Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Kid In Town

I've been living in Merida now for five years and I've been drinking wine in Merida now for five years. 

Until recently the best access to wine that I knew about was either Costco, Sam's, or Covi.  Yes, there were some smaller neighborhood stores but they don't carry much of a selection. 

Merida is an infant in the wine scene.  Don't get me wrong, there are wine drinkers here and some with discerning tastes but for the most part they drank red or white.  Ok, what others are there besides roses?  None, without getting technical!  But there was little concern to the varietal (type of grape) that the red or white wine was made from. 
Over time the wine culture here has changed and is still changing and I hope it continues.......forever!
I see three main things that have made these changes come about.  One, the influx of people moving here to live from the northern parts of the country.  They bring with them a better level of knowledge and a more discerning palate.  Two, more and more gringos moving here also with a broader base of knowledge and desires for wines they want to have access to.  Three, the locals growing knowledge of wines and with that the desire to try other varietals. 
I think this is great for numerous reasons with the two biggies being a much wider variety and lower costs. 

Things are changing here and not only in regards to wine but many other things associated like food items and restaurants.  Go Merida Go!!!!

For a couple of years I have heard about and then came to know people that would drive to Cancun and/or Playa del Carmen to access a liquor store called La Europea.  Seems that they are a big chain in MX and they have a variety of wines, liquors, deli items, oils and nuts that puts all other similar stores to shame.

Well guess what?  Yep we have one!  It just recently opened at City Center.

You may remember my last post about going there but it being closed.  It did have a bit of a rough start and even though it is open now it isn't functioning at full capacity.
There is still some construction going on.............

and there is construction dust every where and there are prices missing..........

but it is a work in progress and it will be a great addition when it is finished!
These next two pictures are of the yet to be finished deli area.  From the looks of it it'll be quite large.  Who doesn't like a big deli!

It really gives me the feel of the large liquor stores in the states. 

They have all sorts of gift baskets and gift sets for sale too!

Plus they have oils, and nuts and all sorts of stuff!

So go, browse, snoop, check it out!  Who knows what you might find!

I can't wait to see it when it's running on all cylinders.  They do have wines I've never seen here before and they have some of the old reliable ones too.  However, I was impressed by them not being inundated with the wines you see very where else.  Ye they have some bu not shelf after shelf of things like Concha y Toro.  Ok, don't anyone get their knickers in a twist!  I like some of C yT's wines but I don't need to see them dominating the aisles and shelves. 
Give something new a chance.

Last, the prices were disappointing overall.  I thought when a big chain store came in that the competition would get a kick in the pants.  Not so much.  Of course I had to go on the same-o same-o and they seemed to be priced the same as other places. 
But, the variety was better than anywhere else in the city so I guess I'll  be learning about some new wines!  I love it!

Now I have been led to believe that there are case discounts but I failed to ask when I was there.  But you'll be going in to see the place I'm sure, so you can ask when you get there.  FYI: Roberto's name has been dropped as the go to guy for his knowledge and recommendations.  

Regardless, it's worth the trip just to see the place.  Kinda' gives you the feeling that Merida is growing up!

PS: I might mention that Cavit Italian Pinot Noir at 150p per bottle is a good wine at a decent price!

Monday, December 12, 2011

No wine-ing!

Friends have said that I should write about wines and associated things like costs, availability and restaurants that have wine here in Merida

I have hesitated as I have had no formal training in these areas. However I like to drink good wine and I like to eat good food and I’m pretty darn good at both. These are skills that I have been honing for a very long time and I like to do both at a reasonable cost.

I've also been reluctant but not that I don't have anything to say about these things but I was worried that I'd become famous. Worried that people would start saying things like...."well Tom says", you know, like they do with "Robert", you know, that Parker dude from Wine Advocate! Yea, right!

Ok if you don't know him or publications like Wine Spectator but like wine then I guess I've got at least four or five folks that might read what I talk about. So with encouragement like that I'll continue! Can you tell I'm easy!

First and foremost I am not a wine snob. My lovely wife will not agree with that statement but then, when has she ever really known me in the thirty nine years we have been together! Now I openly admit I have certain likes and dislikes when it comes to wines and restaurants but I certainly do not think that those things would ever place the moniker of "snob" on me. Regardless you'll get to know them over time and you can be the judge. I'm sure you have some too!

So I'll give this a go!I'm sure I'll improve as time goes on and I'll remember to take not only more but better pictures to accompany my revues.

Many of us have been anticipating the opening of the “La Europea” liquor store at City Center here in Merida. Yes, It is a chain of sorts, found all over MX. For whatever reason and as with most things Merida it took a long time to get it here.

I had heard that it was supposed to have opened about a week earlier but another friend reported that it didn’t. TIM! Then it was supposed to open the beginning of this week, it didn’t. TIM! So now another friend reported that a mutual friend bought two cases of wine there a couple of days ago so it was open.

So my amigo John and I loaded our wallets and headed out to see the new store on Thursday the 8th. We were to meet our friend Reg there at 2PM and we were all going to experience La Europea together.

Upon arrival we knew something was wrong because there were more people walking away from the store with empty arms than there were people going in.

We passed Laureen and Shawn, other friends, coming towards us and they asked “going to La Europea, we said yes, and they said it’s not open!” We discussed briefly the things heard about when it was supposed to have opened, etc, etc.

So John and I continued on and saw Reg talking to a few people. Reg informed us that the door guard said that they didn’t have all their papers in order so they couldn’t open. Reg has also talked to the owner and he said that he, the owner, was sure that if they were not open by 5PM that day that they would be open for sure by 10 AM the next morning Yea! Right!

Regardless we did some window shopping and did managed to get an abundant amount of nose smears on the glass. It is a fairly large store and certainly larger than any other liquor store in Merida.

Oh, and you might be curious about the other friend buying the two cases of wine……well, let me just say that it is always good to know somebody!

Ok, La Europea was a bust but how can it be totally bad if there is but another oasis of wine and food set before us. Yep, in City Center is the “winebar”.

The winebar is a restaurant, wine bar and deli. The sandwich board on the left had their lunch special listed and that's what we thought we'd get. 160p for the lunch special that included two glasses of wine! Que Bueno! More on that later!

Upon walking in the place had a nice feel, very modern. There was a tall rack of wine on your right….

......that separates the entry way from the front dining area.

On the left as you walk in are the main counter and a small chilled cabinet with cheese and meats. I guess it is what gives the place the designation as a deli. Ok, a small deli!

They have another wine rack just past the bar on the left side as you walk back to the rear dining area. All the wines are available by the bottle for carry out and also off the menu.

Both the front and back dining areas have a lot of glass so they are well lit with ambient light as long as it is sunny. At this time of day, 2:30, the rear area was very bright and since it was that way the floor was very well lit. I was surprised at the lack of cleanliness of the floor. Now don’t get me wrong, there were not hunks of pasta or meat stuck to the floor but you could tell that it hadn’t been swept since at least dinner the night before. And yes, I know that I wasn’t eating off the floor.

The waiter was right there as soon as we sat and we asked for a wine list. He left and immediately returned with the list.

I always like to look at the wine list at every restaurant I go in no matter if I am ordering wine or not. It tells me what wines they have and what the costs are. I can usually find a few that I know what my cost is and then I can tell what kind of mark up the restaurant has; My experience here in Merida is that almost all restaurants are pretty outrageous on their mark ups for wine!

Anyway, as we looked at the list we started asking a few questions about the lunch special. You could choose four out of the five salads on the menu. You had a choice of either a pasta or an arrachera dish. With either dish you got papas cambray or fritas, a small bowl of guac and a garnish of lettuce and tomato plus two glasses of wine.

We then asked about the wine and the waiter told us we could have either blanco o tinto. We asked about the wines as to what varietal they were, where they were from, etc. He told us they were from Chile and pointed them out to us on the wine list. I’m sorry but I can’t remember the winery but you’ll soon see why it didn’t matter.

All three of us also ordered the arrachera special and the vino tinto which was a malbec. The waiter had problems with all of our Spanish but after repeating things a few times he understood.

As the ordering was going on Reg looks at the only other table with people and said to me, “Tom, look at their wine glasses. I looked and there was a lot of condensation on the glasses. So much so that it was rising above the wine level on the sides of the glass. This meant that the wine was very cold.

Ok, one of my biggest dislikes is cold red wine. I don’t care for cold red wine. It’s just not right. The chill closes down the flavors of the wine. It doesn’t allow you to enjoy all that the vintner intended you to enjoy when he/she made the wine. I feel the same way about most white wines as well. However living in Merida I have learned in the hot months to enjoy a few whites chilled but never, ever a red!

Ok, so we engage the waiter in checking to see if we can get our wine poured out of a bottle that hasn’t been chilled. He leaves and comes back with the right answer, “yes.   

The three glasses of wine arrived  and we swirled and sniffed and sipped. We all thought it was a bit closed but we figured that with the bottle just being opened that it was fine for a lunch special wine. I commented that I got a small amount of a salty taste which is somewhat typical of Mexican wines but not usually Chilean reds. We all commented that the color was more of a garnet than a bright ruby or red which can mean an older wine so we got curious and asked to see the bottle.

The waiter brought the bottle and we gazed upon a non vintage Mexican wine, not a wine from Chile. It was not a malbec either but a cabernet sauvignon/malbec blend.

We gave a brief thought to asking the waiter about it but we figured it wasn’t worth the time or effort we’d need to put into it so we just drank the wine we had and continued to talk.

John and I got ceasar salads and as usual for here they were not true ceasar salads. They were dressed with bottled dressing. Reg got a deli salad and he said it was good. Next we got our second glasses of wine which were brought in new glasses and the old glasses were taken away. Then the meals came and the presentation was nice. The arrachera was very good as were the potatoes. The guac was decent.

We all were a bit surprised at the use of a wooden board with trim as the plate. But hey, TIM!

I also take issue, yes another dislike of mine,with the state of the "wine" glasses that a restaurant or "wine" bar serves their "wine" in!

Since "wine" is one of their main themes then the glasses should at the very least sparkle. They should never have water spots on them especially if the dining area has large glass windows with a ton of bright light! If they want to mark up their wines to the extent they do they certainly can afford to have clean glasses in which to serve their wines. After all, part of the wine experience is presentation!

Another one of my issues with glasses are chips. Yes, my second glass of "wine" had a chip in it. I'm sorry but this should never be in an upscale restaurant. Again especially in a "wine" bar! I mean they stepped up and brought us new glasses of wine when we ordered our second glasses and they certainly didn't need to do that since it was the same wine. They could have just brought the bottle and refilled our glasses and I expected that to happen at lunch.

I hate to repeat myself but if "wine" is one of, if not, the main theme that a restaurant is hanging its hat on then they should not serve their "wine" in glasses with water spots or chips! Ever! Well, during a full blown hurricane would be acceptable!

Now if this glass "thang" puts me into the "snob" catagory on your "snob" meter then so be it. Call it the way you see it. I have fairly broad shoulders and I can handle it! LOL!  But I will remind you that I didn't have lunch at a "wine" bar economica!

Overall the experience was ok and I would go back to see if they were possibly just having an off day.

On the wine cost comparison side of things at the "winebar" I saw a wine that I’m very familiar with on the rack and on the wine list at the “winebar". Yellow Tail Shiraz from Australia was my house shiraz in the states because it was consistently good and inexpensive costing around seven dollars a bottle. I see it here in Costco, Walmart, and other places frequently at 110p a bottle +/-. I consider it a fairly good deal here!

The “winebar” sells it from their rack for 340p a bottle. If you order it off the wine list with a meal then it is 460p a bottle. That is outrageous even at 14p to one dollar exchange rate. That makes it $24.00 US off the rack and just under $39.00 US off the wine list. Or comparing pesos to pesos that’s three times as much off the rack and four times as much off the wine list that you can buy it for.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there is expense in having to do all the things necessary that goes with serving a bottle of wine but there never has been and never will be a justifiable position for an over 400% mark up!

Until next time

Pick me, squeeze me, make me wine!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I read emails, I really do and I admit it!

I really enjoy emails especially since moving to Mexico. I seriously look forward to receiving them from my friends.  I think it's a great way to communicate with people in general!

An email carries with it many meanings for me that I do not and will not ever take for granted. Like it means someone was thinking of me, that someone thought I was important enough for them to chisel out a piece of time from their life, to sit down and communicate with me. Sort of like when we used to sit down with pen and paper to write a letter to a friend but without the pen, the paper, the envelope, the stamp, the licking and mailing. Gee, that's probably why emails caught on so well!
Over the past couple of years I have become more aware that my friends do not read emails. Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say that they probably read them but fail to respond to all items of inquiry within. Admittedly I do send some pretty long emails from time to time. A close friend in Durango CO crowned me "Mr. Wordy" after many communications in which my advice was asked for and I responded profusely! LOL!
Emails are a wonderful way to communicate setting aside the need to be very specific and then some times things are not received as they were sent. You can't show your body language or facial expressions within an email and that sometimes makes a world of difference in what you are trying to get across. But I'm getting off the subject here and that part of emails is fodder for someone else to blog about, my gig here today is about thoroughness.
Regardless even when I greatly reduce the amount of words it seems that, for the most part, the first half of the email is responded to and the rest is left by the wayside. Or, selected parts are responded to and the not the rest. Now I seriously doubt that it is intentional and may just simply have something to do with age or possibly a gray matter infection. But whatever it is it just really annoys the hell out of me! I mean if a person contacts you via email with the need to have answers to something or to set a date for an appointment with you then you should respond in kind and in a timely manner. This is especially true when a person contacts you for your assistance on something and asks what day in the coming week you would be available. You respond saying that you are available between 8 AM and 5 PM on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and tell the requester to pick which ever day and time suits them best. You then receive an email that states, "That's great, thanks, I'll see you at 10 AM sharp on Friday! WTF? Or you send an email needing a request for something happening in two weeks and during the two week period you get two other emails from the person that you were doing the inquiry to and nothing is ever said about your request? Say what? And my last example is the multiple inquiry email and the response comes in answering the first, second and last item and the others are not responded to. Come on folks, work with me here would you pretty please!!!!!!
Here's the way I see it, all of us are important and time will always be precious.  But in the realm of emails everyone's time is equal.  When someone takes the time to compose an email, especially one in which information is needed, then you should take the time to read it thoroughly and respond!  Once an email is opened you are committed imho!
I don't know about you but as you can tell from my post, I'm gonna' get pissy when you dis' my email!  Trust me when I say that I realize that the subject matter may not be as important to you as it is to me but we must respect each others time for whatever effort we are putting forth.
So please try better to read and respond to emails with a bit more thoroughness please.  I'll appreciate it and I'm willing to bet others will too!  Oh and always keep in mind how fortunate we are to be doing this minus the pen, the paper, the envelope, the stamp, the licking and the mailing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hey everyone....darts! Get the point?

A while back my friend John asked if anyone was interested in playing darts.  There were many of us that thought it was a good idea and were interested in playing.  So he checked into the possibilities and came up with Hennesseys as a place with a dart board.  So with Hennesseys being a great place and with a board and cerveza and food, well, look no further!  John did a great job!  Yea John!

In getting ready to go today I had to find my darts.  I hadn't shot them let alone seen them since arriving her in Merida five years ago.  I used to play darts a lot back in the states because it was something that came naturally to me and it was fun.  It took me about an hour to finally find them and it was just in time to go.

We met today at three o'clock.  There were seven of us and we were stoked and ready to have fun shooting darts.  However, Hennessey's darts had been overly used by their patrons and were not in a serviceable condition.  I was so pleased that I had brought mine with me as it saved the day. 

We talked about how we were going to play and what game we were going to play.

So we put two teams together and started playing,

and drinking......well you have to because that's what you do when you shoot darts!

 and we ate, and laughed...........

we decided to play 301, it's a game where both teams start with 301 points and the points accumulated  from each throw is subtracted until one team gets to zero....and you must get to zero exactly.
there are more details to the game and scoring but we were there to have fun, maybe we'll get more detailed later but for now we're just going to have fun.  Who knows, maybe we'll get to the point that we'll have a league or something if we can get enough players.

Nancy was pretty darn consistent with getting great points when she threw. 

  So we continued to shoot, drink, and eat and drink, shoot and eat, and well, you get the picture!

So if this seems like something you'd like to try we'll be doing it again the last Friday in April at 3PM.  So come join us and we'll laugh, and drink, and eat, and shoot darts, and laugh, and...............!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sarro no more, acid, acid baby!


My pool was gorgious when it was finished almost five years ago.  The brillant sky blue little tiles made the water look so amazing and I was so taken with it.  Looking out from the terrazzo towards the emerald green garden area the awesome blue color of the pool water just set things off.  I was happy and the all was right with the pool gods.
This was my first pool so I had a learning curve on pool maintenance and all that stuff.  I can only surmise that over the years I allowed the ph to get wacked out from time to time because after a while this kind of brownish/gray/green build up started. 
Oh, I may not have brushed the pool walls and floor as often as I should have either.  Anyway this build up was very stubborn and I learned that it was called sarro and it was a by product of the heavy mineral deposits in the underground water here in the Yucatan. 
It actually started showing up at the water line on the pool walls.  At first it would come off with the pool brush and then I had to drain the water a wee bit and use some muratic acid and the brush and then it escalated to using a screwdriver and scraping as hard as I could.  While this was going on the floor was getting a build up especially along the floor at the base of the walls.
Things got worse so I thought that I'd throw on the scuba gear and see what I could do to remove the build up.  With a special hand filed and edged scraper I went down and commenced to scrape.  Over a few days I burned up four tanks of air and accomplished getting the steps scraped.  Total hours probably about three and a half.  I did not get much enjoyment out of scraping each little one inch square tile one at a time but the results were great.  However it wasn't something that I wanted to continue with.
For a while I tried various things on the tiles at the water line including using what I was told was pretty strong acid with little or no results.
Then as luck would have it I was over at our friend's Jim and Marianne's house and they had just had their tiles at the water line cleaned.  Jim said it was pretty fast and easy and Javier always did a great job.  I was introduced to Javier and I asked if he could clean the sarro off of the tiles in my pool.  He said yes, gave me his phone number and I said that I'd call.
I knew that I'd have to drain my pool and that kept me from calling for many months.  Sometime in the past I had been told that there was a possibility that when a tiled pool is drained and when the tiles dry out they might start coming loose.  I was fearful of that happening but the sarro had finally gotten so bad that I got to the point that I was willing to risk it.
So I made the call, well, as usual when I need to call someone that speaks Spanish Debi has to do the talking.
Javier came by on Friday and looked at the pool which was still filled with water (40,000 liters) and said he would come back on Monday and clean the pool.  Cost:400pesos.
He said that I needed to go to Barroso and get twenty liters of industrial acid.  Since I get most of my pool supplies from Hidromechanico I asked if I could get it there.  He said no that it had to come from Barroso. 
I asked when he would arrive on Monday and he said he would arrive at 11 and work for about two hours and then go eat and then return and finish around 2.
Oh, and the pool needed to be empty.  I kind of figured that but it was nice of him to remind me.
I said ok and the deal was made.

This is the 20 liter container of acid I got from Barroso. 225pesos

I opened the drain valve and emptied the pool starting late Sunday night into early Monday morning.  It took about three and a half hours to drain.

When I awoke the pool was empty and you could really see how bad the sarro was.

It was hard to believe that I had cleaned these steps previously and they had gotten so bad in less than a year.                 

You can see the build up of the sarro is heavier on the pool floor especially close to the walls.

This photo really gives a great overall picture of how bad the sarro is/was!  Of course the pool looked much better when it was filled with water which in turn allowed me to procrastinate longer than I should have!

I figured that I'd get up Monday morning and go get the acid and hopefully get Tate to the Vet for a nail trim.  I called the vet at 9 and he wasn't available so I made an appoinment for the next morning at 10.  Around 9:30 I was ready to go get the acid and Iwas heading towards the door and the doorbell rang.  Debi and I went to the door and there was Javier and two guys.  We looked at him, we looked at each other and then back at him and Debi asked "are you here to clean the pool?"  He said "yes", Debi said "but your early", he said "yes".  
Hmmmmm, a new phenominom....early!  We're really more adapt at the late arrival but not this.  We were kind of stunned and you could see a puzzled type look starting to come onto his face.
Debi says to him "Tom hasn't gotten the acid yet, he was just leaving to go get it."  Javier says "ok" and then asks "if I am going to the Barroso on calle 51 by 76 that is about ten minutes away?"  I say "yes" and he says "ok he'll be right back!"
I scurry off to Barroso and am back at the house by 10:15.  I carry the acid back to the pool while thinking that it will be great to have the cleaning done even sooner than projected and I'll be able to get the water back in the pool faster!  Yea!!!!

Shortly after I get back Debi leaves to run some errands.  I decide to do some painting around the know a little touch up here and there.  The regular homeowner maintenance stuff.  I get my painting supplies out and I start painting figuring that Javier and his guys will arrive soon. 11 AM comes and goes.  12 noon passes, no pool guys.  1 o'clock comes and goes. A little after 1 Debi comes home and asks "how's it going?"  I said "it's not, they haven't come back yet."  Debi says "you're kidding?"  She gets her phone out and calls Javier.  She asks "what's happening", he responds by asking "do you have the acid?"  She says "of course, we've had it since 10:15."  He says "ok, I'll be there soon."  Ok, now were talkin' about the normal reality I'm used to!  LOL!
Javier and his guys show up around 2:30. 

As we all stand there looking into the pool Javier comments on the amount of sarro that is in the pool.  He says "I may need to get more acid, probably 5 to 10 more liters, but not to do it now as he wants to see how the cleaning goes."

They got ready by first finishing up their cokes and punching a hole in each plastic cap.  They would be used for distributing the acid to the walls of the pool.  They took off their chanclas, rolled up their pants legs, filled up their five gallon bucket with water, got out their short bristled broom that looked like it had been through at least a thousand other pool cleanings and it had not one straight bristle left in it.  The cubeta de acido was tipped to fill an old plastic one liter yogurt container that they used to fill their coke bottles and the cleaning commenced.

They worked on the steps and the walls first and they periodically hosed off where they had applied the acid.

I expected to see metal bristled brushed and scrapers to assist in the sarro removal.  But yet again I was wrong.  They allowed the acid to do all the work and when I asked about the use of a heavy duty brush or metal bristled brush they showed me that neither would be of help. 

They used their broom to move the acid around on the walls and floor after the initial impact of the acid had done its thing. 
The amount of bubbling and off gasing from the interaction between the acid and the sarro was overwhelming.  The acid bubbled streams of blues and greens and the vapor steam rolled into the air.  Javier's guys were prepared for this and as the vapors became overwhelming they puller the necks of their t-shirts up over their noses.
The bucket of water was used to stand in to remove the acid from their feet, ankles, calves, wash off their coke bottles and their hands periodically.

At about the three quarter completed point Javier asked me to go back to Barosso to get ten more liters of acid. 142pesos. I certainly had to agree as the sarro was being very uncooperative.
The extra acid was just the ticket and as the sun was going down the sarro was gone.

The drain was closed and the pozo pump was turned on and the filling commenced.
I missed getting a picture of Tech and Ceniza running up and down the steps and into the water as the pool was starting to be filled.  But you can see I did capture Debi in the pool.

The fill took a little under six hours and when we awoke in the morning my pool was gorgious and the brillant sky blue little tiles made the water look so amazing and I was so taken with it.  Looking out from the terrazzo towards the emerald green garden area the awesome blue color of the pool water just set things off.  I was happy and the all was right with the pool gods once again!