Lord of all I see
We flew back together from the funeral, nobody felt like talking much. Since my car had exploded in a Little Tokyo parking lot, I was pretty much at the mercy of those with reliable transportation.
It was 1 AM when we got to the car. I jumped in the passenger seat and we took off, shooting down the 105 and missing the 110 going into downtown. Instead, we bolted to the 5 and headed South, stopped for coffee in San Juan Capistrano and crossed the border right before 4.
Amazing how otherworldly an international border crossing looks before the sun comes up. Young soldiers, headlamps poking around, bulletproof vests and massive automatic weapons scurried around the shadows. It was mostly trucks and they paid no attention to us.
We got lost looking for the Highway south and somehow ended up in the red-light district. You see some weird shit in Tijuana and tonight was no exception. We ditched our iced Americanos for some Modelos and directions at Bar Taurino.
Turning down the offers of paradise from three overweight and underdressed women, we placated them by buying a bottle of generic tequila and sharing it with everyone including the bartender and the blind man nodding off at the end of the bar.
The sun was cracking the sky as we found our route and headed south. Traffic moving into TJ was getting thick but we had our side of the road to ourselves. Ten minutes past Rosarito we pulled into Popotla fishing village for breakfast. Pacific lobsters, scrambled eggs and fresh tortillas, sweet coffee, and another beer. Respect to the pico de gallo. The tuna boats were coming back in after a night on the Pacific. Our next stop was the Valle de Guadalupe.
Everyone knows the Valle now; the five-star hotels, four-star restaurants, and 90 pt. wines, but it wasn’t always like this. When I first started venturing down there were a few assembled sages who had studied in France and were already making nuanced heart-felt wines. Most of the rest were wild-eyed dreamers who coaxed grapes out of the arid salty soil and took outrageous chances on varietals, blending, and aging.
It was a tight-knit, often feuding community that over time started to produce some of the best wines in the world and attract a massive influx of capital. There were winners and losers and we were visiting one of the winners.
Finca La Carrodilla has been producing excellent wine for about 20 years in the Valle and I wanted a couple of bottles of their Chenin Blanc. They make about 250 cases of this gem per year; so going to the vineyard to score some is your best bet. We grabbed a few and a bag of ice from a local bodega and headed for lunch.
Deskman’s is a longstanding go-to. Are there better places to eat in the Valle now? Maybe. Are there fantastic restaurants run by a maniacal ex surfer dude who meticulously sources every fish and oyster and wild boar and grows almost all of his own vegetables? No. We feasted and then headed out, the beach was calling.
Three hours later we reached La Cueva de Pirata, the Pirate’s Cove.
There is something about being in a place where the desert hits the sea. Northern Africa and the Middle East spring to mind, but in the Americas this stretch of land in Baja is unique. The concept of so much dry land butting up against so much ocean has intrigued me for a while. We walked down to the dunes, cracked a bottle and watched the sun drop into the Pacific. The wine was round and fruity but also had an inviting acid that made the detour to buy it so worthwhile.
As the sun was about to sink, I walked down to the beach and dropped some of my departed friend’s ashes into the sea.
Truth be told I had left a little more at Bar Taurino. I won’t know which spot he appreciated more until a final trip to the other side.