe it or not, I might go with them! I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea, but with an end goal of finding some of Baja’s best wineries, what’s not to like about the idea? If a six-year-old can do it and have ‘too much fun’, so can I!
For more information about the Baja Grape Adventure, contact Armando@toomuchfun.com.mx, 619-819-6323. Or visit the Too Much Fun Facebook page!
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