Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

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.

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Things to See and Do in Loreto, Mexico

Monday April 22, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 4 Comments

Pitaya Cactus

Pitaya Cactus in Loreto, Mexico

Are you visiting the Islands of Loreto, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez? The city of Loreto was founded in the 17th century and was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja peninsula.

If this is your first time visiting this part of Mexico, I have some “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Loreto.


Typically, the first place visitors want to see is Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, the first mission of Baja California Sur, but I also take them to San Javier Mission – for a more local, authentic experience.


Sea of Cortez

Visit Coronado and Danzante Island, on the Sea of Cortez, in Loreto, Mexico

The Islands of Loreto, Mexico


When I want to get away from the tourists, my favorite place to visit is the Malecon (boardwalk) or the Islands of Loreto.


If this is a romantic trip, I recommend Honeymoon Beach.


Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the nearest islands, Coronado and Danzante. Walk down to the marina and hire a boat for a half day tour. You might see dolphins during your boat ride and you may snorkel on the island of Coronado. Stop and see the local birds – did you know the Blue-footed Booby was local to Loreto, Mexico? Visit sea lion rock.



Domingo's Restaurant, Loreto, Mexico

Musicians play guitar at Domingo’s Restaurant in Loreto, Mexico

Islands of Loreto Food


If you are looking for chocolate clams, which are typical of the Islands of Loreto, I recommend The Concho´s Restaurant and “El Pangalapa.”


The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Loreto Islas beach front, located in the Malecon.


Looking for cheap food in the Islands of Loreto? Go to El Farolito de Loreto or Orlandos Place, where you can have typical Mexican food.


The Mita´s Gourmet located in the main Plaza is the spot for late night dining.


For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to La Palapa restaurant, 1697 Restaurant and Domingo´s Place. Domingo’s had strolling guitar players during my visit.

Loreto, Mexico woman

Visit the Hand Crafting Alley in Loreto, Mexico

Authentic Loreto, Mexico

Seeing a lot of marine life? The islands of Loreto  were named  “The Aquarium of the World” by Jacques Cousteau, as they host 80%  of the world’s marine species.


When you come to Loreto, get your picture taken at the Hand Crafting Alley near the Main Plaza.


The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Mirador Frida next to Juncalito beach, a 15 minute drive from Loreto, or climbing the hill right on the beach of Nopolo Bay.


The Islands of Loreto offer great views. Villa del Palmar is the best place to watch or experience the constellations.  As a matter of fact, Villa del Palmar is well known as the million stars resort.


In Loreto, outdoor enthusiasts will want to hike the giant mountains in Tabor or Tecomajac and see oasis and waterfalls. Do you like sport fishing?  “La Mision Tournament” is a great one to watch and contributes to a great cause. Kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, bird watching, island hopping and whale and dolphin watching are all “must do” activities for outdoor lovers. For those of you looking to simply relax, enjoy a drink in “El Santuario” beach shack while admiring Danzante Bay.


Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the boardwalk or rent a bike from Hotel Santa Fe and explore the colonial town. If shopping is more your style, stroll along the tourist corridor while checking out the artisans shops.


Nuestra Senora de Loreto mission

Nuestra Senora de Loreto mission

If you are a museum lover, visit the Loreto Museum of the Jesuits Missions. It’s next to the Nuestra Señora de Loreto Mission.


Looking for night life in Loreto, Mexico? Go dancing at Bichos Bar or Bikers Bar for live music. If you are looking for wild parties and dancing, you’ll need to head to Los Cabos, Mexico.


In the winter, visit Magdalena Bay and see the Grey Whales winter breeding grounds with all the new baby whales.


In the summer, visit Isla del Carmen and see Punta Arena Beach; the underwater cave & the “Pueblo Fantasma.”


San Javier Mission

San Javier Mission

Come to the San Javier Anniversary Celebrations in the winter. The Mission of San Javier is one of the best preserved Jesuit missions in southern Baja. The The locals grow a variety of fruits like Mangos, papayas, figs and guavas and craft them into artisan candies.


Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked Giant Mountains in The Islands of Loreto.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Islands of Loreto is considered a National Marine Park. The 800 square mile conservancy consists of a string of five unique islands and is the largest of Mexico’s marine sanctuaries.

Just outside of  The Islands of Loreto you can visit  Mulege and have lunch while enjoying the view of the river which flows into the sea.

What are your favorite things to see and do in Loreto, Mexico? Thanks to Villa del Palmar for assistance with this post.

Article and photos by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.

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