Click here to read Day 1 from Lazo de Bosque de Piños.
Sunday morning everybody was limping, shaking off the evident “Baja Hangover”. It’s easy to over do it when you are here when the wine, beer, and mezcal is flowing. The ranch style breakfast at Horsepower Ranch definitely helped. We said our goodbyes to about half our group and then loaded up our UTV’s to head back out towards Ojos Negros.
I had promised our smaller group we’d take them to the famous “Cava de Queso”, a magic little oasis in the middle of the valley of Ojos Negros. Upon the encouragement of one of our new friends Curtis Belk, we took “Cat’s Tail” which is a much more technical way out consisting of tight rocky ridges, silty valleys, and lots of short quick cut backs. I was sure someone was going end up on their side due to the amount of off-camber rutted sections but we didn’t have any issues.
Once we got to blue gate, it was all graded farm roads to the Cava de Queso. As we turned onto the Cava de Queso property the landscape went from dry desert to green lush grass with leisurely grazing cows spread thought the green landscape. We could actually feel the temperature drop and the air moisten as qw entered the property. After the final turn past the milking and cheese processing barn, we pulled up to a lush grassy area with large trees lined with picnic tables. Everyone immediately jumped out of their UTV’s, eager to take in this gorgeous ranch.
Cava de Queso
The more time I spend in Baja off-roading, the more treasures I find like the Cava de Queso. The irony is I have been driving by this place and looking at the “Cava de Queso” sign for more than 20 years. Technically, the real name for the cheese cave is La Cava de Marcelo. The cave is a 100+ year-old artisanal cheese cellar that now serves as a wine and cheese tasting room.
Founded originally by a Swiss-Italian immigrant 110 years ago, the ranch is still family owned and operated. They have a variety of cheeses to choose from that are all made on the ranch and aged in the cave. Not only do they have the best cheese in all of Baja, but the have fantastic food and wine, making it an ideal lunch spot in the middle of nowhere.
The cactus salad, caprese salad, oyster rockefeller, and lengua capacio are all fantastic. If you're in the mood for a steak they have a solid bone in ribeye and many other dishes to chose from. We spent a few hours eating different dishes, drinking wine and talking about the previous day's ride then decided to head back to Horsepower Ranch with one more stop in mind.
We took the easy way back basically just cruising enjoying the sights in the warm afternoon light. Once we got to the Pepsi stand we began to head back down the highway to the ranch until we came upon the turnoff on the right hand side to “Rancho El Tule”.
Rancho El Tule
Although the largest concentration of wineries in Baja are in Guadalupe Valley, there are little ranch style wineries sprinkled throughout the region as well. Rancho El Tule is a well known local spot that makes very unassuming but good sangiovese wine. We refer to it as cowboy wine because the proprietor Don Heriberto resembles more of a cowboy than some sort of fancy vintner.
Rancho El Tule is over 100 years old and still fully functional as a working ranch and winery. El Tule is a 100% organic winery that dry farms their grapes, meaning they don’t use any sort of irrigation, only natural waterfall. They serve basic mexican ranch style food cooked in the traditional open kitchen. The wine is sold by the bottle unlabeled and is a perfect unpretentious casual drinking wine.
After a bit of wine and local cheese, we took a stroll around the old winery buildings laced with rusting farm antiques and ended up walking into the fields of old gnarled and knotted vines to watch the stunning sunset over Ensenada. Quickly after watching the sun go down we loaded up into our UTV’s with a case of wine and headed back to Horsepower Ranch where we regrouped for dinner and more drinks. After a quick shower we sent one of our guys out to bring back some local tacos for dinner. We closed out the night swapping stores and sharing wine and drinks in the bar. As with most trips to Baja we wanted to squeeze every moment out of it before we had to head back north of the border.
We woke up monday morning and loaded our vehicles and gear up, said our goodbyes and headed back north towards the border. The entire way up we talked about all the experiences we had just had and shared with an amazing group of people who I am now glad to call friends.