EMEC music school clears donated land, hopes for new building

by Catherine Krantz
aikeke & paino students

Aikeke Rose, director of the EMEC music school, local musician, and music professor at the Tecnologica de la Costa Grande (Zihuatanejo’s technical college), has released a new CD of Instrumental ballads called, Jahsvibes Series #1, and like all of his endeavors it is focused on promoting his passion, the EMEC. The Escuela de Música Ezequiel Cisneros (EMEC), (“Ezequiel Cisneros music school”) has been offering music and voice classes in various locations in Zihuatanejo for seven years. They have received donated land from the Zihuatanejo city government to build a permanent site and with the help of architecture students of the Technological school are in the process of surveying and clearing the land to be able to use it. In the meantime, they are now housed on Cuahutémoc street in central Zihuatanejo, across from the library. They have classes in guitar, piano, and drums for beginners, for children in grades 1 – 8, and most children provide their own instruments. They have twelve guitar students and a 20-member choir. They have ten drum students, four of them in the four to five year-old age range, and hope to build a performing drum corp.

EMEC pre-school drum student

EMEC pre-school drum student

They have ten piano students and they are trying to buy electronic, networking, teaching pianos that would allow the students to follow along with the instructor and that can be attached to a computer, they can buy seven for about 1,000 dollars or about 50 dollars each. For more information about the school, its classes and programs, or Aikeke’s new CD, contact the EMEC at Escuela de Música Ezequiel Cisneros, Cuahutémoc No. 82, Centro, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, C.P. 40880, México, Secretaria:  Tel. + 52 (755) 55-4-80-52, Email: contacto@musicayvoces.com, for the Choir:  Karina: + 52 (755) 55-4-48-56, or visit their website http://www.musicayvoces.com


Sailfest 2009 Wrap-up & por los niños news

By Lorenzo Marbut

Sounds of zihua
With the world economy in tatters, Sailfest raised a remarkable 654,320 pesos for its Mexican non-profit, Por Los Niños de Zihuatanejo, A.C. Por Los Niños will continue to work in partnership with the City of Zihuatanejo and Rotary International to provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged children in Zihua and surrounding communities.

Zihua’s finest musicians and their International Guitar Festival friends have donated their talent to produce another fabulous CD, “Sounds of Zihua 2009.” Their three CDs and four benefit concerts have netted approximately 400,000 pesos for the kids. Imagine, building classrooms with voices and guitars. What a concept! The CDs are available at these community-spirited businesses: Casa Cafe, Sunset Bar & Grill, Casa Del Faro Bar, Jungle Pizza and the Inn at Manzanillo Bay.

On March 16th, Zihuatanejo will celebrate Mexico’s newest Federally-certified bilingual, indigenous school. After an eight-year struggle for recognition, the old Nueva Creacion primary school will be reborn as La Escuela Primaria Octavio Paz, named after Mexico’s cherished Nobel Prize-winning diplomat, poet, philosopher and human rights champion. The eleven classroom school serves 320 bright-eyed young scholars and was built entirely with funds donated by Sailfest, the local community and international friends.

For more infromation on Por Los Niños, Contact: Lorenzo Marbut, home: 755-554-2115, cell: 755-102-4463, Lorenzo@porlosninos.info

Mother Nature, My Nature

Mother Nature, My Nature by Owen Lee
Book Review by Douglas Beach

Mother Nature My Nature cover

 The image on the cover of Owen Lee’s new book, a drawing of early man—let’s call him Homo erectus—is removing a mask from his face that is a caricature of the author. What are readers to make of this?

One might ask what sparks Lee’s interest in these topics, and what credentials qualify him to write about these subjects. For starters, the back cover copy states, “Owen Lee was the first American to join the crew of Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau aboard his famous research ship, the Calypso, first as an underwater cameraman, then as a traveling lecture spokesman promoting Cousteau’s thoughts about nature in over 300 cities.”

Captain Cousteau passed away in 1997. His legacy includes 120 television documentaries and 50 books. This prolific outpouring earned Cousteau a reputation as one of the early pioneers in bringing green issues to public attention, and Lee rubbed elbows with the great man for nearly a decade.

In My Mother, My Nature, Lee tells readers of dinner conversations aboard Cousteau’s famous ship that centered on nature’s rebellion against humankind’s gathering population outburst and other ecological blunders.

Said Cousteau; “Man’s road into the future leads smack into a wall . . . Until we learn to live in harmony with our ecosystem, survival of life as we know it is doomed. I give it fifty, perhaps a hundred years.”

The captain’s statement got Lee to thinking about man’s disregard for Mother Nature and he never stopped thinking about it. Some years later the Calypso sailed into Zihuatanejo bay and Lee traded the sailing life for a nature preserve at Playa Las Gatas.


Author Owen Lee

Author Owen Lee

To put a proper foundation beneath his argument that the world is on the cusp of disastrous overcrowding, depletion of natural resources, and rapid environmental destruction, Lee hurtles the reader through the Big Bang theory, the ambling rise of hunter-gatherer Homo erectus, and the raw, gene driven sex habits of humankind. Along the way, his book argues that the planet is indeed warming, and the hole in the ozone layer is ever widening. The author backs up his pronouncements with research from an impressive bibliography that includes Al Gore’s Earth in Balance, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Willis Harman’s Global Mind Change, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

In a particularly bold stroke, Lee encourages the devout to set aside their myriad gods in exchange for proven scientific facts and belief in Mother Nature.

Writes Lee, “Floating on the cherished beliefs of their forefathers, religious beliefs have survived on faith alone. But their survival has come at a heavy price…” The author infers that a worldwide commitment to living within the laws of Mother Nature is the single path that might avoid the bedlam ahead. “Throughout her annual migrations around the sun, Mother Earth blindly follows a strict code of quantum physics and a precise time schedule. She does not know if there is life aboard and cares less. She is on her own mission.”

With regard to the book cover, if you guessed that the author believes himself a descendent of Homo erectus rather than Adam and Eve, you are correct.

Random House and Fawcett, publishers of most of Lee’s earlier books, provided Lee with proofreading services. This book, published by Seahorse Productions, contains syntax errors that Lee says he is correcting in the upcoming second printing, though these faults in no way detract from the powerful message of Owen Lee’s magnum opus.

Mother nature, my Nature is available at Embarcadero near the Playa Municipal basketball court, and at El Rebusque (book store) on Calle las Palapas near the intersection of Calle Cocos downtown. An autographed book may be ordered direct from Owen Lee via e-mail owenzih@yahoo.com or cell phone 044 755 102 7111 is a wide departure from the author’s previous books, a novel, several skin diving manuals, tourist guides, and just last year, an autobiography. Owen Lee is the American expatriate proprietor of Las Gatas Beach Club. It follows that most of his earlier works were of a tropical bent featuring turquoise waters, coco palms, and white sand beaches. This new book is very different—the clash of science, religion, and Mother Nature.

About the Author: Douglas Beach is a writer living in Zihuatanejo.

Acapulco – bright lights, big city

by Nancy Seeley Photos by Nadine Markova

Acapulco Bay, night

Acapulco Bay, night

Acapulco! Some people love it, some people hate it, but everybody’s heard about it. Once the glamour capital of Mexico, its reputation has faded somewhat with the passage of time, but heading there shows you — on a much grander scale — what COULD happen if the current construction boom in Zihuatanejo keeps going at its present breakneck pace.

It’s almost eerie viewing Acapulco Bay from the shoreline, realizing what you’re seeing is Zihuatanejo Bay’s much larger, much glitzier sister. Acapulco Bay stretches for almost seven miles from west to east, far longer than our little crescent, but the shape is similar, and the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range adds definition to the area’s geographical contours – just as it does here. Also known as La Bahia de Santa Lucia, the bay is three miles long from north to south and between 45 to 180 feet deep.

You can drive to Acapulco in a little more than three hours, or you can take a comfy first class bus that’ll get you there in four to five hours for 133 pesos. Buses leave frequently, but if you don’t want to stop at every little town along the way and spend six hours traveling, make sure you’re not boarding an economico coach. Whichever method you choose, Highway 200 – newly dubbed Ruta 2010 — will take you southeast on a winding, frequently coast-hugging route that eventually deposits you on the city’s main tourism artery, the Costera Miguel Aleman, roughly 150 miles from Zihuatanejo.

With a population approaching two million, Acapulco is about 16 times bigger than Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, and the tourism options – nearly all of which cluster around the bay itself – offer something for every budget. You can snag a low-cost room in the “old town” area near the zócalo for around 200 pesos a night per couple, where entertainment in the form of outdoor racket that’ll keep you up until the wee hours of the morning is thrown in at no extra charge. Or, you can head way out to the Revolcadero Beach area near the airport at the far eastern end of the bay and plunk down several thousand pesos to experience places like the Acapulco Princess or the Mayan Palace. In between and farther afield, there are half a dozen different “Acapulcos” to explore.

Acapulco Bay

Acapulco Bay

If you’re a sunset lover, you might want to veer off Highway 200 about eight miles shy of Acapulco at Pie de la Cuesta on your southeasterly journey from Zihuatanejo. This laid-back little community boasts some of the best puestas del sol (“sunsets”) to be seen anywhere in Mexico…the kind where you watch an orange ball of flame descend into the sea, hoping to see that splotch of green at the moment it vanishes and not daring to tear your eyes away during the two minutes it takes the sun to drop out of sight once its lower edge “touches” the water.

One of the two places I know to see a similar sight in Acapulco proper is La Angosta (“Narrow”) Beach, located on the west side of Peninsula de las Playas at the western edge of the bay. Popular with locals, it isn’t far from world-famous La Quebrada, where clavadistas (“divers”) daily risk their lives challenging the currents by hurtling 140 feet down off a sheer cliff after praying repeatedly at the much-used Virgin of Guadalupe shrine while viewers wonder whether they’ll chicken out or take the plunge.

The other great sunset place is Sinfonia del Mar, an outdoor amphitheater built specifically for folks to gaze at the dying sun. It’s only a short walk from La Quebrada and is often surrounded by vendors hoping to make a sale while sightseers impatiently wait for Mother Nature’s show to begin. Lots of reasonably priced lodgings around here too, many with that free entertainment bonus (think dueling car radios) mentioned earlier.

Peninsula de las Playas is also home to such oldies but goodies as Hotel Caleta, where a friend and I recently stayed for 500 pesos a night during the off season. Mind you, it took three tries before we found a room we were happy with, but once installed, we were charmed watching the action from our ninth floor balcony. You could see Roqueta Island at the mouth of the bay through binoculars, and you could wander through this grand old property that still exhibits vestiges of splendor from its halcyon days half a century ago.

The zócalo is on the mainland north of the peninsula at the west end of the bay. You can spend hours hanging out at one of many restaurants near the dome-topped Nuestra Señora de la Soledad cathedral and watching everything from jugglers, mimes, and clowns to concerts, beauty contests and political rallies. There are, predictably, scads of tiendas (“shops”) to check out. Although – like here –the majority of goods don’t vary much from place to place, patience and tenacity can often reward you with a treasure you never thought to find.

My favorite way to explore the miles-long Costera Miguel Aleman paralleling the entire length of the bay is on foot. Start right across the street from the zócalo where fishing and sightseeing boats offer their services, continue on past the cruise ship terminal and the Fort of San Diego until you see beach after beach, some of the larger ones being Playa Hornos, Playa Condesa (probably the most popular) and Playa Icacos. Towering tourist hotels, so familiar from pictures of the bay’s profile, often offer online rates significantly discounted from the posted rack rates. Go bungee jumping. Pick your disco for the night.

Wander up into the neighborhoods behind the beaches and see the “real” Acapulco where tourism, though so close, doesn’t play much of a role. If you get tired, scores of taxis and plentiful local buses are never further than a minute away.

Sometimes you just need a north-of-the-border “fix,” and La Costera, as the locals call if, offers you fast food galore – Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC – plus WalMart and (much further east) Costco. Home Depot’s just across the street from Papagayo Park on Avenida Cuauhtemoc, and Office Max is at the corner where you turn to head uphill to Villa Vera, the “in” place of yesteryear where Elizabeth Taylor married third husband MikeTodd in Suite No. 302 and Frank Sinatra held court entertaining behind what is touted as the first swim-up bar in Mexico.

As you proceed east on La Costera, you eventually reach the end of the main bay past the ever-popular Hotel Las Brisas. Still further east you’ll find much smaller Puerto Marques Bay (think Zihuatanejo Bay size-wise.) A recent visit revealed a rather down-at-the-heels pueblo, but one still awash with the kind of views that, under cover of darkness and framed by twinkling lights too numerous to count, transform this rundown locale into a postcard contender.

A second peninsula, which forms the easternmost land mass defining the end of the two bays, offers vantage points from the northwest looking out on both Puerto Marques Bay as well as the mouth of Acapulco Bay. Revolcadero Beach, the site of much new development, is on the peninsula’s southeastern fringe and fronts on the mighty Pacific, with the pizazz of the throbbing city pretty much invisible.

No matter where you choose to stay, though, you can feel the pulse of the area by taking a stroll. For me, it’s been fascinating turning corners wherever the spirit moves me, practicing my Spanish, touring little out-of-the-way hotels, eating tacos at places that don’t open till eight or nine at night – all the while knowing that if I get hopelessly lost (which is pretty much a given), it won’t be long until one of those taxis I mentioned earlier will swing by to rescue me.

Kite Fishing and Circle Hooks

By Ed Kunze

Circle hooks and bait fish.

Circle hooks and bait fish.

There are many ways to catch blue water game fish without having the deckhand or captain setting the hook for you. For instance, when you get a strike by a sailfish on the trolled baits, the usual practice is for the deckhand or captain to grab the rod, free spool the line for a while, and set the hook. After he gets the enjoyment and thrill of the first run, he will then pass the rod to you. No wonder these guys love to fish. They get to do all the fishing, and are even getting paid for doing it! You do the hard part: the winching.

For anglers to hook their own fish, the bait and switch is very effective, and a lot of fun. The crew stays active in this method, because they tease the sailfish close to the boat. Then you do a drop back with a live or dead bait, and the sailfish switches over to the easier and more realistic offering. You should be using circle hooks, so it is just a matter of letting the fish make its turn, point the rod right at the fish while engaging the reel, and let it come tight. The sail will be hooked solidly, right in the corner of the mouth. You do not “set the hook” when using circle hooks, the fish will do that.

In all applications, and even trolling with dead bait, circle hooks should always be used. Circle hooks, because they catch in the corner of the mouth, will eventually be the savior of Mexico’s sport fishing industry. The way overfishing is happening on a world-wide scale, I envision some day in the future, only methods and hooks which have proven to be non-lethal will be allowed. So, if you and your children want to continue sport fishing in the future, bring down circle hooks with you, and have the captains use them.

Guatemala has already enacted laws, which they enforce, allowing only circle hooks for all of their sport fishing. A captain can lose his license if “J” hooks are even on the boat. Guatemala understands the importance of sport fishing tourism to their economy, and endeavor to ensure there are still game fish around to continue the future of sport fishing.

One of the absolute best applications of using a circle hook is catching your fish off a kite. Plus, the excitement factor is awesome. You not only see the strike, but sometimes the game fish will come completely out of the water to take the bait. Once he has the bait in his mouth, the line pops off the kite line, and you do the “point the rod right at them” again, for another solid hookup.

Capt. Cali has rigged this barrilete with a pair of strong rubber bands and a large circle hook. This is an ideal bait and rigging for marlin or a large tuna. A smaller barrilete or mackerel, rigged in the same manner, is very effective for sailfish and roosters.

Capt. Cali has rigged this barrilete with a pair of strong rubber bands and a large circle hook. This is an ideal bait and rigging for marlin or a large tuna. A smaller barrilete or mackerel, rigged in the same manner, is very effective for sailfish and roosters.

Kite fishing has been around for years, with many different manufacturers of specially made kites for ocean fishing being available. I prefer the AFCO kite, because it is a bit larger than the others, flies well in a light wind, and you can immediately reuse it again if it goes in the water.

This is the way it works: A regular fishing rod is used to fly the kite. The kite attaches to a swivel at the end of the line, and by either reeling in line, or letting some line out, controls the height of the kite, and the distance from the boat. About 80 feet back from the swivel holding the kite, tie a dropper loop in the kite line. Attach your release clip to the loop. I like the dropper loop method, because the line can be reeled onto the reel, all the way up to where the swivel is attached to the kite. When the kite is flying about 80 feet out, and the release clip is just at the end of the kite rod, the line from the second rod, the one you are going to catch your fish on, is attached to the release clip. At this point, put your bait in the water, letting out line on both reels simultaneously. As the kite goes up and further away from the boat, so does the bait, with the speed of the line release for both reels matched to keep the bait swimming on the surface. Minor adjustments are made as you troll or drift along, depending on wind speed.

The main thing is to keep the live bait swimming and splashing just at the surface. The distress signal vibrations being sent off by the live bait will attract any game fish in the area. And, come to the bait they will. You are not trying to entice a strike with trolled bait, or an imitation lure; this is the real thing, with real distress signals. The game fish are actually competing with each other to get there first. And, they did not get to be near the top of the food chain by being shy.

Being the actual fishing line and leader is not in the water, heavy leaders are not a handicap. You can use a light line rod, with a heavy leader, and really get more enjoyment out of the fight. When the strike comes, it is explosive. More often than not, yellowfin tuna will come completely out of the water, sailfish will put on a an even more spectacular series of jumps, and you see the extended comb of the roosterfish slashing in, just before he inhales the bait. Dorado do all of the above. Dorado are really special off a kite.

Once the fish has the bait in his mouth, he turns to leave the area. This pops the line off the release clip, allowing for several feet of slack line, and time for the fish to swallow the bait. When the slack is taken up, the reel is in gear and the tight line pulls the bait right back out. The circle hook sticks in the corner of the mouth. This method allows for an almost a guaranteed hookup every time, and a fish with a hook in the corner of its mouth makes for an easy release.

A couple of more things should be said about circle hooks versus the standard “J” hooks usually used by Mexico’s sport fishing captains. The obvious is that the “J” hook method utilizes the same amount of drop back time, so the bait is swallowed. It is more luck than anything else when the hook is in the corner of the mouth, and not deep into the gullet cavity or gill rakes. Another disadvantage of a “J” hook is in a prolonged fight. The hole the hook makes starts getting bigger and bigger. After a while, all it needs is a bit of slack line, and the “J” hook literally falls out. A circle hook will not do that. The only justifiable application of a “J” hook is when trolling larger artificial lures, with a tandem hook set up. The larger style lures rarely get swallowed, and one hook or the other will find a hold before its gets too deep in the mouth.

Circle hooks, because of their circular shape, will not grab onto anything when being pulled back out of the fish’s throat. The line, after the fish has made its turn and is swimming away, is being pulled from behind the fish. The circle hook simply will not make a U-turn, and grabs the corner of the mouth before it is pulled completely out.

Tournament Anglers Association is made up of a large group of people dedicated to the preservation of the bill fish species. They have been holding an annual tournament in Ixtapa for 19 years now. In their tournaments, including other locations, they have released over 4,000 billfish to date. Circle hooks are mandatory. Here is what they recommend:

“The recommended hook is Eagle Claw 2004 EL Lazer Sharp Tournament Sailfish available in sizes 7/0, 8/0, or 9/0. Suggested leader is 80lb to 100lb test.”

So, for your next blue water trip, bring down a kite, some circle hooks, and enjoy catching and releasing your own fish. There is no need to bring rods with you; our boats here all have excellent gear. If you do not do much blue water fishing, and the kite expense does not justify a trip you only do every few years or so, give me a call, and I will make sure you are set up.

Ed Kunze is Zihuatanejo’s IGFA Representative and a charter fishing boat captain. He lives in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo year-round and can be reached at 755-553-8055 or edkunze@gmail.com For more information on Captain Ed and his boats go to http://www.sportfishing-ixtapa.com Ed has also written a book about fishing the West Coast of Mexico., it is on line at http://www.fishingthewestcoastofmexico.com

Organic Food in Mexico

By Lisa Sheppard Photos by Ian Gordon Sheppard
French Breakfast Radishes and Giant Red Mustard Greens Ian Gordon Sheppard
Organic food is not for the rich or ultra hip foodie.
It has broken out from its place among mung beans, goat milk yogurt, and ultra bran granola on the shelves of left-wing alternative markets. Some organic buyers wear Manolos while they drink lattes in trendy coffee bars or gaze at artfully arranged salads in posh restaurants. But mostly organic food is available at non-designer prices to all of us and plays a significant part in our daily pleasures, health, the environment, and our economic and social futures.

Why buy organic when it has a reputation for costing more, doesn’t look as shiny or evenly colored, and is generally smaller? First, because organically grown produce has more flavor, more vitamins and minerals, is generally in season, promotes heirloom varieties capable of reproducing without the aid of science, (remember the large white turkeys they breed for immense breast meat that can no longer walk or reproduce and develop large sores on their skin?) helps prevent the patenting and control of our food sources by huge conglomerates, and in the case of Fair Trade organizations directly benefit the grower and their community.

Why should you care about these things? We will assume that you would like to buy the best tasting, ripe, nutritional food with your hard-earned money. After all, based on the U.S. minimum wage an apple costs you 14 minutes of your working day. If you, like most North Americans, take a vitamin supplement you do so because you are afraid of not consuming them in your food. Eating healthier food means you don’t have to pay for dietary supplements. Personally I do not like eating a green hard peach or a plastic bag of two week-old preserved lettuce. Vitamins are like sand in an hour glass, the top half full of sand is lettuce freshly picked. As time ticks on the grains of sand leave the upper half of the glass much the same way vitamins diminish with time in your food, until there is very little left. I like my produce ripe especially fruit, as smell makes up half of your sense of taste. When was the last time you actually ate a ripe sweet tomato that smelled tomato-ey? I despair at commercial strawberries sold in plastic punnets. They are large, huge in fact, hollow, bright red, and have little flavor. I found this out when I tasted my first organic strawberry; it was almost purple in color, small firmly fleshed but tender, intensely flavored with the sweetest juice balanced by a slight acidity. I couldn’t believe how I had been duped into believing that big red balloon of a fruit had any resemblance to a real berry! We now grow beds of our own and if it is possible they are even sweeter than my first taste.

Chemical fertilizers and insecticides cost big money, the kind of money a small farmer doesn’t have. The state of Michoacan has its own fair trade organization, Fair Trade South America, based in Uruapan. FTSA ships organic, blackberries, mangos, coconuts, avocados, papayas, grapefruits, limes and more all over the world for Michoacan’s organic farmers. A percentage of the profits are given back to the grower’s pueblos helping fund socially valuable projects, creating a direct impact. The potential money involved in organic food has recently made the biggest chain store in the United States come searching here in Mexico for sources of organic produce. They know that when the general public wakes up there is gold in going organic. You want to buy organic produce? Look for the organic label now appearing more frequently in supermarkets. Visit local farmers and ask them what they grow and if they would like to sell some. Stop at small roadside stands or at the wheelbarrows under umbrellas on the side of the road and buy fresh, organic, mature produce directly from the people who grow it. Here in Mexico organic food is easier to find than you think: it is in your neighbor’s back yard.

Lisa Mower Sheppard was born and raised in Berkeley, California with its multi-cultural food community and “Gourmet Ghetto.”  Lisa and Ian, a photographer from London, own a small, organic, bio-diverse farm near Lake Zirahuen, Michoacan that produces a wide variety of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and fruit.

Parras de la Fuente: The Mexican Wine Oasis

By Matthieu Pichenot Translated by Sierra May Bishop
Photos courtesy of Casa Madero
casa madero foto_0015
It is not a mirage!

After having crossed a long desert there appears a miraculous oasis. In this valley of fertile land crystalline springs abound. The Parras valley is a verdant space in which one forgets that they are surrounded by the semi-desert region of Coahuila.

In addition to its water reserve, the Parras valley’s proximity to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains puts it at an altitude of 1500 meters (4921 feet). The combination of a semi-desert climate paired with the influences of the altitude and mountains of the area provides a microclimate ideal for the culture of the vineyard. The peculiarity of a union of feature such as these has caused some to christen this valley Valle de los Pirineos (Valley of the Pyrenees), after its resemblance to the mountains of the same name that form the border between France and Spain.

Both the environmental and climactic aspects of the valley make it a particularly good place to grow wine grapes. Winter temperatures range from -2°C (28°F) at night to 15°C (59°F) during the day. During the summer the sun is generous to the vine-covered land and delivers temperatures ranging from 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F) during the day and from 18°C (64°F) to 20°C (68°F) at night. The coolness of the winter allows for the vine to thoroughly rest while the consistency and sweetness of summer permits a progressive and complete maturation of the grapes. Also, the intimate mixture of calcium carbonate and clay that makes up the soil and subsoil of the valley benefits the cultivation of the grapevines. The clay’s richness helps with vegetation development, allows for the retention of the water until it filters through the calcareous gravel.

Its source of appeal recognized in 1986, the Valle de Parras became the first Mexican winery recognized by the Organización Internacional de la Viña y el Vino (International Organization of Vine and Wine).
casa madero foto_0026
The ink of a long story fills your glass

The French word terroir cannot be translated into English or Spanish. To explain its significance we must enter into a discussion of climatology, pedology (the study of soil), sociology, and history. The terroir is, in summary, the joint action of weather, earth, and man. In this way, the vines in the Valle de Parras are a reflection of the skills possessed by the agronomists who cultivated them. But to understand the soul of the vines’ nectar one must understand the history of the people of the valley.

Thirsty for gold the conquistadores crossed the Mexican dessert. In place of precious metal, however, they found instead the Parras oasis and its abundant wildlife. The Santa Maria Mission of Parras decided to establish itself in the area and produce some of the first wines on the American continent—using native vines. The interaction was not peaceful and the native people of the area soon forced the mission to abandon the site. However, Don Lorenzo García, the mission’s resident, did not want to desert the agricultural benefits of the valley. In 1597 King Felipe II of Spain did Don García the favor of allocating the valley’s land for the purpose of planting vineyards. Apparently, the indigenous people accepted this and left the land and its new occupants in peace.

In 1893 the vineyard was purchased by Don Evaristo Madero—the grandfather of President Francisco I Madero—a key player in Mexico’s 1910 Revolution. The present owner, José Milmo, is a direct descendent of the Madero family. The illustrious family name is now that of the vineyard too: Casa Madero. The family home has been converted into a divine colonial inn which had been christened San Lorenzo in honor of the creator of the first vine.

Having endured various crises such as New Spain’s prohibition of the production of wine in 1699 and the devastation of Phylloxera (a plant louse which pesters vines), Casa Madero has never stopped production and today has the honor of being the oldest vineyard on the continent.
casa madero foto_0037
Casa Madero Today

Today Casa Madero is a vineyard of 450 watered hectares planted with European varieties. The red-wine grapes represent 85 percent of the planted estate including Merlot Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. The white wines represented are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Semillón.

The final installment missing for the vines at Casa Madero to climb to the top was that of science. Today agricultural engineers and winemakers from the best schools in France form the Casa Madero scientific team. Using updated technological procedures, the winery is keeping up with the times.

All of this has lead to the production of award-winning wines winning a cascade of medals in several major international competitions. Casa Madero exports its product to more than 27 countries.
Buen Provecho…

We await your visit to VINOTECA so that we can guide you in your maridaje choices.
Pichenot Casa Madero Shiraz
Matthieu Pichenot is a wine maker and French Sommelier. He spends half the year making wine. With diplomas from schools in Toulouse, Beaune, and Cognac he spends the last six months of the year in the vineyards of Parras Coahuila Mexico, Chablism, Borgoña, Jura, Mairan, Côtes du Rhône, Córcega, and others. The other half of the year he awaits your visit to VINOTECA (Av. Vicente Guerrero #22–next to Mario’s Leather Shop–in Zihuatanejo Centro http://www.vinoteca.com) where he can recommend your wine selections. VINOTECA is open year-round and has an ample selection of national and international wines of all prices and for all tastes.

VINOTECA organizes regular events (tastings, dinners, pairing, etc.) to help develop the wine culture in Zihuatanejo. To be informed of upcoming events, email mpichenot@vinoteca.com or call (755) 120 5942.