Every year in late August, as the Valle de Guadalupe Vendimia draws to a close, the Paella Contest serves as the grand culmination of the festival. As the last event on the calendar for the annual wine fest, the Paella Contest makes sure that the Vendimia goes out in style. Held at Liceaga winery outside under the oak trees in the dog days of summer, it’s a beautiful and quixotic wine event. Everyone who’s anyone in Ensenada is in attendance as this is very much a high-society outing for the locals. Attendees are dressed to the nines, including fancy high heels for women, even though the event is held outside in the dirt. In true Mexican style, the party starts out early in the afternoon and goes until the late hours of night with wine, food and live entertainment.
Every winery in northern Baja (that’s over 50 wineries) is in attendance, serving up free samples of wine to partygoers. And when you need some food to soak up the abundance of wine, you don’t need to go far to find the paella. There are about 80 paella booths set up, all making huge pans of paella, competing for the judges and feeding the hungry masses.
I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to the Vendimia or the last days of summer than by drinking wine and feasting on paella under oak trees in the Valle de Guadalupe.
If you go:
-This is a hugely popular event and tickets sell out fast. Get them as soon as they go on sale.
-Arrive early. There are literally thousands of people who attend the event. They all have big groups of family and friends who get there early and reserve all of the tables. If you want to be able to sit down (and believe me, you do), you should plan on arriving early or sending someone in your party to arrive early and reserve a table for your group.
– Wine tastings are free but if you don’t bring your own wine glass, you’ll need to buy one. Memorabilia wine glasses cost 70 pesos (just over $5 USD).
-You can bring in ice chests with drinks and food. While there’s plenty of paella and wine to go around, you may want to bring other food, beer, waters, etc. There was water and soda available for sale as well as some paletas.
-The entire event is outside in the dirt under the trees. Wear appropriate footwear. August is also the hottest month in the Valley with temperatures reaching into triple digits so make sure you’re staying hydrated. While temperatures remain relatively cool under the shade of the trees, you may want to consider bringing a sun hat and make sure you wear clothing to help you stay cool.