Since I had some time before meeting Andrea for dinner on Monday, I decided to take my book down to the lobby bar and have a glass of wine, which reminded me: on my life list, I have Number 52: drink a glass of local wine in each of the top 10 winemaking countries of the world.
I had already decided to use the top 10 exporting countries, rather than the top 10 producing countries, because I figured that the exporting countries are the ones who are probably actually making good money for their wines, and therefore I'd be more likely to have a positive experience. Based on this somewhat dubious logic, for the purposes of my life list, the countries I plan on visiting and having that local glass are Italy, France, Spain, Australia, Chile, United States, Germany, Argentina, Portugal and South Africa.
Of course, I could've had a glass of American wine back home in Houston and been done with it, but I think most people would agree that Napa and Sonoma counties, just north of San Francisco, are really the regions in the United States that are most popular for their wine, so I had been saving the experience for the next time I was in the Bay Area. Naturally, when I bellied up to the bar on Monday, I was ready to tackle my life list right then and there.
"Hi," I said to the smiling bartender. "I'm hoping to have a glass of local wine -- can you recommend one?"
"Red or white?" she asked.
"Hmm..." I thought. "White."
"You're in luck," she said. "It's happy hour, and I have one I'm trying to get rid of."
This did not sound promising.
She poured me a taste, and let me look at the bottle: Newton Chardonnay 2008. "Looks good to me," I said.
"It's a blend of both Napa grapes and Sonoma grapes, so I figure you get two in one," she mentioned as I took a sip.
It was delicious -- wonderfully refreshing, not to sweet, not too dry. A really good representative of American wine, I think, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Since there was no one else in the bar, we struck up a conversation, and I mentioned my life list to her. "In fact," I said, "one of the items on my list is to taste 50 rums -- you wouldn't happen to have any exotic rums, would you?"
"Actually I do," she said.
"Awesome. I don't want it now, but when I return from dinner with my friend, perhaps I'll have one before I go up to my room. What do you have?"
"Oh, I have this amazing one," she gushed. "It's called Flor de Caña. But it's really expensive."
"Yeah?" I said. "How much?"
"Sixteen dollars a shot."
"That's all right," I said. "Where's it from?"
"Huh. I didn't realize that they made rum in Nicaragua," I said, skeptical.
"Oh it's wonderful. After your dinner, come back. You'll see."
I finished about two-thirds of my glass of wine, paid the bill, and left for dinner with Andrea. I returned to the hotel by about 10 o'clock. The bar was more crowded then, but on seeing me, the bartender smiled and poured me a glass of the Flor de Caña without question.
Now, you know me: I don't like to say unkind things here on Chookooloonks, but Lordy, I did not like this rum. "Ragged," is the only word I could think of to describe it -- the kind of alcohol that feels like it's scraping the inside of your throat. I've done a bit of online research, and it appears that this rum is actually widely considered one of the best rums of Latin America, so I'm fully ready to admit that when it comes to rum knowledge, I'm a true neophyte; still, this definitely wasn't one of my favourites.
I left most of the rum in the glass and went to up to my room to bed.
* * * * * * *
The next day, as I mentioned, I went to spend some time with my sister. When we arrived at her house, she offered me something to drink, and I involuntarily cringed at memory of the previous night's rum -- but still, I wanted to try a different rum, to see if, in fact, I really didn't like it, or if that's just how rum tastes, and I'd have to suck it up.
"Hey," I said, "you wouldn't happen to have any really, really good Trinidadian rum, would you?"
She looked at me as if she was weighing whether or not to drive me to the nearest AA meeting. Then suddenly, her face cleared.
"Your life list!" she said, laughing.
"Yes, I've got a couple. Come."
She walked to her little liquor cabinet and pulled out two Trini rums: one I'd heard of, 10 Cane, and the other, Scarlet Ibis rum, I'd never heard of. Since it was new to me, and the scarlet ibis is actually the national bird of Trinidad & Tobago, I felt moved to try that one (I've since found out that The Scarlet Ibis rum was made in a limited batch, and there is no intent to distill any further bottles, so I'm feeling a bit bad about drinking from their rare, precious bottle):
Now, this was a much better rum. In my (again, admittedly inexperienced) opinion, a really good rum should taste almost like a brandy -- slightly sweet, very warm, and really smooth. This wasn't as good as my all-time favourite rum, Angostura 1919, but it was close. Delicious.
John, my sister's husband, didn't arrive until quite a bit later that evening, and after we got the kids to bed, we sat around talking. Conversation got around to the life list, and I mentioned that I'd had some of his rum.
"Which, the 10 Cane?"
"Oh, no, the Scarlet Ibis," I said. "I'd heard of the 10 Cane, so I decided to go for the one I didn't know."
"Have you ever tried the 10 Cane?" he asked, a sly smile, creeping across his face.
"No, I don't think so ..."
"Dude, you have to try the 10 Cane," he said, getting up before I could protest. Enabler.
He came back with a glass, and I had to admit, it was really good -- on par with the Scarlet Ibis, I think, and at least as smooth. It was the perfect way to wind down the evening before I had to head back to the hotel.*
And on that note, have a great weekend, everyone. Me, I'm just planning on drying out.
* The reason there isn't a picture of the 10 Cane is because by the time John had come home and we'd sat down, the sun had gone down, and there wasn't any good natural light. It is NOT because I was too tipsy to take a photograph of it. No sir.