Ezequiel Montes is a small town in a valley of Queretaro. It is the epicenter of the state's growing wine industry with three major wineries just outside of town and at least a dozen small artesanal wineries within 30 km. It is not as scenic as some of its neighboring towns, but could be an excellent base for the epicure who is curious to explore the wines of the Bajio.
Originally inhabited by the Otomi people, when it became a Spanish town, it took the name Tetillas, and later Corral Blanco, and then in 1920, changed the name to Ezequiel Montes in honor of a local politician. The town is not hung up on its past and lacks the colonial charm of most Bajio towns, including 3 nearby Pueblos Magicos. The city hall (palacio municipal) was built in 1970. The plaza was renovated in the 1990s.
Agriculture accounts for more than 90% of the land use in the valley around Ezequiel Montes. Sorghum and corn account for much of the planted acreage, but vineyards account for a growing proportion of the economy. Two major vineyards account for the lion's share of local wine production:
- La Redonda - heir to a traditional hacienda system, La Redonda was the first major winery in town
- Freixenet - one of several international wineries operated by the Spanish company, Freixenet makes sparkling wines (similar to champagne)
The state publishes a map to the wineries and advertises it as "Ruta de Vinos" but the concept of wine as a leisure activity hasn't caught on like it has in Valle de Guadalupe. There aren't tasting rooms in the town of Ezequiel Montes and most locals seem content to stick to their usual beer or tequila.
- 1 Terminal de Autobuses (Bus station), I. Allende. Basic bus terminal, other companies have ticket offices in neighboring buildings.
From Queretaro, drive east on state highway 200 to Tequisquipian, then turn north onto federal highway MEX 120. It is a 50-minute drive.
It is easy to drive in this part of Queretaro, with paved roads between towns. Dirt roads are likely when you get off the main roads driving to some of the vineyards, but are generally passable even with small cars.
Taxis are widely available and can be hired on a daily basis for exploring backcountry wineries.
- 1 Jardin Kiosko Ezequiel Montes - the zocalo (main plaza) is a modern looking plaza with more paved open spaces than a typical Mexican zocalo with less shade from the bright sun. There's still manicured gardens, a bandstand, and plenty of park benches and it still faces the town's main church
- 2 Parroquia de la Divina Providencia - unlike every other town in Mexico, the main church is not historic, is not baroque, and is not ornate. It is beautiful though with contemporary architecture and a stone facade with a tall belfry. Inside, the church is bright, spacious and inviting.
Vineyards and Cellars
- 1 Freixenet, Carretera San Juan del Río - Cadereyta Km. 40.5, ☏ . 11:00 - 17:30. Freixenet is known around the world for their sparkling wines. The Spanish-based company opened their Mexican vineyards in 1979. The winery is the largest in Central Mexico. Americans will be surprised to find no bottles of the Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut that's available in every store in America, but instead, a surprisingly wide variety of sweetness levels (and colors) across four main brand lines: Sala Vive, Vina Dolores, Vivante, and Petillant. This ain't the Freixenet back in Kansas!
- 2 La Redonda, Carr. San Juan del Río a Ezequiel Montes, Km 33.5, ☏ . 10:00 - 19:00. Don Vittorio planted his first vines here in 1975. Varieties grown here include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Moscatel. Tours and tastings available and there's an upscale restaurant on-site. You can also buy wines by the bottle and enjoy them in the "wine garden" (which is so big, they should call it the "wine farm"). If you're looking for a place to stay, they also offer "WineGlamping", space age looking yurts for M$6700 (weekends only).
- 3 Bodegas De Cote, Lib. Norponiente KM. 5.9, Tunas Blancas, ☏ . 11:00 - 18:00. Super modern winery that emphasizes sustainable agriculture. Fun winery tour where you can go through the vineyards on bike (or walk or ride "the train"), then visit the main processing facility to learn how the wines are made, then down into the cava to see rack after rack of barrels aging in the cool environment. Upscale restaurant on-site. Some interesting surprises here like a Gewurtztraminer...not a grape typically grown in Mexico.
- 4 Viñedos Azteca, Azteca. 10:00 - 18:00 (closed Tu). Varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, and Tempranillo. Their on-site restaurant, Itacate, has an Italian-Mexican fusion menu that includes a brick-oven pizza with cochinita pibil.
- 5 Viñedos Donato, Carretera Crucero de Bernal a Ezequiel Montes, KM 2, ☏ . 10:00 - 19:00. The vineyard has an upscale restaurant that serves breakfast on the lawn (before 12:00) and dinner in the inside dining room. They concentrate on red wines made with Merlot, Syrah, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, they also have a rosado made with Grenache and a white made with San Emilion and Chenin Blanc.
- 6 Viñedo Los Rosales, Carretera Tequisquiapan - Ezequiel Montes Km 47, ☏ . 10:00 - 17:00. They grow a range of grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Moscatel and Salvador. Their wines are bottled under four different brand lines, the most interesting of which is Chapulet Missions because it uses the Salvador grape (few vineyards grow that variety). There's no restaurant on-site, but they do have a food tent where you can buy cheese platters or desserts.
Queretaro is blessed with a number of small artesanal cheese makers.
- 1 Quesos Doña Licha, J.Ma. Morelos 105, Centro. 10:00 - 22:00. Where the locals buy local cheese. This is not a tourist-oriented business, there's nothing fancy about it and nobody speaks English. But the local cheeses are exceptional, always fresh, and you pay local market prices.
- 1 La Pichonera, Unión 14, La Presa, ☏ . 09:00 - 22:30 (closed M,Tu). Rustic, casual restaurant with good home-cooked meals. The breakfast paquetes are very generous with a full carafe of juice and a basket of sweet breads.
- 2 Newport, Nicolás Bravo 135, La Presa, ☏ . 11:00 - 19:00. Specializes in fresh seafood dishes, plus a few tacos and soups. M$200.
- 1 Hotel Capilla, Heroico Colegio Militar 208, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Small moderate hotel in the city center. On the highway so rooms can be noisy. Off-street parking but the lot is tiny. M$450.
- 2 Hotel Villa Monte, Joaquín Vega 101, La Uca, toll-free: (in Mexico). Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Clean, comfortable, large hotel. Restaurant next door. M$850.