Ensenada Winery Tour Excursion Reviews
We did the LA Cetto/Donna Lupe winery tour. This was a wonderful tour of two totally different wineries. LA Cetto is a large mass production winery with a lovely setting and very clean and beautiful. Donna Lupe is a sweet down home winery with a wonderful owner, Donna, who comes out to greet you if she is able. Loved the entire tour. After the LA Cetto portion, we were given on free bottle of wine on the bus. Great end to a great tour.
We had never been to Ensenada and other reviews ranged from "dirty town" to a "great place" so we originally planned to just stay on the ship. We decided at the last minute to do the winery tour and were very glad that we did. It was a very pleasant day at 2 wineries and a tour guide Gloria that was very good.
Winery tour took us to a family owned winery, and the larger more commercial winery, L.A. Cetto. Both were beautiful in their own right, and the wines are priced very low. Many of us bought wine to take back. The whites were definitely better than the reds.
18 MAR (TUES) ENSENADA, MEXICO (8:00am – 5:00pm)
Tourist Information: www.enjoyensenada.com/
Town Map: www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/north-america/mexico/ensenada/
Valle de Guadalupe Information: www.bajabound.com/destinations/bajawinecountry/
John and I had visited Ensenada on a previous cruise but that was a short, perfunctory stop merely to satisfy the Passenger Services Act. There is a small shopping area at the port, a car rental booth and a tourist information booth. Taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers at the port but there is a shuttle ($2 pp) into the main shopping area downtown. Both the shuttle and taxis charge $1 pp to return to the ship.
John investigated possibilities for a private winery tour to the Valle de Guadelupe but decided that the ship's excursion was the best option for this port. John, I and 45 of our closest friends were bused to two wineries: one very large and one very small. While we were waiting in line for the tour to proceed to the bus, an agricultural inspector with a dog checked all of us. As we continued to wait, the dog reacted to a group going ashore with a baby stroller. They had to open all their bags and quite a bit of unsealed food (mostly apples) was confiscated; packaged, sealed food (like their carton of yogurt) was allowed. There were a lot of new cruisers on this voyage who may have been unaware of the restrictions on taking agricultural products off the ship. The Princess Patter had only mentioned bringing contraband back on board and an announcement about not taking food ashore was not made until well after passengers had started to disembark.
As we left the port, our guide (Gloria) strongly hinted that we should be tipping her and the driver (Jesus) at the end of the tour. During the 40-minute drive, Gloria gave us some information on the history and economic conditions in this part of Mexico but admitted that she did not know much about wine (she prefers whiskey) or the wineries we would be visiting. As we approached the first winery, Gloria informed us that she would handle the tips there but we should tip at the second winery. John and I have toured and tasted at over 100 wineries all over the world and this is the first time there has been any suggestion that the wine pourers were expecting us to tip them.
The first winery we visited was L. A. Cetto, which is one of the largest wine producers in Mexico. The tour was led by Ruben, a winery employee, who described the production process and showed us the processing machinery, fermentation tanks and barrel room. Next we were led to a tasting room that was barely big enough to cram in our large group. Gloria had brought along some slices of bread, cheese cubes, olives and olive oil, which she placed on the two long bars so we would have something to cleanse our palates between wines. Ruben gave generous pours of four Cetto wines but did not know much about them beyond his memorized spiel. Then he pulled out a tip jar, which we ignored. There was a little time allowed for those who wanted to buy some wine to take home. By now Gloria was anxious to herd us back to the bus. As we re-boarded, we were each handed a bottle of Cetto wine that was a blend especially produced to give to tour groups.
The Cetto winery produces wine from far too many varieties and knows this. They are trying to determine the grapes will produce the best wines for this area. The wines we tasted were on the whole pleasing and showed good varietal characteristics but were not outstanding. We would be interested in returning to try wines from some of the smaller wineries in the area.
In contrast, the Casa de Dona Lupe (www.lacasadonalupe.com), is an extremely small wine operation. In addition to wine, it produces liquors, herbs, jams, spreads, filled breads and pizzas. We were encouraged to taste the jams and spreads on our own; Gloria had a couple of the stuffed breads and pizzas cut up so that we could each have a small taste of those. Each of us received a card that entitled us to four small pours of wine. No descriptions of the wines were offered by the pourers; in fact, they never spoke at all and Gloria was naturally of no help. I did not see a tip jar but no one there was doing anything that deserved a tip anyway. The wines were non-vintage and of uncertain variety. They were at best drinkable but only marginally. The food was better. At one point, we had a brief glimpse of Dona Lupe herself and there was a costumed dancer doing native dances and selling jewelry. At least there were clean bathrooms.
Altogether this was a decent way to spend a port day in Ensenada. However, we would not seek out any of the wines we tasted to purchase in the future.
After the bus returned to Ensenada, we were offered the option (which only one couple took) of remaining in town and returning to the ship on our own or of going directly back to the ship. There was a long line for the security checkpoint to re-enter the port.
We had a fun guide who gave us a nice running commentary on the way to the first winery. It was a nice ride up through the changing countryside. The first winery was very picturesque and their tour guide gave us a description of their process. It was a Sunday in March and there was not much going on there. We went inside and saw all the tanks and barrels. Then we walked to a nice tasting room to try various wines and munch on delicious bread and olives and cheese. We had a little time to purchase some very inexpensive wine. We drove just down the road to the next winery. Here we were confused about what to do. We got a ticket and you could go up to this table and get 3 different wines to try. He said something about food but we did not know what to expect. Suddenly there was some cheese and later Pizza! There was quite awhile of just kind of hanging out. It was an enjoyable day all in all but not spectacular. You do each get a bottle of free wine too. There was no issue bringing it back on the ship.
In Ensenada we got up and ready and squeezed in a quick breakfast at the MDR because we had a 9am Winery tour! It’s never too early to start, on vacation, right? We had a knowledgeable guide, Rigo (aka Curly). He gave us a brief tour on our way out of town. The drive to the winery area, Guadalupe, is not bad. It is similar to areas in Central/East San Diego County, so it almost looked like we were home! The first stop is L.A. Cetto, a LARGE commercialized winery. They gave us A LOT of samples… not small and not all good, but what do you expect, really? They are just trying to get you to drink and buy ;). They also served bread, olives, and dipping oil. They also asked for tips, which is interesting, because we were also told they all work on salary! The second stop was a little mom and pop place, Dona Lupe. Mama still works every day, at their little shop. It was homey and welcoming vs large and commercialized (L.A. Cetto). Their wine was not fantastic, but they had some interesting dessert wines, so we picked up a bottle as a gift. They served bread with hot sauces that they sell on premises and a thin pizza. In their shop they had another man selling delicious dips! All in all this tour was a good value @ $40pp. We had a good time and met some nice people. We had aspirations of exploring Ensenada afterward, but when we returned to the ship we ate and took a nap instead. ï We will be back again.
Took the jeep tour, supposedly on dusty roads to the winery. Great quiet scenery, although we don't really drink wine. Wine was expensive for our taste, you could buy cheaper better tasting wine in L.A, We wanted to book an ATV tour but it was NOT available thru the cruise lines. Maybe next time......
This was a four hour tour with a great guide. We saw two wineries, and sampled 5 wines at each. The people were outstanding, and it was a totally relaxing day. We were dropped off in town, which was only a 15 minute walk to the ship. We could have just gone back to the ship had we desired.