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Mexico: The birth place of wine in the Americas

by Steve Dryden

The Spaniards planted the first vineyards in the Americas in Mexico in the sixteenth century. From these early vineyards of Mission grapes, Jesuit missionaries send vines and cuttings to Peru, Argentina, and Chile. By 1701, the first hybrid cuttings of Vitis vinifera (European stock) were planted in Baja California at Mission San Javier on Loredo Bay. Later in 1780, Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra sent cuttings and plants from the mission vineyards in San Diego to all the Alta California mission sites reaching Sonoma by 1830.

Bodegas de Santo Tomas was the first commercial Baja California winery operation established in 1888. The quality and quantity of their wine was limited due to the use of the Mission grape. The following year, James Concannon, winery and vineyard owner in Livermore, California introduced French varietal cuttings throughout Mexico, followed in 1910 with cuttings of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Then in 1932, Esteban Ferro and Dimitri Tchelistcheff imported Italian varieties to include Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbara into Baja California. In addition, the Cetto family brought more Italian and French vines into the region and Camillo Magoni in 1970’s to include Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. After acquiring more vineyard properties in 1990, Don Luis Cetto added Syrah, Sangiovese, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Viognier to his portfolio of classic grape varietals. Mexico was now blessed with an abundance of superior grapes and well on the road to creating premium wine.
These early leaders, planners and visionaries developed a wide variety of diverse vineyards of classic European varietals in selected microclimates that has led to Baja California’s “silent revolution” in creating premium wine. Ninety percent of all Mexican wine grapes are grown and produced in five distinct areas: Valle de Guadalupe, Valle de Santo Tomas, Valle de San Vicente Valle de las Palmas, and Ojos Negros. In addition, the State of Sonora has two important wine growing regions located in Hermosillo and Caborca where vineyards of Barbera, Dulce, Cardinal, Ruby Cabernet and Palomino provide juice for a handful of small boutique wineries. Further south in Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Queretaro grapes are grown and wine is produced.

About the time (1980’s) many of the classic European vines were reaching maturity with the production of premium fruit, the real transformation of the Mexican wine industry began. L.A. Cetto, Bodega de Santo Tomas and Pedro Domecq wineries began accumulating international awards with wine made from those mature grapes found at various sites throughout the region. Adding to the excitement was the arrival of several small boutique wineries with a focus on creating limited production-premium wine, using state-of-the-art technology, under the direction of professionally trained enologists. Cavas Valmar (1983) was the first artisan winery in Ensenada, followed by Monte Xanic winery as the first boutique facility on the scene at Guadalupe Valley in 1988. The artisan and boutique winery movement brought in self-taught and trained enologists from Mexico City, France, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Chile, and other regions of Mexico.

Today, there are over thirty licensed wineries in Mexico and as many “unofficial” winery operations located throughout the country. In addition, a new artisan movement is attracting hundreds of aspiring handcrafted winemakers each year. Viticulture, viniculture and enology classes are being offered in Ensenada at the UBC and in Valle de Guadalupe, near El Porvenir, a small winemaking and artisan olive oil school is training many locals and “moonlighting” professionals.

It’s an exciting time for Mexico’s emerging wine culture. For example, at Guateque 2008, an exclusive wine event focusing on new artisan wines and winemakers, over twenty-five participants proudly displayed and shared samples of their first and second year wine releases to an enthusiastic group of over three hundred international wine lovers. And, with each year, the wine just keeps getting better and better!

Most of the wineries, wine tasting rooms, restaurants and wine country lodging facilities are centered in Valle de Guadalupe near Ensenada. This premier wine country is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, located ten to twenty-five miles from the Pacific Ocean, along the Tecate - Ensenada Highway 3. About fifteen of the twenty wineries are open on the weekends and about half of those during the week.

The most “user friendly” wineries in order as you drive from Ensenada along Highway 3 are: Vinisterra, Casa Vieja, Viña de Liceaga, Three Women, Viños Sueños, Viños Fuentes, Monte Xanic, Viños Bibayoff, Pedro Domecq, L.A. Cetto and Do–a Lupe. Those wineries requiring advance reservations are Casa de Piedra, Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards and Pau Pijoan.
Recent additions to the Guadalupe Valley wine country are two new hotels: Hacienda Guadalupe (upscale) and (budget) Hotel Plaza Fatima. Finally, gourmet coffee located in a “world class” art gallery can be enjoyed at Jardin Las Veredas, near Vinisterra winery. Several wineries are located in the town of Ensenada to include Cavas Valmar, Roganto, Bodegas de Santo Tomas and the artisan wines of Jose Louis Durand. Of course, you might know that several of Baja California’s top gourmet restaurants can be found in that port city.

Mexico’s wine industry and wine culture is “booming.” Furthermore, Ensenada is becoming the “gourmet food and wine capital” of Mexico with close proximity to the wine region, abundant fresh seafood, organic produce, gourmet cheese and artisan olive oil. Maybe, it’s time to explore some “bottled treasures of delight” from Mexico and discover our “silent revolution” in creating premium wine. Our wine region awaits your exploration and we’re here with our famous Baja California hospitality, eager to share our amazing wine culture with you, your family and friends. Viva Mexico!

Steve Dryden is a wine and food writer living in Valle de Guadalupe where he guides private wine tours for individuals, couples and small groups. He can be reached at

Published by Mexico Living Guide -

Mexico’s Top 5 Offbeat Attractions

By David Agren

1. The Lucha Libre: The masked men of the Lucha Libre stage their high-flying antics on a regular basis at aging rinks and bullrings throughout the country. Although long considered naco, or tacky, the middle and upper classes are increasingly embracing the "sport."

2. Mercado Sonora: This Mexico City market is a place known for its fortune tellers and stalls hawking everything from witchcraft paraphernalia to dubious miracle cures for any illness.

3. Jesus Malverde shrine: A chapel in Culiacan, a state capital north of Mazatlan, dedicated to the patron saint of narcotics trafficking. The traffickers sponsor a party at the shrine every May 3, when the mostly-poor attendees are showered with giveaways.

4. San Marcos Fair: Aguascalientes, a prosperous, semi-arid industrial city, lives for its annual San Marcos Fair, the largest state fair in Mexico. And the five-week event features the country's largest palenque, or cockfighting ring. Highrollers wager big bucks during the cockfights, which are always followed by live entertainment by some of the biggest names in Latin music.

5. Dolores Hidalgo: A central Mexican town known for its lusty Independence Day celebrations, but lately, it's gained fame for ice cream vendors offering quirky flavours such as corn, avocado and tequila. The pork rind ice cream is not recommended.

David Agren covers Mexican politics for The News, Mexico City's English-language daily.

Buying Real Estate in Mexico

By: Jason Keiller

If you have been considering the possibility of purchasing some Mexico Real Estate, whether it is in the form of land or in the form of property in Mexico , there are a few things you should definitely know before you decide to buy. First, if you buy Mexico real estate, no matter if it is vacant land, an apartment, a condo or a house, it can offer good monetary value in comparison to the prices of comparable land or buildings in the U.S. , Canada and Europe , as well as other countries around the globe. However, be sure to comparison shop among several of your favorite areas before buying because prices of Property in Mexico have risen dramatically in some areas in the past few years, so be sure to properly assess the potential property's value before you make the decision to buy anything.

However, even with this recent rise in the prices of Property in Mexico , the overall jump has been offset by the lower overall land cost, as well as lower building and maintenance costs and lower taxes and utilities. So the bottom line is that if you are seriously interested in Mexico real estate, you should not be scared off by the many ‘horror stories' that are circulating out there with regard to problems with purchasing Real Estate in Mexico. Instead, just simply be sure that, just as though you were thinking of purchasing property anywhere else in the world, you do your homework first and research the many options that are available in Mexico real estate before making the decision to buy a piece of land or a building. No matter what you are told to try to scare you off, the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of all real estate purchases in Mexico go through quickly and easily without any legal hassles.

Greensheet Real Estate Updates

Trump resort off to slow start
Rosarito Beach - Trump Ocean Resort in Baja California, just 10-mile drive from the border on the Tijuana-Ensenada strip known as the Gold Coast drew hundreds for their initial sales event. Now, two years after Donald Trump’s decision to lend his name to the lavish 3-tower coastal condo-hotel project it has yet to break ground.

The developer received a land use permit in 2005 to build 526 units to on the property, but the developer has yet to receive a construction permit.

Irongate, Trump’s Los Angeles-based partner said the project is moving forward and that they are finalizing documents to be presented to City Hall.

Like other developments in northwest Mexico, Trump Ocean Resort has also felt the downturn due to the US market. However, construction on the first tower is set to start in March.

According to Irongate, workers have been grading the land and installing utilities and the reason it’s not visible is it’s underground.

Prices range from the mid-$300k for a studio on the lower floor to $2.5 million for a penthouse. Amenities will include four infinity-edge pools, tennis courts, a full-service day spa, five-star restaurants, bars and convention space. Approximately 40 percent of the second 26-story tower has sold.

Casablanca moves steadily forward
San Felipe - December and January were great months, they sold 10 more lots; with the two story lots in the last row nearly sold out. According to Casablanca, they now have their F3 and have already started engineering on the sea wall and front entrance. As soon as the engineering is complete, they will begin construction.

Casablanca has also finished drilling their well and pump house, and are producing an abundance of sweet water.

Playa San Rafael moves forward on infrastructure
San Felipe - Playa San Rafael is picking up speed. They are currently installing their infrastructure and awarding contracts. “It is a good time to have our access blocked due to highway [Mexicali/San Felipe Mexico Highway 5] construction. Once there is easy access again, people can come see the progress that we’ve made”. Said Greg Anderson, Sales manager for SeaMexico Realty.
During highway construction, Playa de Oro, the developers first completed and successful development one kilometer south, will have offices open for both developments while San Rafael’s access is restricted. San Rafael is the sister community of Playa de Oro - voted “Best Development in San Felipe of 2007”!

Lions Club Continues San Felipe Commitment

Photo by Robin Waters-Article by Kathy Preppernau

Lions Club of San Felipe President, Gary Dilley and board member, Rafael Navarro, presented a donation of much needed equipment to the San Felipe Fire Department on Saturday, January 5th at the local fire station. The donation from the Yuma, Arizona Fire Department filled the back of Gary’s vehicle and included fire fighting clothes and helmets, emergency beds (folding cots), stretchers, an emergency defibulator and other EMT equipment. Receiving the donation were acting Fire Chief, Martin Cambar, who has been with the department for 20 years, and fire fighters Francisco Rios, 7 years with the department and Christian Jesus Camacho Lion, who has been with the department for 5 years.

The Lions Club would like to thank a Friend of the Lions, Dr Wayne Chiavacci from Yuma, for his efforts in getting the equipment donated and to Daniel Padilla from the Yuma Fire Department and Fire Chief, Jack Mc Arthur, for helping to facilitate the move to San Felipe. They all will continue to help us locate donations from other fire departments as well.

The Club is actively looking for 2 fire trucks for this area: one for the local department and one for the South Camps. We are hoping for news from Phoenix, AZ soon. They may have 1 truck for us.

How To Obtain A US Passport

By: Kevin Wynn

To travel out of the US, even just for a short visit to neighboring countries such as Canada or Mexico, you need a US passport for your identity and nationality to be verified at the border. A passport is a travel document which is recognized internationally. When traveling overseas, you must hold a valid US passport for you to leave the US and enter another country.

A US passport can be obtained at any of the US regional passport agencies. There are currently thirteen of these regional passport agencies with around 9,000 passport acceptance facilities around the US and just one Gateway City Agency. These agencies are mainly for Americans needing a US passport in less than two weeks as they need to travel within two weeks or they need to apply for visas to visit a particular country. For these cases, an appointment is required. The US Department of State is the only government office which is authorized to issue and verify passports.

Getting a US passport can be quick and easy. If it is your first time to obtain one, you have to apply in person at any of the passport acceptance facilities in your area. These facilities may be post offices, probate and state courts, federal courts, a few public libraries and even county or municipal offices. Before you go to a US passport acceptance facility, ensure that you bring with you a proof of your US citizenship, two passport photographs, and any valid form of identification which must contain your photo, such as your driver’s license.

If you just need to renew your passport, you can just mail your most recent US passport to the nearest passport acceptance facility in your area. Before you mail it, check if your passport is not damaged or even altered. Your most recent passport must also be issued in the past fifteen years, that you were sixteen years old or older when at the time of its issuance and that you still have the same name. Otherwise, you need to apply in person to renew your US passport.

Obtaining a US Passport if you need to travel immediately

The process of getting a passport takes four to six weeks starting at the time it was received by a passport acceptance facility. If you need your US passport at once due to your need to travel within the next two weeks or you need to obtain a visa to enter a foreign country, you can get one at any of the thirteen passport agencies in the US. These agencies are only open by appointment. You need to present a proof of your travel date or a proof that you need to get a foreign visa before you are given an appointment.

Ensure that you call in advance to set an appointment. For your guidance, the regional passport agencies issuing US passports are located in Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Connecticut, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington.

Kevin Wynn owns and operates, a site that describes the different ways to obtain a US Passport. US Passports

Immigration Law

For all Mexico and Baja concerned people please read below and inform your client s.

Reminded of New Document Requirements Beginning January 31, 2008
Release Date: December 3, 2007
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010
Department of State: 202-647-2492

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) remind the traveling public that as of Jan. 31, 2008, all adult travelers will be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and proof of identity, such as a driver's license, when entering the United States through land and sea ports of entry. DHS will be issuing a notice in the Federal Register formally announcing the change.
This change is a necessary step to prepare travelers and ease the transition to the future requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). WHTI proposes to establish documentation requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda. As recommended by the 9/11 Commission, Congress enacted WHTI in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. WHTI will result in both enhanced security and increased facilitation across the border once implemented. During this transition, DHS and the Department of State are working diligently to minimize the impact on legitimate trade and travel.
Currently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers may accept oral declarations of citizenship from U.S. and Canadian citizens seeking entry into the United States through a land or sea border. However, as of January 31, 2008:

Oral declarations of citizenship alone will no longer be accepted
U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 19 and older will need to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate
Children ages 18 and under will only be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate
Passports and trusted traveler program cards - NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST - will continue to be accepted for cross-border travel
All existing nonimmigrant visa and passport requirements will remain in effect and will not be altered by this change.
DOS reminds the public that the current turnaround time for a passport is four to six weeks, so Americans planning international travel may wish to apply now. For information on obtaining a U.S. Passport visit or call 1-877-487-2778. Specific documentation requirements for land, sea and air travel may be found at www.cbpgov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/ready_set_go/ . To learn more about NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST, visit

Janet Silva

Sr. Mortgage/Developer Consultant International Division
760 - 861 - 6773 mobile
760 - 406 - 5078 e fax

San Felipe History pt. 2

By Ronald Saunders

This is the first in a series of installments that tell the story of San Felipe; a story whose human history began more than two hundred years ago.

With the command of three ships, the Spaniard, Francisco de Ulloa in 1539, became the first European to sail into the northern waters separating mainland Mexico and the Baja peninsula. His mission was to sail into that body of water and explore the surrounding lands as far north as possible. He achieved this by reaching the Colorado River, which incidentally, refuted the claims that Baja California was an island. It was he who named the gulf, 'Mar de Cortez' (Sea of Cortez) in honor of Hernando Cortez, the conquistador of Mexico. While exploring both interior coasts of the gulf he passed San Felipe Bay, although his diary makes no mention of it or its environs. In other years ships would also sail to the Colorado River but they too would make no note of San Felipe Bay.

The following year, 1540 Melchior Diaz, a captain under Francisco Coronado, found his way overland to the mouth of the treacherous Colorado River and promptly christened it "Rio de Tison". (The Firebrand River)

In time the Spanish rulers of Mexico ultimately came to realize the peninsula offered no riches. Consequently, there was no urgency to take the land or the natives by force. Instead, they resorted to another method - the church. For a period of nearly two hundred years, from the middle 1500's to the early 1700's Baja California (Norte) was left alone, unexplored and unsettled while the church under the Jesuit missionaries gained strong footholds in the southern peninsula region. For over 100 years northern exploration was nearly impossible since it took all the missionaries' energy just to secure their initial southern settlements. Consequently, investigation of the northern peninsula did not begin until the early 1700's.

Between 1721 and 1767 San Felipe Bay had been discovered and explored primarily through the explorations of the Jesuit missionaries Ugarte, Consag and Link. Their primary missions were to find areas in the northern peninsula that might have usefulness to the missionary cause.

On May 15, 1721 Father Pedro de Ugarte sailed from Loreto carrying on board 13 Californians, 6 Europeans, and an English pilot. After a hazardous journey to the mouth of the Colorado, Ugarte's voyage conducted a thorough geographical exploration of the gulf. The good padre has been given credit for naming all islands, harbors, bays, and ports of the northern gulf, including San Felipe Bay. Although Ugarte's diary, like that of Ulloa's, did not specifically mention San Felipe de Jesus, it is speculated his party reached the bay on August 23rd, the church feast day of St. Phillip and Ugarte named the place in the saint's honor.

Twenty-five years later, Father Fernando Consag, a Jesuit missionary in Baja California, gave a thorough account of San Felipe Bay. Under orders of the Father-Provincial in 1746, Consag set out from Mission San Ignacio to explore possible mission sites northward to the Colorado River. His party provides the first description of San Felipe. His diary reads: "We next came to the Bay of San Phelipe de Jesus, the cape of which lies north and south from one another. That of the north terminates in some black mountains…and found it to afford a shelter against the north wind, even for large vessels…"

This last observation had significant implications for San Felipe's use as a port for supplying needed items to missions located on Baja's northern interior.

Consag went on: "The shore is sandy, and on the north side is a creek, which at full and change of the moon has a depth of water sufficient for boats, but at other times dry." Consag here is undoubtedly referring to the small tidal lagoon found today at San Felipe (at the south end of the malecon).

A further entry states: "At the foot of a flat eminence it [San
Felipe] affords plenty of water, but thick, disagreeable, of an ill smell, and noxious in its quantity. Its effects on those who drink it resembles the symptoms of scurvy".

Although disagreeable, the water must have been potable, since Consag identifies San Felipe as one of the few spots on the eastern gulf coast with drinking water. He concludes his remarks by a warning to all future travelers, "all the way from San Phelipe to the River Colorado there is neither bay nor watering place."

Consag's discovery that San Felipe Bay provided both boat protection and drinking water made San Felipe unique among the bays of the peninsula's east coast. His diary entries and his map provided useful and readily available information of San Felipe Bay and its suitability as a shipping port to missions in the interior.

It was during this period the missionaries first came into contact with the natives of northern Baja. It is estimated nearly 20,000 Indians populated this region at the close of the eighteenth century. This section of the peninsula was divided among native groups, each having a specific land area. The Kiliwa, a subgroup of the California Yumans, occupied the region from the mouth of the Colorado River south to approximately Valle de Trinidad. Approximately 1300 of them made their home on the timber-clad heights of the San Pedro Martir mountain range. A warlike people, they feuded constantly with neighboring tribes; especially those tribes to the west who restricted their travel to the Pacific. They were primarily hunters and gatherers, and to a lesser degree farmers. The Kiliwa made yearly migrations to San Felipe where fresh water was available at the bay, additionally, the Indians needed an outlet to the gulf in order to supplement their diets with seafood. The presence of drinking water and the availability of seafood made San Felipe a desirable place for temporary settlement. However, it was never a place of permanent settlement for any of the Indian groups. Artifacts found at the site testify to their presence there.

First came the Jesuits, then the Franciscans and finally the Dominicans who, by the last quarter of the 18th century, succeeded them for control of the peninsula. The Dominican missionaries found these Indians much more warlike than their southern neighbors. Mission records characterized them as ungodly children: "unquiet, proud, fickle, quick tempered, treacherous, warlike and difficult to govern."

Another Jesuit missionary, Father Winceslao Link, made an arduous journey from San Borja intending to reach the Colorado River by land. The following is his account of San Felipe: "Our neophytes who went to the beach yesterday, returned at nightfall. Most of them lacked the strength to traverse the entire sandy stretch. Some of the more energetic reached the Gulf itself and on the beach discovered a native settlement near a water well. All the pagan Indians fled except two women they brought to us at midnight.

Father Consag's initial exploration of San Felipe, supported by Father Link's account, literally placed San Felipe on the map. The presence of water and a protective bay became known to all travelers and potential settlers.

(to be continued).

Mexico’s Carnival, Fiesta Forever!

By Erick Laseca

Looking for a unique Carnival (Carnaval in Spanish) experience close to home with a foreign feel? Search no further than our southern neighbor, México. Hosting an array of parades, parties, concerts, culinary festivals, cultural programs and beauty pageants, Mexican coastal cities offer Mardi Gras celebrations comparable to those in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro or anywhere else in the world.

Celebrated the week prior to Ash Wednesday and normally lasting a little less than a week, Carnival in Mexico has a long tradition dating back to the nineteenth century. Coming from the Latin word Carnavale, meaning “goodbye to the flesh,” Carnival refers to the week before Lent (Cuaresma), where carefree abandonment and indulgence are encouraged.

Beauty Queens and Burning Moods, what else can you ask for?
Kick-off begins with the burning of El Mal Humor (Bad Mood), in which an effigy, usually modeled after an unpopular politician of the day, is hung and burned, followed by a flurry of confetti and fireworks. This gives commencement to nearly a week of festivities in some of Mexico’s most popular coastal cities, including Campeche, Mazatlan, Veracruz and Merida, just to name a few.

Host cities celebrate all sorts of parades daily, depending on the local carnival’s theme, which differs from region to region. Parades display an array of floats decoratively inspired by Mexican scenery and normally featuring bright flowers and live entertainment. Some parades require an entrance fee, and visitors are advised to get tickets to the parade as soon as they can through the local tourist office or hotel.

Mexpipe Challenge Surf Carnaval-February 16-20
For the first time ever, a surf carnival has been added this year at Zacatela beach in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. This festival with a laid-back Woodstock-like atmosphere will take place on the beach and will have D.J.S, a fashion show, electronic dance parties and break dancing competitions as well as plenty of surf in the Pacific Ocean.

Men and women can compete in surfing competitions as well as enjoy the many festivities offered in conjunction with the carnival. The Grand Carnival Parade takes place on Tuesday the 20th, followed by a costume contest and an awards ceremony at Town Hall.

Mazatlan– February 8-20
Mazatlan, home to the third-largest Carnival celebration in the world after those in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, attracts more than 400,000 people each year. From February 8 to 20, thrill-seekers fill the malecón (oceanside promenade) running along downtown’s Ollas Altas beach, singing and dancing along roving mariachi bands. You can also catch regional Sinaloenses bands with lots of brass, as well as rock groups that set up along the way.

Food lovers can enjoy open-air culinary festivals in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) and in Machado Plaza. Prominent dishes on hand include Mazatlán's famous pescado zarandeado (barbecued fish), camarones con mango (mango shrimp) and marlín ahumado (smoked marlin). After enjoying some fresh seafood, Ollas Atlas port offers a unique offshore fireworks presentation February 17 representing a mock naval battle, in commemoration of Mazatlan's 1864 victory over the French Navy.

Veracruz – February 13 - 21
Known for its Afro-Caribbean-influenced culture, the port city of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico hosts the second-largest Carnival in the country. Parade-goers can expect to see Draculas, drag queens and women in sparkling dresses dancing to the infectious Caribbean/Spanish rhythms along Miguel Avila Camacho Boulevard. Groups from neighboring villages dance in peacock and pheasant-feathered headdresses. A must during Carnival in Veracruz is dancing! Visitors should not miss the chance to dance at the zocalo, or central square. Salsa, cumbia, reggae and marimba are popular, but Jarochos (people from Veracruz) hold a special place in their hearts for the music and dance known as danzon, which first arrived from Cuba in 1880. For live music, visit the zocalo and/or the malecon on February 21, featuring Mexican artists.

And when they aren't dancing, there’s nothing like sitting on the banks of the Jamapa River in the nearby town of Boca del Rio and enjoying succulent grilled huachinango (red snapper), or a vuelve a la vida (Veracruz-style seafood cocktail, a well-known hangover remedy) at bargain prices.

Cozumel – February 14-21
Known as one of the most popular celebrations in the Mexican Caribbean, Cozumel has commemorated this pre-Lenten celebration for nearly 100 years bringing Carnaval to life in an exciting explosion of color and music. Cozumel’s unique celebration includes a variety of costumed characters, such as Harlequins, rumba dancers, Spaniards, gypsy women, fairies, princesses, bullfighters and kings and queens that can be spotted during the week.

This carnival is also considered a family-friendly version of the holiday and begins with the crowning of the emperor and empress as well as the king and queen of Carnaval. As the week progresses and the momentum builds, the island’s celebration continues with colorful parades, nightly street fairs and daily musical performances and dancing throughout the streets of downtown San Miguel.

Merida– February 14-21
The Yucatan Peninsula’s capital city of Merida is one of the many cities that celebrate Carnival, with this year’s theme centered on “The Circus”. Since 1980, the people of the Yucatan celebrate the marching of “El Jacarandoso,” a popular character who was once king of the Carnival and annually displays the most colorful and amusing costume. On Monday during Carnival week, the ladies don hand-embroidered dresses and the gentlemen sparkling white guayaberas, the dress shirts typical of the region.

Other important carnival destinations in Mexico include Ensenada, Baja California; Guaymas, along the Sea of Cortez in Sonora; Tepic, Nayarit; and Chamula, Chiapas, said to be one of the most indigenous festivals in the country.

About the Mexico Tourism Board
The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico's tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB is Mexico’s tourism promotion agency, and its participants include members of both the private and public sectors. The MTB has offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

# # #

Erick Laseca
Mexico Tourism Board
312-228-0517 x14

Beachside dreams of Chocolate

Robert Shrader is a retired RV dealer turned Mexican Chocolatier. He used to own Bob's RV's in Beaumont CA, but now makes chocolate on the beach in San Felipe Baja California. This was never the goal, or some part of any master plan. This is simply a guy that retired, moved to Mexico and followed a passion.

Bob’s had a home in San Felipe since 1989 and moved full time in 2000. In 2004, he starting making chocolate. He started baking as a hobby, but could never find the right recipe to produce the flavors he wanted, until he started playing with chocolate and voila!

Bob’s wife Yolanda is responsible for all the packaging and wrapping of the chocolates, which is also an intricate part of the kitchen staff according to Bob, “she is the head of our scullery maids of which there is but one.” He makes the chocolate and comes up with the recipes and Yolanda seems to do everything else. “She is the cocoa behind the chocolate,” says Bob.

Chocolate had the flavors and textures he was looking for. Chocolate is hard, soft, creamy, it can be long, short, fat, thin, or it can become anything wanted and the taste desired. Baja Chocolate Lovers is the old European style of chocolate making and as delectable as these may be, Bob does not add sugar to any of their chocolates. “We use premium chocolates and only their natural ingredients” say Bob, “We flavor our chocolates using lacquers, herbs, oils, fruits, spices and of course a secret sauce.”

This year they’ve added Chocolate Business Card (one ounce of chocolate sculpted with any logo), also the half pound of Baja-in-a-Box or Creamy Amaretto Milk Chocolate sculpted into a half pound of Baja, sealed in a cellophane bag then cradled in a hand crafted presentation box with a gold bow. This makes a nice gift for the Baja lover, chocolate lover or both.

“Gourmet dark chocolate has been proven in studies to actually be good for you!” Bob points out. He continues with a study from U.S.-FDA Research Department, showing gourmet dark chocolate has several essential nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium. It even contains the vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. So, you can actually help protect your body against heart disease and high blood pressure by simply enjoying some gourmet dark chocolate.

The business grew from passion, not a desire to go into business or make money. “I never stop enjoying the look on peoples face when they take their first bit of our chocolate.”

Whether you’re sold on the health benefits, want to woo a Valentine, you need to try this chocolate. Now available in San Felipe, at Playa de Oro Sundance market, Tattoo Rose Cafe, The Net or their website, or you can visit them in Campo Ocotillo at kilometer 182, San Felipe/Mexicali Highway. Website:

Internationally well know artist makes San Felipe, B. C. Mexico his home.

By Robin Waters

Luis Cogley showed such an interest in art as a small child, that his family started him in private art classes at the age of 8. Years later he graduated from National School of Bella Artes in Buenos Aires, Argentina, his native country. After graduation, he made his home in Los Angeles, California for 20 years and for some time New Orleans was another place he called home. Many years ago he began visiting San Felipe and for the last four years, he has divided his time between the Baja and Santa Fe, New Mexico. In San Felipe he has found the peace and tranquility essential for the creative process. He says of the sea and mountain views from his studio window, “life and art join in a dynamic partnership”.

His style is fresh, new and innovative, with forms that are at times childlike in simplicity, a contemporary whimsy sometimes mixed with impressionism and occasional surrealism. The palette he uses is bright with color, and the artist attributes his works unique appeal to the primitive need to laugh and have fun. Something he says, so many people do not experience in their daily lives. Cogley’s conviction that art should evoke an immediate response from the viewer has led him to unite painting and sculpture into exciting new art forms. He expresses himself in art pieces that are more than wall décor, such as patio furniture, gates, garden benches, and even pianos, ordinary items that he has transformed into art as part of life. Many of these can be seen in collectors homes throughout the San Felipe area.

Luis says his inspiration reflects his interpretation of the world around him. It comes from the color and shapes of nature, the energy of urban life, the beauty of women, the rhythm of music, bright flowers, a gnarled old tree, or the peace of an icon.

He is currently represented in several galleries in Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, but his collectors come from all over the globe. Luis Cogley pieces can also be found in prestigious corporate locations: Chromacolor Inc. (Chicago, Ill), Kohler Co. (Penn.), Red Fish Restaurant (New Orleans, LA), Temple City Medical Clinic (Temple City, CA) to name a few.

After creating art for so many years he says “it gives me satisfaction to share my feelings, my ideas, and my soul with many people from around the world. I love it when someone smiles and enjoys my works. I feel that my art escorts both adults and children into an uplifted dimension.”
You can see his work locally in his Home/Studio in Las Playas de San Felipe. Look for the gallery sign that is one of his sculpture pieces, on the road to the airport. Or call him for a studio tour at 577-2944. Luis will also be exhibiting at the Blues and Arts Fiesta April 19th 2008.

Chocolate and Wine Pairing

by Bob Schrader

Chocolate and wine pairing is often seen as difficult and certainly some wines don't go well with any type of chocolate. But when done correctly, wine and chocolate pairing can be a very rewarding experience. Of course, taste is a very subjective thing but if you don't know where to start here are a few guidelines to great chocolate and wine pairings.

One of the most common mistakes people make when pairing wine and chocolate is that they pick a wine which is too dry. It is generally a good idea to choose a wine which is at least as sweet (if not sweeter) than the chocolate you are serving it with.

When pairing wine and chocolate, you should also keep in mind that light, creamy flavored chocolates tend to pair best with light bodied wines. For strong flavored chocolates (like Gourmet Dark Chocolates or Gourmet Chocolate Truffles), you should choose a full bodied wine. To make wine and chocolate pairing easier, try referring to the tables below.
Red Wines and Chocolate Pairings
Cabernet Franc / Creamy Milk Chocolate
Cabernet Sauvignon / Dark Chocolate
Chianti / No Suggestion
Merlot / Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate
Pinot Noir / Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate
Sangiovese / Dark Chocolate
Zinfandel / Dark Chocolate

As you can see, red wines often match well with dark chocolates but there are a couple of exceptions. Cabernet Franc with an extra creamy milk chocolate is a great wine and chocolate pairing.
White Wines and Chocolate Pairings
Chardonnay / French Vanilla Chocolate
Riesling / Milk Chocolate
Sauvignon Blanc / Milk Chocolate

White wines are somewhat tough to pair with chocolates. While white wines have a light body which goes very well with milk chocolates, most are too dry to be served with chocolate. But there are some truly amazing combinations as well (like Chardonnay paired with French Vanilla.).
Dessert Wines and Chocolate Pairings
Champagne & Sparkling Wine / Almost Any Chocolate
Port / Dark Chocolate
Sherry / Milk or White Chocolate

Dessert wines don't really adhere to any "rules" about wine and chocolate pairings. Champagnes seem to go well with almost any type of chocolate, while Port and Sherry are on opposite ends of the chocolate spectrum.

Wine and chocolate pairings are interesting if nothing else. Many people swear by this unusual combination while others insist that it "can not be done". The only way to know for sure is to try it for yourself.

Gourmet dark chocolate often takes a back seat the wide-spread popularity of gourmet milk chocolate but don't be fooled. Gourmet dark chocolate is every bit a treat to the senses as any other gourmet chocolate treat.

Gourmet dark chocolate makes a good gourmet chocolate gift idea for those who are health conscious. Gourmet dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more) has been proven in studies to actually be good for you! Gourmet dark chocolate has several essential nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium. It even contains the vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. So, you can actually help protect your body against heart disease and high blood pressure by simply enjoying some gourmet dark chocolate.

The best part is that gourmet dark chocolate is a lot tastier than vitamin pills and nutrition drinks. Gourmet dark chocolate also contains cancer-fighting antioxidants and has even been compared to wine (which have been known for years to contain high levels of antioxidants).

Gourmet dark chocolate is delicious and good for you. You can't go wrong! So, you can safely use gourmet dark chocolate as a gourmet chocolate gift idea to just about anyone. You can rest assured that you have not only given them a wonderfully delicious gourmet chocolate gift but also a gift that is good for them.

The best gourmet chocolate truffles are rich with a silky smooth palate. They also come in many different varieties. You can get gourmet chocolate truffles made from dark chocolate or milk chocolate. Dark chocolate truffles are the most popular though. The bitterness of dark chocolate balances very well with the sweetness of truffles.

Try them all, experiment. After all it’s Chocolate and Wine! Enjoy.

Bob (Chocolatier)
BajaChocolateLovers (
San Felipe, Baja, Mexico
Noth'n says Love'n Like Chocolate!!
Bite Some!!

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About San Felipe Baja California

San Felipe is a small town historically economically dependent on fishing and now on tourism, catering mostly to U.S. travelers. San Felipe is on the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) in the Mexican state of Baja California, 118 miles (190 km) south of the US border and within the municipality of Mexicali.

UNIQUE ECOSYSTEM: Where the desert meets the sea. The 23-foot tides (7-meters) expose a kilometer or more of ocean floor. San Felipe experiences one of the largest tidal bores in the world due in part to the Colorado River delta to the north.

TEMPERATURES: Averaging 75 degrees (24°C) year-round. Temperatures range from a night winter low of 39 (4°C) to high of 115 (46°C) in July and August.

POPULATION: The population was 14,831 at the 2005 census, and can increase by up to 7,000 from October through May with the presence of part-time residents or during holidays such as Semana Santa (Holy Week), spring break or Memorial Day.

A tourist visa is required if you are staying in Mexico longer than 72 hours.
A tourist visa is required if traveling south of Ensenada, San Felipe or Puerto Penasco.
ATV’s prohibited on beach.
Mexico Auto insurance is required.
Traffic laws in San Felipe are enforced.
Littering is illegal.
Using fireworks is illegal.
Fishing licenses are required.
Summers here are not nearly as hot as people say.

ATMs are available at Banamex Bank on lower Chetumal and Bancomer Bank, across from La Plazita on Mar de Cortez, or AM/PM next to PEMEX on Mar Caribe Sur.