About The Author:
"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.
Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wine Bars in Mexico
While rare in occurrence, it’s always a thrill for The Wine Guy to hear from a reader. A recent email commented on my frequency of blogs about wine and food in central Mexico. Noting that I had never mentioned Wine Bars, they were curious as to whether that was due to their scarcity or if I just had not frequented any in Mexico.
The Wine Guy has to confess that wine, for me, finds its best expression when paired with food. My favorite wines are those that continue to offer new nuances and discoveries each time I pair them with a different meal. A classic example is Allegrini’s Palazzo Della Torre (see my blog of 8/24/09 entitled “An Old Friend Comes to Dinner”). This wine offers something new each and every time I try it with a different meal! I also enjoy the romance and ambiance of having wine with food. Thus, over 90% of the wine I regularly consume is either with a meal at home or in a restaurant. Other than that, my exploration and trial of new wines usually occurs at trade shows, wineries, at tasting events or with trial samples given to me by importers or distributors. As a result, I’m not a frequent “Wine Bar” patron.
It is also true that wine bars are a little scarcer in Mexico…Mexican annual per capita wine consumption is quite low and consumption for locals is most often with meals and at home. As a result, most quality wine is found at retail or at wineries. The wine bar concept is generally limited to restaurants, resorts and hotels in tourist areas. When found separately, they are usually only found in metropolitan areas frequented by tourists or in communities with significant ex-patriot populations. Having said that, there are still some good ones to be found. By community of location, here are a few I’m familiar with enough to comment on or recommend:
Cabo San Lucas, Baja:
Try the D.O.C. Wine Bar & Restaurant near the Plaza Amelia Wilkes: It has a good selection and is a favorite among locals as well as tourists. The wine list changes frequently due to the logistics of getting product to the tip of the Baja peninsula, but it always has a good selection of domestic Mexican wines as well as a nice selection of imports.
Habanero's, Benito Juarez & Constitucion in the Centro Historico, offers a good selection. The food at the co-owned Fernando’s Restaurant earns good reviews as well. More popular due to its rooftop deck view, but not having as great a wine selection, is the Skyview Bar at the Posada Freeman in the Olas district.
There are three possible choices here in this delightful, often overlooked (by Americans) tourist community in the heart of the state of Queretaro. All are just off the central plaza and jardin. The Freixenet Wine Bar offers over 50 selections but a better bet is to actually go the Frexienet Sala Vie Winery located just 20 minutes up the road. (See Roger’s Grapevine on 12/06/09 for more details on this winery) Service is also slow at the touristy Wine & Cheese Museum site, just off Carrizal and Independencia. It offers a nice exhibit in the patio courtyard with the additional benefit of buying local chesses to pair with your wine. Best bet is the nicely operated Todos A Beber on Manuel Mateus. It’s principally a retail shop with a nice but modest selection and the owner does know his wine. Also, they have some high top tables and offer snack trays if you want to enjoy your selection on premise.
San Miguel de Allende:
The wine bar & bistro in the Fabrica de Aurora attracts most tourists but has changed hands a couple of times and in two visits there, The Wine Guy was very disappointed with the level of both service and wine knowledge from the staff. Try enjoying the wine bars at Dos Casa Resort on Quebrada or at the popular Harry’s New Orleans Cafe on Hidalgo. For a great view, a fair selection, good service (not to mention two for one early afternoon specials) enjoy the rooftop La Azotea Wine Bar on Umaran just off the Jardin. It’s upstairs from the equally enjoyable Campo Viejo Restaurant. Both are among Mrs. Wine Guy’s favorite places to relax after shopping in SMA’s centro (she took the attached photo of The Wine Guy at La Azotea).
This beautiful and always lively university city has great restaurants, bars, nightspots and some good wine bars as well! El Abue is often recommended by local B&B’s and was recommended a few years back in the New York Times travel section. It can be hard to spot as it is located at the top of a flight of stairs on a hilly side street just off the Plaza Baratillo (see photo of The Wine Guy in front). It has slipped under its new owners but still offers a nice but ever changing carta de vini (wine list). The list is written on a pair of chalkboards on the wall (see photo…note prices are in pesos NOT U.S. dollars). One of your best wine bar bets in this city is El Chorcho de Baco (the cork of Bacchus) on Plaza San Fernando. While somewhat pricey for Mexico, they have a nice selection including some quality Mexican wines. During the day, their very upscale salads are best enjoyed in the courtyard below the bar that is shared with artisan retailers. On the weekend, come back in the evening and enjoy some live jazz with your wine and food.
If traveling to Mexico (or anywhere else for that matter) and you want to know about wine bars, do a little homework. Fodor’s and Frommer’s are always good sources but keep in mind that they are only accurate for a short period after their last visit. Wine bars and nightspots do seem to change hands frequently in tourist areas, especially Mexico. The Wine Guy likes to review traveler’s reviews on sites such Trip Advisor and I will deliberately review the most recent postings. Compare the most praising and most critical knowing the truth generally lies somewhere in between. If you travel mid week and off-season, be careful (and critical) when ordering wine-by-the-glass. Control over open bottles of wine is not always practiced well in Mexico. Due to high import tariffs, you will find the best wine values in Mexico are generally the better-made Mexican wines or Chilean wines which are imported tariff-free under a trade agreement between the two countries. Spanish, French and Italian selections round out the top of Mexico’s most imported wines. U.S. wines rank a distant fifth and are generally costlier than back home.
I hope this answers my reader's inquiry. Reader’s comments, questions and topic suggestions are always welcome either in the Grapevine comment feature or by email. Just send your emails to email@example.com.
Enjoy your next glass of wine. I always do!