Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pablito Launches GillBilly Fish Conservation Public Service Ad

Ever faithful to the cause of fish conservation and ocean awareness, our friend Pablito has again thrown his angler angst into the fray. He reminds you to only catch and keep what you can eat and to always practice the GillBilly creed...
Catch and release to keep the ocean's peace!

Pablito has also contributed his time when not on the sea baiting a hook to appear in this fish conservation animation...

video

PLEASE ALWAYS REMEMBER!

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.
John Buchan

Tuna Farm Vaqueros: Tuna Pen Aquaculture in Baja

Local to Ensenada and the Coronado Islands True Traveling mariners and road warriors can observe many seaborne circular enclosures which are serving as underwater feedlots for the creatures called "the kings of the sea"; thunnus thynnus orientalis, or Pacific bluefin tuna. These valuable fish are symmetrical, with pointed noses, vacuous eyes, and rigid appendages. This is the fish prized above all others by connoisseurs of sushi and sashimi. The fish whose belly meat (called toro) commands the highest prices on Japanese restaurant menus (with the exception of the potentially poisonous fugu, or blowfish, which is not nearly as widely sold). At its best, when the fat content is high, and the fish has been meticulously handled; the flesh is fabulously tender and buttery, ranging in color from a soft pink to a deep wine red. Obviously too luscious to cook and begging to be eaten raw.

Unlike salmon, tuna has not yet been successfully farmed - that is, raised in captivity from egg to maturity. Currently, all bluefin must be caught in the wild, not only the Pacific species but also its giant, biologically similar Atlantic cousin, which is perhaps slightly less desirable from a gastronomic viewpoint. Around the world, fishermen facing declining quotas for high-quality bluefin tuna are discovering that one way to maximize the return on their reduced catch is to add value to it, only in a novel way; catch them live and fatten them up. That’s what Australian tuna fishermen have done in a big way. Concerned over the sustainability of the species, fisheries managers and the industry established quotas in 1984 to limit the tonnage of fish caught to 14,500 metric tons. That was reduced to 6,250 mt in 1988 and 5,265 mt in 1989.

The notion of capturing gold ingot valued tuna and holding them for the market has been around for a quarter of a century. It started in St Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia, in 1976 but stopped a few years later when the giant Atlantic bluefin tuna altered their migration path. Since then, various forms of bluefin aquaculture have been developed, the best known in Port Lincoln, Australia, but with operations spread around the world in Croatia, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Japan and Mexico. After entrepreneurs found that the high prices paid for such tuna outweighed the cost of building pens, operations quickly expanded into the Atlantic, to Australia, and then to Baja California. Japan drives the market for fresh fish, it's literally almost a stock exchange. The Japanese auction block determines local tuna prices. After being caught by local seiners, the fish are then transported to farming facilities at the Coronado Islands and the Ensenada area run by Mexican tuna ranchers. Upon arrival at the site, the tuna are herded from the seiners underwater panels into the farm's football field-sized pens, where they are fattened with sardines, anchovies, and other bait fish for three to six months. After months of gorging, the tuna are auctioned at Tsukiji, Tokyo's fish market. Beginning in the 1970s, international fishing laws prohibited Japan from trawling foreign waters in their own boats. Japan had to import, looking to tuna ranches.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed the bluefin tuna as "critically endangered" on its Red List of species at risk. The number of bluefin tuna has been reduced to less than 5 percent of its original population size in just three decades. Other scientific debates surround the tuna farms and their existence. The Mexican tuna ranchers will do whatever it takes to protect and fatten the “herd”. From the Mexican ecologically forbidden practice of shooting predatory sea lions to spending thousands on temperature-monitoring devices that cool the water so the bluefin build up fat stores and, in turn, fetch a higher price.



Much of the tuna farm production is delivered to Chesapeake Fish Company at Point Loma Seafoods in San Diego for processing. These companies are involved in all aspects of the seasonal bluefin production, from the killing and cleaning of the fish to the packaging and shipping. Last year the Chesapeake employees worked from August to March to fill a quota of 900 tons of bluefin for Japan.

The bluefin are slaughtered individually by sticking a hook between the eyes that punctures the brain. Attached to the hook is a long pipe that's inserted vertically into the fish. This shocks the spine and speeds up rigor mortis. A tuna's value is determined by its grade. The grade is determined by the fish's color and fat content. Number two grade is more highly valued, as it has more fat content, and number one grade is considered less desirable. There are four grades of tuna; however, most fish buyers recognize only the first two, as number three and number four grades are often either canned or frozen.

Negotiations begin on the dock of San Diego. Buyers from Japan inspect the fish, checking fat content, color, and visual appeal. After calls to Japan to determine current prices, high bids are accepted, and the tuna is submerged in crushed ice -- after being sliced up and boxed for shipment and shipped by Chesapeake's fleet of delivery trucks from the company's Harbor Lane facilities to LAX, where it will go to Tokyo via air freight and be auctioned at Tsukiji, all within 48 hours.

Most of the tuna caught off the coast of California is not bluefin, and only a certain clientele is interested in bluefin, mainly the Asian market. Local fishery officials worry that there is simply not enough room in local Mexican waters for more pens to meet the growing demand. In the Ensenada area, there are six tuna-ranching operations either functioning or approved for operation by the Mexican government. The first and largest of these, Maricultura del Norte, on the south side of Punta Banda, operates 15 pens, and legislation to authorize the first American tuna-ranching operation is being drafted.

With funding from Chevron, Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute of San Diego is seeking permits to operate an experimental fish farm and hatchery for three years at Platform Grace, a relay point along an oil pipeline owned by Santa Barbara oil company Venoco Inc., near Ventura in federal waters. The Grace Mariculture Project would include four submerged pens, encompassing 1H square miles. The project's goal is to help supply a growing demand for seafood. The largest trade deficit in the U.S. is oil, the second is seafood imports. As part of the three-year project, the institute would raise bluefin tuna, California yellowtail, California halibut, striped bass, and red abalone. The Grace Mariculture Project would be used to determine the economic and environmental feasibility of tuna ranching in the U.S. a pilot program to determine just how lucrative commercial bluefin farming is.

A local fishing tournament was affected by the existence of the tuna ranches. On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2005, the Ensenada Club Nautico sponsored the Torneo Internacional De Pesca Deportiva Verano, a huge Baja Norte fishing tournament with over 300 anglers competing in a vastly publicized largest fish contest that was held based in Ensenada. The second place fish, a 64 pound yellowfin tuna was disqualified because it was proven that the angler had bought the tuna from the Salsipuedes pens. Later others commented that the man who submitted the fish had rock cod on his boat and no gear to catch such a fish. The eyes were white and the fish was black and covered in flies. The cheating fisherman got so violent, it was necessary for the police to take him to jail!


Local boats net the fish, tons at a time, as they cruise along the coast, 20 to 30 miles offshore. Then, the tuna are towed at less than two miles an hour, still in the water in specially designed enclosures, to Puerto Escondido Bay. There they live the life of Riley, splashing happily about in the huge circular pens, gaining weight and building their fat content on a sardine diet - all the fish they can eat, three times every day, six days a week, for four to eight months. To avoid damage to their livers from overeating, the tuna are fed only six days a week. And on those six days, the sardines are broadcast across the surface of the water to force the big fish to compete aggressively for food. Some farmed salmon are criticized because, having no need to work for nourishment, they develop a flabby texture. This method of fattening takes a run-of-the-mill fish, a so-so fish, and transforms it into a superstar, a fish ripe for the markets of the sushi and sashimi connoisseurs of Japan.

The tuna are caught between June and August, as they swim between Magdalena Bay, near the southern tip of Baja California, and Monterey Bay, south of San Francisco. They are sold between October and March, by which time most of the fish weigh up to 190 pounds. Some of the larger tuna in the pens approach 330 pounds.

When the largest local tuna ranch company, Maricultura del Norte gets an order, an appropriate number of fattened tuna are harvested. That gives them an edge over conventional suppliers: they have to sell as soon as their boats dock. They sell when they want to, whether the demand is high or not. At Christmastime, when the demand peaks, Maricultura sometimes harvests as many as 900 tuna in a single day, working from sunrise to sunset. The current price for a gutted bluefin, with head and tail on, runs about $11.50 a pound for small fish, $15.75 a pound for medium fish and even more for larger fish. The meat sells at retail for as much as $45 a pound, despite the lasting slump in the Japanese economy. A 410-pound tuna was sold for a record $160,000 in 2005. Buyers insist on quality - tuna without bruises or blemishes, with vividly colored flesh, with maximum oil and fat content. When the pen is ready to harvest, it is like a ripe fruit, the fish at a perfect point in their development.

The harvesting of the fish is a systematic display of proven methodology. Divers in black wet suits start by raising a barrier inside one of the pens, separating a dozen or so tuna from the rest. Next they grab the fish, one by one, one hand on the tail and the other in the gills, and hoist them onto a barge, where another crew of workers holds them in place. Instantly that team spikes each tuna in the head, killing it, cut a main artery behind the gills to bleed it, and ran a fine steel wire down the fish's spinal column, paralyzing it immediately. Another team, astonishingly deft like the first, then takes over, cutting out the gills and guts in one swift motion and tossing the bluefin into a 32-degree saline water solution. The whole process takes only about 50 seconds. This method is employed to preserve the tuna's quality in two ways: by avoiding the formation of excessive lactic acid and by preventing the fish's blood temperature from rising after it has left the sea. This yields a cut of fish that is blissfully sweet and custard-like, with no hint of the metallic flavor that mars the elderly fare served at second-rate sushi bars.

About 95 percent of Maricultura's output goes to Japan, the other 5 percent is sold in San Diego and Los Angeles, mostly to top restaurants. Chilly from their cold-water bath, the fish are cleaned, weighed, tagged and measured before being placed with cold gel packs in plastic-lined boxes to keep them fresh. If they are harvested on Thursday, for example, they are packed on Friday morning and trucked to Los Angeles International Airport on Friday afternoon. They arrive in Tokyo on Sunday, local time, and go on sale at 5 a.m. Monday. Most of them will be consumed by Wednesday at the latest. That may sound like a very long time. But in fact it is almost ideal; like a number of other fish, such as Dover sole, bluefin only reaches peak flavor and texture four to six days after it has emerged from the water. The Ensenada operations have a marketing advantage over numerous other tuna-penning locations because of its proximity to the Los Angeles airport with its 19 flights a day directly to Tokyo.


It is the reliability of supply and consistency of quality that make farmed bluefin popular, but they will never replace free-range bluefin in the very top echelon of the market. The true connoisseurs still prefer a wild fish, as they prefer a wild salmon. The muscle and meat structure is not the same from a pen 50 feet across compared to thousands of miles of ocean. Consumers complain about the meat structure and say the fat doesn’t taste right. The wild bluefin still get the top price. When a farmed Australian is going for 3,000 yen per kilo, in the same day a fancy wild bluefin from the East Coast or Spain with good fat will go for 6,000 or 7,000 yen per kilo. It is just a different product; it is not in the same size class, and it is also natural.

Whether tuna farming will serve as a model for farming other species, such as black cod and halibut, remains to be seen; but fishermen in many fleets have a definite success story to ponder as they contemplate the future of their industry. The world's, and especially Japan's, appetite for tuna seems insatiable. The question is whether stocks of bluefin can withstand the pressure. Already, the giant Atlantic bluefin, which can reach up to 1,500 pounds, is listed as endangered by the Monterey Aquarium, which monitors such matters. The southern Pacific bluefin, which is caught off Australia, has also been over fished, but so far the northern Pacific bluefin, caught here, appears to be in better shape.

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
Henry David Thoreau

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tsunami! Could IT Happen Here?

During a recent trip to Seattle, GillBilly was struck by the many “Tsunami Evacuation Route” signs along the roads of the Washington State coast. Not having seen such attention to the subject of potential tsunami damage in the coastal Southern California or Baja regions, my interest was piqued as to just what these fabled waves are, how they are formed, how we should expect to be warned and what is the proper behavior for those that are threatened. My conclusion is this, take whatever you can that’s most important and hit the road running away from the coast! Living in a marina, I have often thought that you would kick your boat away from the dock and haul bacon for deep water, but the following information I discovered through research has me believing that may be a fool hardy act. If you could reach deeper water quickly enough, one would have to punch through a wave of undetermined height and strength and hope the boat did not break falling off the other side. And, there could be a series of waves of undetermined period, height, and direction making the voyage a daunting and dangerous task. I understand that in a marina the water drains to extreme low tide or perhaps no water at all and then rushes back in with incredible force and fury. That would be something we all would not hope for and quite destructive. As I sit here at the Coral Marina in Ensenada, Mexico writing this article, I realize a wave of perhaps 30 meters (90 feet!) could jump our little jetty enclosure and inundate everything to within hundreds of meters of the coast.

Tsunami is a Japanese word with the English translation, "harbor wave." Represented by two characters, the top character, "tsu," means harbor, while the bottom character, "nami," means "wave." In the past, tsunamis were sometimes referred to as "tidal waves" by the general public, and as "seismic sea waves" by the scientific community. The term "tidal wave" is a misnomer; although a tsunami's impact upon a coastline is dependent upon the tidal level at the time a tsunami strikes, tsunamis are unrelated to the tides.

Tsunamis can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water. Tectonic earthquakes are a particular kind of earthquake that are associated with the earth's crustal deformation; when these earthquakes occur beneath the sea, the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position. Waves are formed as the displaced water mass, which acts under the influence of gravity, attempts to regain its equilibrium. When large areas of the sea floor elevate or subside, a tsunami can be created. Large vertical movements of the earth's crust can occur at plate boundaries. Plates interact along these boundaries called faults. Around the margins of the Pacific Ocean, for example, denser oceanic plates slip under continental plates in a process known as subduction. Subduction earthquakes are particularly effective in generating tsunamis.

As a tsunami leaves the deep water of the open ocean and travels into the shallower water near the coast, it transforms. Scientists have discovered that a tsunami travels at a speed that is related to the water depth - hence, as the water depth decreases, the tsunami slows. The tsunami's energy flux, which is dependent on both its wave speed and wave height, remains nearly constant. Consequently, as the tsunami's speed diminishes as it travels into shallower water, its height grows. In the Pacific Ocean, where the typical water depth is about 4000 meters, a tsunami travels at about 600 feet per second, or over 430 miles per hour! Because of this shoaling effect, a tsunami, imperceptible at sea, may grow to be several meters or more in height nearing the shoreline. When it finally reaches the coast, a tsunami may appear as a rapidly rising or falling tide, or a series of breaking waves.

The Tsunami Warning System (TWS) in the Pacific, comprised of 26 participating international member states, has the functions of monitoring seismological and tidal stations throughout the Pacific Basin to evaluate potentially tsunamigenic earthquakes and disseminating tsunami warning information. Tsunami watch, warning, and information bulletins are communicated to appropriate emergency officials and the general public by a variety of communication methods. Local authorities and emergency managers are responsible for formulating and executing evacuation plans for areas under a tsunami warning. The public should stay-tuned to the local media for evacuation orders should a tsunami warning be issued. And, the public should NOT RETURN to low-lying areas until the tsunami threat has passed and the "all clear" is announced by the local authorities.

This planet is covered with sordid men who demand that he who spends time fishing shall show returns in fish.
Leonidas Hubbard, Jr.

GillBilly Chronicles: New Tijuana Bus Tours

Tijuana is often referred to as the world's most visited border town. Tijuana based Mexicoach, which has provided cross-border bus service for years, is hoping a new endeavor will stimulate a new awareness of this bustling border town beset with a series of bad press reports during this past year. They have launched an effort this past month to show more tourists the attractions of the city of Tijuana. Labeled Tijuana City Tour, three buses have now been converted to showcase Tijuana’s Teniente Guerrero Park, the Agua Caliente Tower, a winery, a brewery and the Rio Zone's restaurant row. The 15-mile city tour starts and ends in the Rio Zone at the Tijuana Cultural Center, or Cecut, but riders can hop on and off at any of the 13 stops, riding all day after paying the $10 adult fare.

The newly commissioned bright-red buses have been designed to give the passenger an unobstructed view of the city. The top of each bus has open air seating giving the rider a constant buena vista of the tour’s route. “A lot of people don't know the city, think that Tijuana is just Avenida Revolucion, but the truth is that there are historic buildings everywhere and lots of stories to tell,” said Jorge Luis Sánchez, tourism director for Grupo Empresarial Mar de Cortez. There is a great deal of scenery indeed, aside from the jumble of Avenida Revolucion stores most associated with the Tijuana experience. The city is a duty-free zone, and it is truly a shopping paradise, with an impressive and astounding variety of merchandise; ranging from leather goods, silver jewelry, designer clothing, tile, ceramics, blown glass, glazed pottery, woven blankets, embroidered dresses, onyx chess sets, Mexican liquors and much more.

Bilingual guides usually accompany the tour, their narration researched through the Tijuana Historical Society. The bus is a chance for tourists to see and experience the side streets that they would never see unless they were brave enough to poke into these obscure and interesting areas by means of their own car. On the bus the rider does not have to worry about speaking Spanish for directions and getting lost while navigating through unfamiliar parts of the city.

New passport laws, reported drug cartel violence, and increasingly slow border crossings have contributed to this economic downturn. Tijuana's Convention and Visitors Committee reports that overall tourism in Tijuana has dropped dramatically since 2005 – from about 25 million visitors annually to nearly 15 million. According to reports, sales on the traditional tourist strip have fallen 80 percent since 2001. Even the painted donkey trade is in danger of being shut down. These props known as a "Mexican Zebras" on Avenida Revolucion are threatened by the recent violence in the streets and the resultant effect on the cities economy. Tijuana's painted burros have been a fixture on the streets of this border city for decades, posing with Hollywood stars and casual tourists alike for the perfect souvenir photo, but the owners of the Mexican Zebras say they fear their trade may become the next casualty of spiraling drug violence. These street photographers still offer a unique yet expensive ($20) memento for today's visitors. The cameras in use today are nearly as old as the profession itself.

Although reports of police extortions have gone down, and an increase in police protection has been provided, as of yet the tourists are not coming back in the numbers experienced in past decades. The expectation is that the new bus tour line will not only attract the day tripper from north of the border but also guests visiting Tijuana from other parts of Mexico. It is hoped more visitors will be attracted to Tijuana, a city of more than 1.4 million people, for not only its many shops and restaurants, but also for a greater appreciation of its cultural history.

When: Every hour. The first trip starts at 10 a.m. from the Tijuana Cultural Center and the last one ends at 8 p.m.
Where: Trip starts at the cultural center, but riders can board at any of 13 stops on the route, such as along Avenida Revolucion and near the border at the Viva Tijuana shopping center.
Fare: Adults pay $10; seniors older than 60 and children younger than 12 pay $5. One child accompanied by an adult may ride free.

Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths.
Author Unknown

Monday, July 21, 2008

GillBilly Style Spicy Marinated Fish


Ingredients:
4 6 – 8 ounce firm fish fillets
2 garlic cloves, minced 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (or leave some seeds in for heat) 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup red onion, minced 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions: Combine first garlic and next 5 ingredients and mash together with the back side of a large spoon. Add remaining ingredients except olive oil and mix well. Add oil in a thin stream while whisking. Place fillets in a glass, plastic or ceramic dish and pour marinade over. Cover and refrigerate. After 30 minutes, flip fish over, cover and marinate for 30 minutes more. Grill, pan sear or broil until fish is just cooked. Serves 4.

Fishing is the sport of drowning worms.
Author Unknown

Sunday, July 20, 2008

GillBilly Chronicals: Know Your Cost of Fuel Numbers


Remember the phrase fish or cut bait? Now the question is eat or buy gas. Did you know if your road rig gets 20 miles to the gallon, you driving 60 mile per hour costs you $12 an hour at a cost of $4 per gallon at the pumps… ponder that for a minute, and convert the equation to what your vehicle gets per gallon and what you are paying for fuel. The numbers go like this – speed in miles per hour divided by miles to the gallon your vehicle gets (averaged over the hour), multiplied by the cost per gallon of gas. So if the same rig listed above getting 20 miles to the gallon at $4 per gallon at the pumps drives at a pace of 80 miles per hour, it costs you… $16 an hour to drive that hour. And so on… down the road you go with a greater realization of the money you are hourly burning into polluted thin air.



These same numbers can be applied to your water borne rig, and to most efficiently operate that craft, you have to be very aware of the speed you are traveling across the water and the resultant gallons of fuel you will be consuming at that speed. In a boat, the fuel consumed is directly related to your speed across the sea. Consult your engine manufacturer for a spec sheet as to how your particular engine make is fuel rated. Before you buy a new or used boat be very aware of these numbers, do some research on the most fuel efficient propulsion units that are on the market. Engine manufacturers have made great advancements in engine fuel saving technology, and you want to be sure you as a consumer are fully aware of what you are going to encounter in fuel consumption during the period of time you own your new pleasure yacht or fishing craft… that will determine just how much each of those fish you landed and cocktails you enjoyed while on your cruise actually cost in fuel dollars.

BIG FUEL NUMBERS HERE!

NO FUEL NUMBERS HERE IN PARADISE!
Reading about baseball is a lot more interesting than reading about chess, but you have to wonder: Don't any of these guys ever go fishing?
Dave Shiflett

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GillBilly Chronicals: Hurricane Season Arrives

May 15th (June 1st in the Atlantic region) of every year signals the beginning of the annual hurricane migration north to our west coastal latitudes from the Gulf of Tehuantepec which washes the Pacific shores of extreme southern Mexico. If you own a yacht, your yachts insurance policy probably stipulates that you not venture into latitudes below near Ensenada unless you pay a premium for hurricane coverage. From June 1st to October 31st these restrictions apply, and anyone traveling south by sea to the area from Ensenada to Costa Rica should be aware of the dangers involved in being caught in a tropical depression that could possibly spell disaster. Usually these storms dissipate before they reach latitude 30 degrees north, but the tail end of many hurricanes do reach as far north as Ensenada. Hurricane Linda dated September 12th and 13th in 1997 was one of the largest hurricanes witnessed for years, and her influence caused hot sticky and tropical rainy days as far north as Los Angeles. This was a very volatile weather year which included an El Nino influence.

The largest hurricanes usually occur in the months of August and September, but the June appearance of warm 60 plus degree water off the coast of California this year has warned mariners of a banner year for tropical storm activity. Already, this past 5 days saw the birth and progression of the season’s fifth hurricane, Elida. The life of these storms and often the path they take is determined by the temperature of the water and the warmer the water the more violent the storm. The good result of these storms is the big south swells that cause big surf to place smiles on the faces of the local surfing clan. So let’s emphasize the positive effect of the summer storms and be aware of the possible dangers and enjoy safe and sensible yachting during this summer and early fall. Those interested in monitoring the progression of developing hurricanes should visit http://hurricane.terrapin.com/ for the latest information.

We ask a simple question
And that is all we wish:
Are fishermen all liars?
Or do only liars fish?

William Sherwood Fox

Friday, July 11, 2008

GillBilly Chronicals: Wine Viticulture in Northern Baja

Mexico is a diverse and mostly arid country with several areas appropriate for vineyards. Mexican commercial winemaking dates from the 16th century and now is producing several very good wines at competitive prices. In the past few years, the country's leading wineries have collected an impressive array of accolades, gaining a following among wine lovers excited by the prospect of finding excellent vintages in unexpected places. Visitors to Baja California’s beaches and marinas find its wine country a pleasant side trip while visiting the beautiful seaside town of Ensenada, 90 miles south of San Diego. Ensenada’s Vendimia Wine Festival in August is annually eagerly awaited and better hotels and yacht marinas partner local wines with wine tours year-round.

The vineyards are situated in coastal valleys on the western side of the long narrow Baja peninsula, facing the Pacific Ocean. The main production area is close to the American border south of San Diego. This region has become the leader in reviving the reputation of Mexican wines. 95 percent of Mexican quality wine comes from northern Baja California, centering around Ensenada. The three wine-producing sub regions, all located within 60 miles of Pacific coast, from north to south are the Valleys of Calafia and Guadalupe, San Antonio de las Minas, and the Santo Tomás Valley and San Vincente Valley. For the last thirty years new generations of ambitious vintners have been laboring to finally put Mexico on the winemaking map. Having decided that the time has come to develop a proper wine industry that competes with California and even France, they have begun to produce a number of surprisingly good table wines. These are accumulating good reviews, international awards and serious export interest.

The major winegrowing sub regions all lie close to the Pacific Ocean where they can benefit from the cooling ocean breezes and mists. Hot days and cool nights is a classic winegrowing combination throughout the world, allowing grapes to develop their sugars without a corresponding drop in acidity. The climate is classically Mediterranean, with low winter rainfall followed by a dry spring and hot summer. Pacific breezes and regular coastal fog make some of the coastal valleys less torrid than latitude would suggest, and several cooler micro-climates have a dependable humidity around 80%. Vines are supported by drip irrigation. All the wine producing valleys feature a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite. The Guadalupe Valley and especially its neighbor the Calafia Valley have become the most well-known appellations so far, although the term “appellation” may be a stretch, as the Mexican government seems even less interested in regulating wine than the Mexicans are in drinking it. Nonetheless, most producers do try to label their wines in accordance with U.S. and European standards to avoid difficulties in the important export market.

Conquistador-turned-governor Hernan Cortez commanded his Spanish colonial subjects to cultivate grapevines as early as 1524, but the name of Mexico has never been associated with memorable vintages. Although winemaking in the former "kingdom of New Spain", now Mexico (or the remains of it, after the American annexation of California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas in 1847), dates from the early 16th century, the altitude and climate in this country, in general, is not well suited to viticulture. Jug wines have been cheap and justifiably maligned. Yearly Mexican wine consumption has been under half a bottle per person, compared to two gallons in the United States and as much as twelve gallons in Argentina. The preferred drinks, of course, are tequila, rum and beer. Still, the country has never had trouble growing grapes to serve fresh, dry into raisins, or distill. The large brandy industry is the most important in Latin America, and Domecq's Presidente brand is one of the world's best-sellers.

The Mexican fine wine industry is still in its infancy, but results so far are promising. For wine lovers right now the challenge is twofold: identifying what these up-and-coming wineries do best, and then locating their wines. Production and export are small, and they are more likely to be found in better urban restaurants than in retail shops. Naturally, Mexican vintners are hoping this will soon change. Mexican labels are simple, giving brand, producer, and vintage. Varietal types are often indicated, but this is optional. The best wines, “reservas” or "reservas privadas" are more likely to be made with modern and traditional winemaking techniques in a dry modern style that emphasizes fruit.

While the region may not be ready to take on the best of Bordeaux, the wines of Mexico’s Baja region are coming into their own. An influx of European vintners looking for affordable vineyard property has sparked the recent growth of an area in which grapes have been cultivated for centuries. Mexican wines are well worth trying, and have begun to lure vacationers to the source.

There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm.
Patrick F. McManus

Monday, July 7, 2008

GillBilly Style Tuna Sausage

Ingredients:
2 lbs. tuna belly
1 lb. tuna fillet
4 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1/2 orange, grated
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Sausage casings
Instructions: Course grind tuna belly and fillet in a meat grinder. Place ground tuna in bowl and add garlic, orange zest, wine, salt, pepper flakes, olive oil, and parsley. Mix well. Fill casings twisting between sausages. Makes approximately 10 six-inch sausages or 20 three-inch sausages.

Prick sausages and steam on a rack over water in a 500º oven for 15 minutes or fry sausages in non-stick skillet.
Notes: Serve with lemon wedges. GillBilly also likes to thinly slice cooked sausages and add them to Marinara sauce and serve on a bed of fresh linguini.

There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of the mind.
Washington Irving

Friday, July 4, 2008

Yet Another Exciting Series of Designs Introduced in our GillBilly Store!


We keep outdoing ourselves here in GillBillyville as we continue to improve our store and introduce new staples of the “GB BRAND”. We are having great fun discovering the innermost essence of this “who knew?” marketing contraption known as “internet marketing.” Though these designs are not ready yet for public consumption, er, for you to buy as of yet… we know these 2 new designs will thrill both young and old in their unique appeal. Been there, done that, I know, and now we are showing the results of our many days toiling at sea feeling you in our implementation of the creativity we are sharing.

Soon we will be placing your photos on this site wearing our GB gear. Feel free to e-mail us your collection of fish photos caught while wearing and soiling our designer concepts. Your kids we are sure will love both Lindy and Fish Eye Ty, soon we will be sponsoring kids fishing adventures and supplying our shirts at a wholesale price for those events. If you have a youth outing in mind, please contact us and we will make it possible to supply your entire crew with a shirt as a memento of their day out catching fishes. We are available always at the e-mail address billy@gillbilly.com to discuss your needs in this regard, keeping the kids stoked fishing and always aware of the conservation and beauty of our Mother Ocean.

As we gear up we will be offering you more design configurations; tank tops, shorts, and other stuff all replete with the famous GillBilly logo here on this site. Click the title above to be instantly transported to our GillBilly store… and visit our CafePress store linked on the right hand margin of this blog to find more choices already made available in the spirit of the GillBilly creed! As our spokesman Pablito says, “Catch and release to keep the Ocean’s peace!”



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Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

GillBilly Chronicals: La Finca Restaurant - Welcome to the Ranch!


The dictionary defines the words La Finca as “a rural property, especially a large farm or ranch, in Spanish America.” This Ensenada area restaurant opened 9 years ago by Carlos Tirado is by far one of the most beautiful commercial structures in the area. As the owner describes it, a ranch house, and he daily welcomes you in for a meal you won’t soon forget. The interior reminds one of old Mexico and is a warm and inviting backdrop to your shared party and meal. A large stock of the best of northern Baja wines is at hand to complement your feast. 95% of Mexico’s wines are produced in this area; you will see the La Finca label on many bottles served here, as a compliment from the wineries to the restaurant and the owner.

Carlos Tirado is a northern Baja California treasure within himself. He has many sombreros… all encompassing entrepreneur, restaurant owner for the past 28 years on both sides of the border, politician, avid fisherman, car designer and dealership owner, and philanthropist. If he is present when you visit, feel free to join him at his table and enjoy his commentary regarding this territory of Mexico he loves most. In his broad smile you see and feel the great satisfaction that has filled his life, that joy is unavoidably contagious as you benefit from his inspiring company. He has contributed unselfishly his community time as a citizen and as a local public office holder. He served as County Prosecutor for 3 years recently, the county of Ensenada purportedly being the largest in the world, over some 55,000 square kilometers! And he emphatically will never take a peso for his time while serving his many community posts. About the future of Baja California tourism, Senor Tirado states, “we just have to go back to what we did well 100 years ago”.

The menu board of fare includes chateaubriand for 2 with all the fixings for a mere $35 including tax. All the meats served including New York and rib eye steaks are imported from California to insure the best in lean mouthwatering taste and consistency. There is no loud, brassy live music here, just a nice mix of traditional music from old Mexico understated and complimentary to your dining experience. A team of 30 employees will be there at every turn of your fork to attend to your every need. The service is simply marvelous!

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will find you rubbing elbows with many of the local Ensenada aristocracy. This place is a favorite of the most influential folks in town. La Finca seems to be an exciting social event for the local clientele in addition to being a bustling high-quality eatery! The great food is a plus to this scenic Baja California hosted experience. You can join the ranch’s landscape from 7am to 10pm daily, except Sunday and Monday when the restaurant is closed in the evening at 8. The restaurant is available for private functions and can accommodate up to 300 guests.
The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
Babylonian Proverb