This is the second to last installment in my summer guest blogging series “Somewhere Beyond the Sea”. I am proud to present to you the writing of Ernest Gonzalez of Whine and Cheers for Wine. Ernest is living the dream: From a wine lover he took the steps to become an educated wine professional and changed his life because he wanted to. He is now “the wine guy” at a Whole Foods branch in Florida. I really like Ernest’s writing style, in which he weaves information gathered about a wine and grape with his own tasting notes and impressions. I have been lucky to have followed his path from early when I started blogging and seeing him make his way has been awesome and inspiring. Oh, and we also share a love for Riesling, which naturally helps…so, thank you Ernest, for being a part of this!
A Cuban and a bottle of Carménère on Prince Edward Island
When The Winegetter first approached me with the theme of Somewhere Beyond the Sea I have to admit I was a bit lost at sea. What on earth could I write about? I have always appreciated wine, but most of my travels abroad were prior to my true love of wine. Ireland; beer and whiskey. England; beer and cider. Hawaii; pineapple sparkling wine but lets not go there. Amsterdam? Let’s really not go there!
Which lead me to a trip taken a few years ago as I was careening towards the proverbial fork in the road. Wine was still a hobby at this point in my life. No blog or wine job in sight. These would come later. Perfect timing for a much-needed first time visit to Nova Scotia and Canada’s Prince Edward Island. I realize some may say a sea was not technically crossed but having experienced the Gulf of St. Lawrence and ferry rides across the Northumberland Strait I would beg to differ. At least for this story.
An adventure with dear friends. Driving and hiking the Cabot Trail of Nova Scotia prior to ferrying over to Prince Edward Island and the incredible accommodations of the Johnson Shore Inn. Owned by friends of ours who many can attest are beyond wonderful hosts. This bed and breakfast sits on a red rocky cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence who’s coastline kept us in awe for the entirety of our stay.
Wonderful memories come to mind including fabulous home cooked meals, PEI mussels, roasted pig, a visit to a dance hall where yes we danced into the cold night, a fresh steamed [salt water from the beach a few steps away] lobster dinner party for 18 where guests were asked to show off a talent which included poetry, song, and even tap dancing. Not aware of this tradition of entertaining others at dinner my impromptu talent became speaking Spanish. Luckily the other guests were very welcoming and pretended to be in awe of this talent as I babbled on. A few of my new friends had recently been to Cuba [Beyond the Sea!] so this became quite the topic as I was asked about my people, politics and family lineage. A visit to our hostesses Prince Edward Distillery to sample their award-winning potato vodka and many a day sitting along the red cliffs pondering, taking in all the natural beauty surrounding this very special place also made for incredible memories.
The wine portion of this story came near the end of our trip. After days of being pampered we decided to cook dinner for our hostesses. We spent most of the day researching and shopping for ingredients that included a stop at the state-run liquor store where the cashier had now started to recognize us after more than a few visits. Not accustomed to such government operated stores I was first taken aback by their small selection of U.S. wines but at the same time impressed by their also small but varied choice of South American wines. Chile and Argentina were very well represented and Chile’s Carménère became my choice for our farewell dinner. Those who frequent my web-site may know that I enjoy spreading the gospel of this signature Chilean, albeit originally Bordeaux varietal. In fact in reviewing my earlier posts I even referenced the PEI adventure in my: Our Wednesday night choice; Santa Rita Reserva 2008 Carménère review from last year. And as fate would have it a wonderfully written recent guest post by The Armchair Sommelier: Drinking Carménère With the Devil.
Carménère, thought to be extinct for years, was discovered in Chile during the 1990′s inadvertently being grown as Merlot. This lush somewhat exotic grape has earthy and leather aromas with a sweet dark fruit taste of plum, blackberry, and cherry. I would describe it as deliciously rustic.
On this occasion our last meal turned out to be a delicious Rib-eye Pot Roast laden with fresh spices and root vegetables that cooked slowly for about 5+ hours. In my mind at least, it was to be perfectly paired with my chosen Carménère. If only I could remember which one in particular I painstakingly decided on that day. But as it turned out I would come to learn years later forgetfulness was to be shared that evening. As our meal progressed to the main course I poured the Carménère along with a little history of the grape and it was an instant hit. Those in our party of six that I had previously introduced this varietal to were excited to be sharing our secret. For the newbies it was love at first sip. As I recall dinner went off without a hitch. All courses were better than expected and I would to this day forever be trying to match the perfect pot roast recipe from when we were on Prince Edward Island. Yes, still trying.
Fast forward a few years to our Canadian hosts coming south to Florida for the winter. A reunion dinner planned! My assignment; wine. What better choice but to relive our last supper, so memorable to me, by bringing a bottle of Carménère. A joyous reunion. As dinner was served, I poured the wine and pointed out the varietal I had chosen. Yes the same one we had devoured and shared before on our last night on PEI! To my surprise I was met with blank stares, a lack of recollection and the comment; “Oh, we’ve never had that varietal”. What?? Could I have possibly made up the entire experience or more likely romanticized the event that defined our last night together? We laughed as I reminded them of our first time at the last supper and then we just moved on to the dinner at hand and wonderful new conversations. Our soon to be memories being created.
I find it interesting that as I bonded with the wine with friends for my memory of the event, others bonded with the dinner with friends or just the quality time of friends together. The one common denominator: friendship. This realization has made me think about how I may attach too much weight to factors that surround us all instead of what truly is important.
So yes, I’d like to take this opportunity to admit: My name is Whine and Cheers and I appreciate wine. But, I love friendships!
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Wonderful essay, Ernest. You transported us there with your descriptive language and photos. I was captivated! Ginger
Wonderful post, Ernest, and stunning photos! Sounds like a great trip.
A great memory and a grand time was had by the participants. Bravo.
Beautiful post! I love Carmenere and am a little bummed we do t get that many here – prob only 4-5 of the massed produced ones.
“Amsterdam? Lets really not go there…” Haha. I really want to go back there!
It was a pleasure to participate in this series. Thank you for the honor and the challenge! Continued safe travels.
Thank you so much for this awesome post, Ernest! Just reread it. Still loving it.
Great post, Ernest! And I love good Carménère very much!