Wine and cheese, the ideal combination. Come to the origin. A country day at Ojos Negros. Exquisite wines from San Rafael and great artisan cheeses underground at the Cava de Marcelo (Marcelo’s cellar).
Southwest of Ensenada, crossing the Sierra de Juárez with its capricious stone formations dotting the landscape, you will arrive to Ojos Negros, a flat, wide, open valley. Aquí Here await you two surprising visits: the wines of San Rafael and Marcelo’s cheeses.
First stop: Bodegas San Rafael
At km 43 on route 3, a road on your left will take you towards the mountains. Soon you will come across the entrance to Bodegas San Rafael, a small winery with excellent wines, property of the Hussong family, the owners of the landmark canteen downtown Ensenada. The winery does only private tours so you need to make a reservation in advance. When you are finished touring San Rafael, keep going on the same road.
Paradise for #cheese lovers: La Cava de Marcelo
A few kilometers down the road you will reach a small but surprising ranch, La Campana, founded by Swiss immigrants that arrived with the gold rush of the late 1800s. The Ramonetti stayed, brought Holstein cows and started to make the cheeses thousands of Mexicans carry today in their hearts in and out of the country. Start the visit with a walk on the ranch. They will show you the pastures, the estables and the small cheese producing area, where they will explain the simple yet extremely sensitive cheese-making process. Observe the weighs, the molds… Yes, at Ojos Negros cheese is still made by hand. This is real artisan cheese, Real de Castillo.
After the tour to the small dairy comes the main dish of the day: go down to the extraordinary Cava de Marcelo (Marcelo’s Cellar), a cheese cellar excavated in the rock where, in cave-like conditions, the delicious one and two year old cheeses age. You will taste them, as well as other fresh and cream cheese varieties made with basil, pepper or rosemary. Of course the cheese tasting comes with wine, and a delicious home made marmalade. Let yourself be seduced by the bitter taste of aged cheese so rich in textures, so exquisite to the palate… If you are coming with children there is a playground outside so they can play before the meal. Because you must stay for lunch. The dining room is tiny and cozy, and they serve a menu with country specialties where cheese shines as a key ingredient in each dish. Try the delicious pasta with a creamy sauce, the fresh cheese salad or the sheep barbeque. If you liked the cheeses take some now with you because they are hard to find!
Pedro Ramonetti arrived to Ojos Negros from Switzerland in the 1800s and brought with him his knowledge of cow farming and milk production. He brought the Holstein breed you will see at the La Campana ranch. The quality of the milk and the respect for handmade products are important to Marcelo, great-grandson of Ramonetti, who decided against growing his farm to keep his cheeses organic and artisan. His dream is to produce the best cheese in all of Mexico. With this vision, he envisioned the idea of building a cellar to age the cheeses, a project that got him called a fool in that day but now has demonstrated to be an irresistible magnet for foodies and cheese lovers traveling to Ensenada. Because it’s not easy to find cheeses the quality Ramonetti makes. And mature, aged cheeses with the intense flavor they get at the cellar, impossible across Mexico. Do not miss it!