by Jack George
Rosarito Beach resident, Blas Garcia – more familiarly called Don Blas — opened a small meat market in 1982. It was not long before he added a section for groceries.He named his business Mercado del Mar. Today, you can find most any grocery item you need..and maybe some you don’t!
There are other gems, more valuable than bananas and candy bars, stashed away in Don Blas’ treasure chest, in an adjoining and slightly hidden space. It is a cavernous room many people do not even know is there. I had been in the store dozens of times during the last six years, and I had never paid attention to this side room.
Those people fortunate enough to know of its existence enter a world with more than 350 brands of Tequila along with thousands of bottles of the popular drink.
Garcia said that years ago he had no need for a sign to advertise his Tequila. When the economy started to slide, the business fell a little. However, he also attributed this to the fact that Popotla Boulevard was widened, causing the cars to cruise rapidly down the street compared to the earlier days when they went at a much slower pace. He has been thinking about putting up a sign; he just has not gotten around to it. Even so, during our interview, it was obvious that many people are aware of the room, as customer after customer visited this extraordinary shop to purchase some outstanding brands of Tequila.
When I first saw some of the price tags I really had to take a second look. I had no idea that a bottle of Tequila would sell for as much as a diamond ring.
He has some price tags that might cause your blood pressure to rise. One of these bottles, a tall, lean bottle with exquisite color and design, had a price tag of $1600. However, that was nothing. He disappeared for a few minutes. When returning he explained that he had gone to his safe to get a special bottle. Then, on top of his tasting table, he placed a bottle of Tequila. If the $1600 price tag might cause a heart attack, this bottle would push you to the end – $7500 (that is US dollars, not pesos).
It is obvious that Garcia is a “people person.” It is also obvious that he enjoys sharing his knowledge and interest in Tequila. He often offers Tequila tastings (degustacion) in his shop, which a group of us recently enjoyed. It is particularly interesting for a person, like me, who is completely ignorant about the drink. We started off with a shot (actually, each sample was much more than a shot, it was like a third of a wine glass) of white. We learned that this is basic Tequila that can be produced, bottled and shipped shortly after production. This, of course, is the cheapest of Tequila. The next shot was Reposado. This level is maintained in wooden barrels for a minimum of six months. The barrels are usually made from oak. This is what gives aging Tequila a bit of color.
After that came the Anejo – not just any Anejo, Extra Anejo Pechocha. You can definitely taste the difference with this stage as it is much smoother. This Tequila must be aged for a minimum of 12 months. The fourth stage, and the most expensive, is Extra Anejo. It must be aged for a minimum of 36 months. This, of course, adds to the cost. It also adds to the taste and smoothness. The Pechocha generally runs $100 US or more, but it has a smoothness that tells you that you are paying for premium stuff!
Going back to the $7500 bottle of Tequila (I’d love to, thank you), Garcia also has a bottle that drops tiny pieces of real gold when you shake it. He told us about a bottle of Tequila that recently sold at Sotheby’s for $2.3 million. It did come with a Certificate of Authentication (well, thank heavens for that). After doing a little research, I discovered that a Mexican distiller named Hacienda La Capilla Tequila has a bottle on display for one of their promotions. The bottle has 4,000 diamonds with a total of 328 carats. Two guards are on duty 24 hours a day to protect the bottle. It has been exhibited in Mexico, Paris, London, and other places. Eventually it will be sold at auction. The current price is $3.5 million. The distiller would like you to know, however, that they have cheaper bottles of Tequila for sale with an average price of $40. (Note: these $40 bottles do not contain any diamonds).
Garcia, an extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and entertaining gentleman told about the time Sylvester Stallone slipped into his Tequila room. After making a purchase, Stallone left as quickly as he had entered. Garcia recounted several of the events that occurred during the filming of the Titanic. One of these involved three men who entered his store. They shopped around until they found what they wanted. Several days later Garcia was watching TV, with his family, and he became surprised when he saw a man on the news. It was the same man who had been in his shop earlier in the week. It turned out that it was the director of Titanic, James Cameron.
How to get there:: Mercado del Mar is in the Popotla area of Rosarito Beach, and can easily be found if you start at the stoplight by the Paloma Condominiums. Proceed south and you will see the store after you travel .8 of a mile. It is on the left side.
What will Don Blas’ Tequilas Cost: A very nice bottle of good-brand tequila can be purchased for as little as $40 US. If you are feeling flush, ask about the pricier brands that go up into the thousands of dollars. Of course, there is always basic tequila in the $10-20 range.
Jack E. George is a Baja writer as well as the author of A Broken Charity and The Autism Handbook (published in English, Spanish, and Chinese).
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