The condition of the road surface was mixed. The 15 miles closest to Ensenada was in fair to poor condition, with a number of potholes present. To the north of that section the highway is being repaved, with the reconstruction proceeding in the direction of Ensenada. Further to the north, the last 10-15 miles into Tecate had fair surface quality. The number of heavily-loaded trucks on this road has certainly not diminished - be prepared to exercise caution when passing!
On this particular trip we stopped at the LA Cetto tasting room. For comparison, in 2006 we stopped at the Domecq winery. Other than differences in the wines, the approach to customers is different. There was a charge for tasting at Domecq, while the tasting at LA Cetto continues to be at no charge.
The condition of the road surface continues to be very good, with the only exception being a few miles outside Ensenada. There was construction going on at two locations: just north of Francisco Zarco there is new pavement going down, and at the underpass where Route 3 meets the Tijuana toll road there is heavy constuction with a dirt bypass.
On an earlier trip we'd searched for the Monte Xanic winery near the town of Francisco Zarco and failed to find this highly recommended place. On this trip we went with more specific directions and easily found this lovely winery.
Heading from Ensenada to Tecate, you take the main left-hand turn just after crossing the long bridge. This takes you into Francisco Zarco on a paved street. After perhaps a mile, and several topes, the pavement ends at a stop sign. Continue to follow the dirt road leading straight ahead - after 1/4 mile or so the road splits with the desired route leading gently to the right and then back to the left - a long, gentle "S" curve. The entrance to the Monte Xanic winery is a short distance beyond the curve, and is well marked.
A guard opened the large gate for us and pointed to a large, white building on a nearby hill. We slowly drove through the vineyards and parked just outside the building. Inside we were directed through the great racks of barrels to the "tasting room" - a large raised platform at the back of the building. There we were greeted by José Ochoa Calderón, the Assistant Winemaker (Asistente de Enologo).
Marilyn is the wine fancier and she did most of the sampling of a variety of whites. As I've gotten older, my stomach complains more often about any acid in wine, and so my "tasting" consisted of some light sipping. However, I'm delighted to report no complaints at all stomach wise. Marilyn and I both rated the wines a notch above the LA Cetto wines we've sampled down the road. With pleasure we purchased our limit of two bottles for import into the U.S. without paying a customs fee.
You can also find directions to the winery on their website at:
The condition of Route 3 was quite good. The signs announcing pending repairs in 1999 were accurate - during the 2 1/2 years since I last took this route the paving project had taken place. There were two construction areas just south of Tecate, with guide vehicles leading groups through the work zones.
It had been almost 20 years since I'd been on this section of Route 3, and it was most pleasant to be reminded of what a lovely ride it is. The route ascends to a high plateau across the Baja peninsula, passing though several agricultural valleys before descending to the Gulf of California, where it meets Route 5 between Mexicali and San Felipe.
The road condition was generally good, with some rough sections appearing east of Ojos Negros. There are three topes to be encountered in Heroes de la Independencia.
This particular trip followed an exceptionally cold snap in the Californias (snow fell in Riverside just over a day before we traveled this road), and there were small patches of snow along much of the highway at the higher elevations. The outside temperatures were in the high 30's and low 40's.
I would characterize the road condition on Route 3 as fair. There were numerous sections of moderate potholes, and little indication of pending repairs - although there was a sign at the Ensenada end announcing grand things to come for the highway.
I'd not been on the road for well over ten years, and I was quickly reminded of how this road is a major truck route to Ensenada. The truck traffic is very heavy, and caution should be exercised in the winding sections through the mountains.
Another old-time memory was that the road is popular with bicyclers, and there were several on the road the day we were driving north. In one instance, a truck swerved across the center line to avoid a bicycler rather than slow down. This forced me over to the side of the road momentarily, and was a bit scary.
At one point near the Guadalupe Valley there was an accident. The highway police were present, but no effort was being made to rescue anyone from the overturned car. Apparently fatal to those inside.
I think the highlight of our trip along Route 3 was a winery stop. We spent a couple of hours at the L. A. Cetto winery in the Guadalupe Valley. They have a very nice tasting room and outdoor seating. Our tour of the facilities occurred during the harvesting season, and allowed us to taste both the fresh grapes and the juice being squeezed from them. The entrance road to L. A. Cetto is just across from the larger Domecq winery.