Las Gueritas-A Baja tradition:quail and hospitality in the Valle de Guadalupe
What's wrong with this picture?These women are alone in Baja? They're smiling, drinking wine, and looking at art?How could this be?
While the media beats the drums of fear about travel in Mexico,close to a million Americans are living in Mexico, home to the largest expatriate American community in the world.Although these well organized groups of Americans have been very vocal in their support of Mexico, along with us regular travelers to Mexico, our voices aren't the stuff of front page news.Like these content women sipping sangria while enjoying the paintings of a local artist, the parrilla of an Argentine cook, and the splendor of the mediterranean climate.I encountered them making my rounds through the Valle de Guadalupe on a recent trip. Casa Vieja, run by Colleen and Humberto Toscano, is about the most beautiful and comfortable places to hang in San Antonio de La Minas. They have the original wines of Baja, palomino and mision, if you would care to sample a glass of history.It's a chance to taste wine the way it was when it was first planted by spanish missionaries when they first arrived in what is now Mexico. These were the grapes for wine and brandy until european cutting arrived in the 20th century.The house is charming, they have great local foods for sell, and have added a couple of Argentine grill men on the weekends.The chorizo and chimichurri were mouth-watering.
When I saw those women just having the time of their lives I just had to laugh to myself about all the frightened folks north of the border missing out on the fun.But, these aren't the gueritas in question.A stop at Lucilla's roadside quail stand, Las Gueritas, completely amazed me this trip.
More on Americans in Mexico
Not too long ago, I had discovered Lucilla's stand and had her perfectly grilled quail and some of their cochinita.I couldn't wait to have more, but this trip I had been sampling way too much that day and still had dinner plans.That was until Lucilla told me that she had made an estofado de cordorniz(quail stew)!!Alright, so much for discipline, let's eat.The sauce was gorgeous, and she generously doused my serving of rice with more of it.They have different foods from time to time and sometimes don't have quail, but Lucilla is a brilliant cook. I would eat anything from her stand.They also make their own wine.
After scarfing the quail like a fiend, Lucilla's husband showed me their property behind the stand.They have a huge plot of land, mostly undeveloped and disorganized.Lucilla, her husband, and las gueritas(their fair-skinned daughters)live in a trailer just behind the road.Her parent live in the main house next to the stand. In a nursery are wine grapes in pots from which they make some homemade wine, alonside other plants and flowers.A large open area in between the road and nursery is a future location for hand crafted palapas that will serve as the restaurant they are planning.They are being made one at a time.
The first time I went to the stand they made up the name when I asked what their stand was called."Uh......somos.......las gueritas!" "Porque las hijas son mis gueritas." So, now they're sticking with it. These are natives to the Valle de Guadalupe, farmers, wine makers, and cooks. You can bring a bottle of wine, buy some of theirs when available, or purchase a beer from their cooler.
Roadside quail and hospitality are Baja traditions. Colleen and Humberto Toscano, and Lucilla's family are gaurdians of wine, history, and cuisine.Bring your friends for a relaxing day at Casa Vieja, and stop for lunch at Las Gueritas and discover what those women I came across know. Baja is a place not to be missed, certainly not for any tabloid stories and fear mongering.If they can brave the wine,charm, delicacy, and relaxation of the Valle de Guadalupe, so can you.
located on the south side of Highway 1
just before the left turn into col.Francisco Zarco
in the Valle de Guadalupe
mornings 'til about 5PM
La Casa Vieja
(wine tasting daily and Argentine grill on the weekends
)San Antonio de Las Minas, on Highway 1
next door to Casa de Piedra
9-sunset, Tuesday through Sunday
re: Gypsy Jan
Head out on the ruta del vino towards Francisco Zarco, you will pass San Antonio de Las Minas,pass Rancho El Mogor, keep going past Laja, and on the right side of the road as it curves to the left before entering the pueblo of Francisco Zarco you will find Lucilla.Maybe you'll see her gueritas running around! She told me she wasn't going to have quail for about a month when I was there a couple of weeks ago, but maybe she will by now.
They are muy buena gente.
Thank you very much for the directions.
Although I have visited the Valle Guadalupe several times, I get so caught up in the beauty of it and forget to look for landmarks. Laja restaurant is so easy to find, but I have driven past it and almost ended up in Tecate (but that is a good place to end up on with serendipity).