Entries in ‘Mexico’ Journal

Cancun Wine & Food Fest Celebrates Mexico

Friday April 18, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 6 Comments

"wine & food festival" cancun, riviera mayaAs a food and wine lover from Northern California, I’ve eaten and drank my way through Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, Livermore and Temecula Valley wine country. I’ve discovered the culinary delights of Bellingham, Washington and noshed my way through Oregon wine country. When I was asked to attend the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival 2014 I willingly joined in to see Mexico’s take on culinary cuisine. What I’m about to share with fellow foodies may surprise you.

California wine country

Living less than an hour from California wine country has its advantages. There is never a lack of things to do in Napa, California. However, there is a downside to this convenience – I call it “California palate fatigue.” My taste buds have become accustomed to Northern California wines and, to be honest, that’s how I decide if I like a particular wine. This is not a fair way to taste wine. In fact, this approach to wine tasting is limiting my horizons rather than expanding them. I needed the Wine & Food Festival Cancun – Riviera Maya to broaden my horizons.
 

La Cetto, "Guadalupe valley"

Wine from North Mexico’s Baja Guadalupe Valley

Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley

When I checked into my hotel room at the all-suite Secrets the Vine Cancun, I was not surprised to see a bottle of wine waiting for me. Upon closer examination I saw that the wine was produced in North Mexico’s Baja Guadalupe Valley. Grapes are grown in Baja California? Why, yes, is the answer to that question and they are producing mighty tasty wines, thank you very much!

I tasted quite a few Mexican wines in the Gourmet Tasting Village during the annual Wine & Food Festival held at the Moon Palace Arena. In addition to wine & spirits tastings and celebrity dinners taking place during Cancun Wine & Food Fest, the Gourmet Tasting Village offers guests a chance to sample small plates from a wide array of Cancun and Riviera Maya’s top Mexican restaurants.
 

Chef Daniel Boulud, Cancun Wine & Food Fest

Chef Daniel Boulud, Cancun Wine & Food Fest

Cancun Wine & Food Fest celebrity dinners

Like Auction Napa Valley, the Cancun Wine & Food Festival attracts world famous celebrity chefs such as New York’s Daniel Boulud, Mexico’s Guillermo González Beristain, Federico Lopez and Aquiles Chávez, in addition to Canada’s Daniel Vezina and Normand Laprise. The final dinner is a veritable who’s who in the culinary food and wine world, accompanied with excellent food and wine.
 

Insider Tip

Several hotel’s in Cancun – Riviera Maya partner with the Wine & Food Festival. I stayed at Secrets the Vine Cancun as this all-inclusive, adult only resort has a wine focus and seemed a perfect match for the festival.

cornbread, "Cancun Wine & Food Fest"

Cornbread at Cancun Wine & Food Festival

Festival attendees are able to purchase multi-day tickets to the festival or individual event tickets, depending on availabililty. Check the website for details. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Fest @crmwinefoodfest on Twitter.

If You Go:

Wine and Food Festival Cancun-Riviera Maya

Article and photos by Food & Wine Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Fest. All opinions are my own.

Review: Secrets the Vine, Cancun, Mexico

Friday April 11, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 15 Comments

champagne, "Secrets The Vine"

Guests receive champagne upon arrival at Secrets The Vine Cancun

Wine tasting in Mexico? Yes, ma’am. While most people associate Tequila, Corona and guacamole with Mexico, I’m going to let you in on a secret – Mexico makes some good wines. Mexico is staking a claim in the vineyards of Baja California. I learned about the wines of Mexico will staying at Secrets the Vine Cancun, an adults-only resort with a wine theme woven throughout the luxury property.
 
 

 
Secrets the Vine – honeymooners to baby boomers

"Secrets the Vine" pool

Fan coral designed by Artist Jan Hendrix blends into the hotel facade at Secrets The Vine Cancun, Mexico.

From jet-setters to baby boomers, Secrets the Vine Cancun caters to a wide range of travelers. I couldn’t help notice the honeymoon and birthday banners draped across the doors of a select few hotel rooms. This 495 room all-suite property appeals not only to special occasion celebrations, it’s also for the art and wine lover.

 
Secrets the Vine wine theme

Secrets the Vine Cancun features contemporary design elements from the fan coral by Artist Jan Hendrix in the hotel’s exterior facade, to murals painted by Marta Ramirez and wine art on display throughout the hotel.

A bottle of Mexico’s tinto vino (red wine) was waiting for me when I checked into my Junior Suite in Cancun. Don’t miss Secrets The Vine Bar. Outside the 4,500 bottle wine cellar is where Master Sommeliers lead daily complimentary wine tastings at 1:00 & 3:00 p.m. If you wait until 5:00 p.m. the price moved from free to $20.

 

"Secrets the Vine Cancun" Vine bar

4,500 bottle Vine Bar at Secrets The Vine Cancun

 

Secrets the Vine Preferred Club status

For a luxury vacation, it’s a good idea to upgrade to Preferred Club status.  It’s not much more expensive and offers a good return on investment including access to Concierge service, daily continental breakfast, cold and hot hors d’oeuvres and private bar in the private lounge level and your own butler.

All rooms are ocean view, offering Caribbean Sea or Nichupte lagoon vistas. Sunsets are best viewed from the Hard Rock Hotel side, while more shade is available on the balcony next to Sandals resort. My Preferred Junior Suite #2618 looked out to the ocean and lagoon and rented for $700 per night during March. Check the website for current hotel rates.

While I’m not a big drinker, I do love the fact that I have access to the mini bar and won’t be charged for a small tin of Pringles chips or small bag of peanut M&M’s. The mini fridge is loaded with beer, juice, soda and water. Of course, your butler will stock it with all your favorite goodies if you ask.

More perks, free phone calls to the United States and Canada when placed from your hotel room. Insider tip – make sure to call to a land line, as calls to mobile phones are charged at higher rates. All rooms offer free WiFi and preferred guests receive two complimentary items ironed, unpacking and packing service and complimentary shoe shine is available.

 

"Secrets the Vine" junior suite

Secrets The Vine Cancun Preferred Junior Suite

 

Secrets Spa by Pevonia

What beach vacation is complete without a trip to the spa? A day pass to Secrets Spa by Pevonia is $75 if you feel tired and jet-lagged from travel. If money is no object, indulge in a wine therapy treatment. Arrive early to your spa appointment and soak in the hydrotheraphy pool after steaming in the sauna. Follow this with a Pinot Noir Escape exfoliation ($105) d’vine wine massage ($175) and d’vine wine facial ($99) Heaven!

"Secrets Spa by Pevonia" spa

Relax at Secrets Spa by Pevonia

Secrets the Vine dining

If beach and pool time trump spa time, there are several pools and hot tubs to keep you happy, as well as seven restaurants at Secrets The Vine. I sampled crab rangoon, spring rolls and shrimp pad Thai at Dragons Oriental Dining, an Asian fusion restaurant. Bluewater Grill is popular with steak lovers (try the shortbread cookie with caramel filling and ice cream for dessert.) Olio features Mediterranean cuisine and is open to all resort guests for lunch, while dinner is reserved for preferred club level guests. For the seafood lovers and those wanting a bite poolside, Sea Salt Grill offers a tasty shrimp cocktail with a view of the ocean.

"Sea Salt Grill" shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail at Sea Salt Grill Secrets The Vine

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

Insider tip

While all-inclusive resorts are not necessarily known for fine dining, Secrets the Vine is an exception to the rule. If you find yourself in Cancun in March don’t miss the Wine & Food Festival Cancun – Riviera Maya.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow SecretsTheVine on Twitter.
If You Go:

Secrets The Vine Cancun +52 (998) 848-9400

Cancun, Qintana Ro

Mexico 77500

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Secrets the Vine Cancun. All opinions are my own.

You might also like

Secrets Vallarta Bay

Things to See and Do in Cancun, Mexico

14 for 2014 — Ideas for Kid-friendly Trips

Tuesday January 28, 2014 at 8:08 PM | 0 Comments

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Dreams Resort, Puerto Vallarta Mexico

For a great all-inclusive resort vacation, I highly recommend Dreams just north of Puerto Vallarta. We stayed for a week in this lovely paradise with enormous crystal clear pools, beach palapas, entertainment, all manner of activities and fantastic restaurant. To lounge and read with feet in the sand and a drink in a coconut shell while the kids splashed around or painted ceramics was, in a word, dreamy.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2012/05/19/mexico-resort-vs-real.html

Train Town, Sonoma, California

Did you know that there’s an amusement park for the shorties in Sonoma! And it’s dirt-cheap! This adorable destination is located a mile from Sonoma Plaza. Zip though tunnels and over bridges on the quarter-scale railroad on your way to Lakeview, the miniature town and petting zoo.

There is also a Ferris wheel, scrambler, roller coaster, and carousel to further delight the young’uns.

Camping in Big Sur, California

I’m not much into camping, but it gets us outdoors, it’s affordable, and kids love it. Fernwood on the Big Sur River offers different levels of lodging —cabins, tent cabins, campground, and a motel. We scored a nice site next on the riverbank to pitch our tent. The kids went tubing, climbed trees and simply explored. Upstairs the hill at the lodge are shops (with lattes in the morning), a restaurant, and a tavern. A nice getaway for nature lovers who also love city amenities.

Legoland, Carlsbad, California

These Danish plastic bricks have taken the world and my son’s bedroom by storm. And Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif is up there next to Disneyland as the ultimate children’s fantasyland. It’s home to to more than 60 rides, shows and attractions and they debuted their first U.S. hotel there last spring. Continue the fun straight into your hotel room!

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/03/06/the-first-u-s-legoland-hotel-debuts-in-april.html

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Acres (71,028 to be precise) of pristine coastline are located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County. The water is best explored with a wetsuit but since kids are generally impervious to cold, why bother? Pack the sand toys and have a castle contest! The hikes range from easy/moderate to difficult and the views are spectacular. Plan ahead and reserve the Windsong Cottage yurt for an unforgettable family getaway.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/12/13/windsong-cottage-yurt-point-reyes-station-california.html

Ocean Beach dunes/Java Beach Café, San Francisco, California

Being a city dweller close to the ocean, taking the kids to the beach is one of my favorite go-to adventures. Our usual routine is grilled cheese and soup at Java Beach Café then watching the sun set on Ocean Beach. There is a treacherous undertow on this beach (with scary riptide warnings), so the kids mostly stick to rolling down and hiding in the massive dunes.

Kids’ Suite at the Hotel Union Square, San Francisco, California

I love this room! If you’re visiting San Francisco with little ones, this is the place to stay. It’s spacious, cheerful l and equipped with all manner of well-curated kids’ toys and books. From baby toys to a Wii, there is ample in-room entertainment. Then, just step out the door into bustling Union Square for great shopping and restaurants.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/04/03/union-square-hotel-kids-suite.html

The kids' suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

The kids’ suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

New York City

Last summer, I hit the road with the kids for a (very, very hot) summer on the East Coast. My daughter was the right age (eight) for NYC and fell in love with it. My little guy not so much — I ended up leaving him with my mom while Parker and I explored the city on foot, subway, taxi cab, and the Staten Island ferry. We had a blast. There so much to do there with a curious kids — Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building. Even driving through Times Square at night is a thrill.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/09/04/east-coast-summer-new-york-city-provincetown-on-cape-cod-massachusetts.html

Fairyland, Oakland, Califoria

Oakland’s adorable Fairyland is where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland. It is sweet and kind of run down but in a charming way. It definitely skews toward the really young crowd. Take the train to get the lay of the land then visit one of the shows. There are lots of rides, play areas, and a decent café on the premises. Oh, and good luck getting them out of the giftshop!

Boston, Massachusetts

I come here frequently to visit family and one of our rituals is to take the kids to the Boston Public Gardens to ride the swan boats. After, we go for chowder at Union Oyster House that claims to be the oldest restaurant on the East Coast. It certainly looks like it could be with its low ceilings and narrow passageways. You can gaze out the window and picture Paul Revere riding down the cobblestone streets out front.

 Ice Skating at Embarcadero or Union Square, San Francisco, California

This is a fun way to while away the afternoon during winter break when they kids have been cooped up. The Union Square rink is especially festive during the holidays with the humungous Christmas tree nearby. The Embarcadero is less crowded though, and you are right across for the Ferry Building Marketplace for lunch.

Chinatown, San Francisco, California

This is one for slightly older kids who like to explore on foot. It’s always pretty crowded but there are so many interesting and outrageous sites. A bunch of live frogs in a bucked anyone? A must stop is at the Fortune Cookie factory, a teeny hole-in-the wall on a narrow pedestrian alleyway where you can watch the old ladies make the cookies and taste a sample. Don’t forget to have lunch at one of the many dim sum counters.

Coastal Maine

While I might avoid it in the dead of winter (like right now where it’s 10 degrees), Maine has a beautiful austerity. Summer in charming Oqunquit or Kennebunkport is where it’s at. The kids loved the hot summer weather and enjoyed Portland, a laid back Northern town with gorgeous brick buildings, cool people and great seafood restaurants. Maine in fall is lovely also with a spectrum of colorful leaves on the trees.

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

San Francisco Insider Tip:

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, Ca

While it might seem too touristy for us adult folk, kids love Fishermans Wharf. For some tips that we all can enjoy, I suggest a trip to the Musee Mechanique, a collection of 200 antique penny arcade machines. There is also a restored WWII submarine, the Hyde Street Pier with its collection of vintage sea vessels, and the cool Aquarium of the Bay nearby.

Post contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com