Sunday, December 4, 2011

To the Wine Cellar – Salud!

In my postings this Fall I have made several mentions about the new commercial spaces that have opened recently along the Paseo.  One of the first to open, in an anchor location near the south end of the road, at the round-about across from the Inn at Loreto Bay is The Wine Cellar, owned and operated by Will and Cynthia, who are also homeowners here.

For many of us, when we purchased our Loreto Bay home, the fantasy of opening a small business here was part of the dream we may have entertained, more or less seriously, at some point in the process.  I think it would also be fair to say that these sorts of entrepreneurial ideas tended to be more common early on in that process and, and as we came to better understand the complexities and realities of life (particularly business life) here in the Baja, the enthusiasm may have faded for some since then.

But, that has not been the path that Will and Cynthia followed to becoming proprietors of a tasteful and spacious wine and spirits bar in a growing ex-pat community deep in the southern Baja Peninsula.  Having purchased their home here four or five years ago, they both continued to pursue their careers in Los Angeles, where they lived, until this past summer when a change of circumstances in Cynthia’s job presented the possibility of an earlier than expected retirement. 

This led to a conversation in mid-July, where the idea that is now the Wine Cellar had its beginning – that of combining their potential new found freedom with their shared passion for wine-tasting, into a retirement business here in Loreto Bay.  A few short weeks later, in mid-August, the decision was made and Will enthusiastically joined Cynthia’s newly retired status and quickly their plans came together.

These events coincided with a focused effort this summer to rent most of the previously unoccupied commercial spaces along the Paseo that runs through Loreto Bay.  So Will and Cynthia were able to secure this prime location and satisfy a high priority service to the community, that of a Bar to provide a meeting place and social center within our development for the residents and also potentially for patrons from the surrounding Nopolo community and even the town of Loreto itself.

At the beginning of this September Will and Cynthia arrived back in Loreto Bay, this time to stay, and began the work of overseeing the renovations of the approximately 1500 sq. ft. space into the bright and airy environment that is now home to the Wine Cellar.  Approvals were secured to open up the outside wall with two French doors adding light and spaciousness to the previously dark room.  The wall surrounding the front garden space at the entrance was also lowered to a table top height creating an attractive outdoor patio area which overlooks where the main south access road joins the Paseo and provides an ideal location for their guests to observe the comings and goings to and from the development.

Inside there were even more tenant improvements made.  A large central pillar supporting the upper residential floors was incorporated into the corner of the “L-shaped” bar itself, and a small efficient kitchenette was tucked behind the back wall of the bar service area, where a selection of Tapas snacks can be prepared.  Finally two new washrooms were added and the transformation into a bright, inviting and functional space was almost complete.

Comfortable, residential style furnishings were sourced from Gustavo, a familiar vendor here in Loreto Bay, who has opened one of the new furniture stores just down the street, and the walls have been decorated with a number of pieces of original local artwork which will be completed with a commissioned centerpiece work that will be hung shortly.  Several moderately sized TV panels are positioned for viewing from all parts of the room but the Wine Cellar would not be mistaken for a Sports Bar, although often games are discretely playing in the background.

The back section of the space has been shelved to stock a variety of wine themed accessories which should be much sought after for gift giving during the approaching Holiday Season.  Two large wine coolers stand against the back wall, the one for reds kept about 5 degrees above the other storing whites, confirming my own taste for a slightly chilled red (while I don’t know where the standard for “room temperature” red wine originated, I am quite sure that it was not from the climate of the southern Baja!).

Meanwhile a local paralegal and business consultant put in place all the necessary paperwork and approvals to meet the requirements for operating the business here and two staff members were recruited; Urbano as waiter and bar tender, a familiar face who has worked at the INN and elsewhere providing friendly and professional service, and Margarita who prepares the tasty Tapas snacks for the hungry customers.

Will and Cynthia have spent many holidays, going back to University days, travelling the world tasting wines in places as far removed as South Africa, New Zealand and Eastern Europe, and in between these trips they also became somewhat connoisseurs of a social life that included the ambiance of their favourite bars.  In spite of these interests, as I said, the thought of opening their own place, incorporating ideas from their travels and experiences was a new one, when it occurred to them this past summer.

After arriving back in Loreto in early September the hard work of turning that idea into a reality began – and, remarkably, to many who are experienced with the pace of work here, in about a month and a half the Wine Cellar was substantially completed and ready to be tasted by the first Homeowners as they arrived for the season.  Opening at 4:00 pm weekdays and 2:00 on weekends, the Cellar will usually stay open until 10:00 most evenings, but Will and Cynthia are happy to stay open later, if the party is still going on!

In addition to 15 wines available by the glass, they offer a full cocktail bar service with a tasty selection of tapas including a cheese plate, guacamole and spiced olives to compliment the drinks.  But as well as the bar this is also a retail wine boutique with an impressive selection to choose from by the bottle – which is a welcome option for any Homeowner looking for a nice bottle to take to a dinner party or even something special for a restaurant meal, where the local selection  may be limited.  In addition, we now have access to the Cellar’s cellar if we run short of libations during the next dinner party – they will even deliver – how civilized is that!

Already a popular place in the late afternoons, where people can meet and mingle for drinks and conversation, it is also conveniently located at the south entrance to Loreto Bay and makes an ideal place for a nightcap when people return home from evening dinner in town.  Particularly useful for those who have been wisely cautious to consume moderately at dinner, before making the drive at night back to Loreto Bay.  So, when they have made it back safe and sound from their short drive on the highway, there is now the opportunity perhaps for one “off the road” at the end of the evening!

During the course of this season’s Blog postings I look forward to bringing you other stories about some of the new businesses that are adding so much to our community, and so I thought that I would begin with a “toast” to what I am sure will soon become a fixture here in Loreto Bay, The Wine Cellar.  This is a comfortable, convenient and laid back meeting place that fits very well with the developing ambiance that is Loreto Bay, and for many will become another favourite part of “Living Loreto”.