By Carla White Via Baja.com
The chilly December wind carried a hint of smoky piñon wood with it, a smell evocative of the Christmas holidays throughout much of Mexico. My girlfriends and I stepped out of our car, parking in front of the famous brick arches that feature prominently on Barón Balché’s wine bottle labels. We had traversed the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s famous wine country just outside of Ensenada, to get to this iconic winery. As much as we would have loved to spend our afternoon sipping on the vinicola’s renowned Double Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc), we were here for another reason: Our objective was to find out more about The Baja Grape Adventure, a fun activity that caters to wine lovers and to those who are seeking a safe, guided off-road adventure through the region’s fascinating wine country.
The Baja Grape Adventure combines off-roading and wine tasting
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.
Wine tasting at Baron Balche winery
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.