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By Susan A Mahalick

Photos by Sitara Monica Perez and the author

April 12, 2014 (Baja, Mexico)--Sitara Monica Perez, the woman with the lyrical name, arrived here almost two years ago to accomplish her dream of making wine. She is not only doing that, but also becoming an expert on the winemakers and wineries in the process. Originally from Alaska, she has lived in Costa Rica and Argentina before coming to Baja to learn winemaking.

Of the 100 or so applicants only 30 are accepted into the acclaimed wine school, La Escuelita. She applied and got in, making her first barrels which she stores in a second bedroom of her home to be close to her “babies.” Her first releases of wine include Lady in Red, 50 Shades of Red and a Reserve Syrah. In 2014 she increased her production, hoping to double her first year.

Recently Sitara and Pat Haley did an event in Ensenada called Wine & Chocolate. Sitara brought her personally crafted wines, Lust, 50 Shades of Red and Lady in Red, along with the three Sisters (Gold, Soul, and Bold). The three sisters, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Tempranillo and a Dolcetto are a better price point for some and quite tasty. The woman has a discerning palate, fun labels and her sparkling personality which has made her a success in roughly one year. This event is so popular that it has occurred twice with many more people at the second event.

Pat Haley uses Swiss chocolate, then flavors with whatever catches her imagination like truffles filled with red velvet cake or peanut butter, or turtles. This day she had chocolate covered fresh strawberries as a giveaway treat. They all melt in your mouth and are irresistible. One woman shared with me that she freezes them individually to keep them from all disappearing in one sitting.

Deciding to share her knowledge and love of the enjoyment of wine, she has started giving tours to both the general public and local chefs. It all started with John Ash, a renowned chef from the wine region of Northern California who took a tour with her at the suggestion of a friend of his. Sitara had already planned on giving tours, but this is proof of how good she is at imparting her knowledge, getting winemakers to pay extra attention to the guests she brings by appointment.

She has a menu of choices of day trips to the valley that range in price depending on what the customer wishes to try. This included three wineries, lunch at the end of the tastings and her modest fee of $25

. Her tours include her growing amount of trivia about the valley as well as her understanding of the history. Her charm is included in the price.

Here are a couple of her menu items:

  1. Icons & Artisans: Family heritage, dominoes and rattlesnakes, organic wine, rescuedvines and a Chef Rick Bayless endorsement

La Casa Vieja, Vinisterra, Tres Valles. Artisanal bread, cheese and olives included. Total cost pp: approximately $55

  1. ¡Viva Vino Mexicano!: Hidden treasures and famous mentors, family roots and old vine. Grenache, former pilot spreads wings to make top shelf vino

Shimul , Tintos del Norte, Malagón. Artisanal bread, cheese and olives included. Total cost pp: approximately $65

  1. $25 pp is included in the above price with a minimum of 4 people

For more information, contact  or visit .

Susan A Mahalick has a blog site called which has two of her books for sale. One on living in Baja called My Gold Coast–Baja and the other on Living Resourcefully, Yet Very Well.

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