Monthly Archives: June 2015

On Friends, Travel, and Casual Wine Cultures

Standard

One of the things people don’t know about my job is that it involves travel, culture, history, language, chemistry, viticulture and gastronomy (phew!).

That being said, I can only invest in so much travel, books, classes, bottles of wine, and dinners to be able to wrap my mind around what I do.

Read: Expensive!

This is why I love learning vicariously through friends’ stories (cheaper on my end, and makes for a good conversation with wonderful people).

A friend of mine (now living in Singapore) sent me a message, asking if she could call me… You may remember her from my post on Carlton Hotel Singapore. K was eager to tell me about her trip to Europe and the wines she had.

For the chance to catch up and hear the boozy bits of her European adventure, I said yes.

After telling me endlessly that she thought of me while having wine in Spain (uhm, thanks…? Hahaha), she proceeded to tell me that the wine culture there is so laid back that it should interest me enough to write about it in 2shots.

Personally, the reason why I love drinking wine in Europe is because wine is such a part of their daily lives that they drink it so casually… Much like Pinoys drink crisp bottles of San Miguel on a hot day without thinking about it so much. You know what I mean: No chilled mugs necessary, pilsner glasses optional… Just give us street “grilled” isaw as pulutan and we’re good to drink beer from a recycled peanut butter jar (with ice!).

What I’m saying is, while it is nice to know which food (and glass) goes with certain wines, there’s something wonderful about being with good company, eating cold cuts and cheese (or tapas, if you must), and guzzling wine in a tumbler (or water bottle, which a chef friend of mine brought over from his trip to Italy).

No rituals, no ceremonies.

This is what K eagerly shared with me. She found the informal Spanish way of drinking wine so charming, even saying that “wine snobs will shoot themselves here”.

She especially raved about two cocktails (made with wine) that she had: Calimocho and Hostiazo*.

Calimocho is a popular, easy-to-make cocktail popularized in Spain, and is made by mixing wine with Coca-Cola (or any soda, really). K said she especially loved the version made with Fanta Lemon and red wine.

Hostiazo* is a cocktail made from red wine, blackberry juice, vodka, and soda water.

Anyway, K’s stories were so interesting that I decided to try making the cocktails at home. Granted, I raided Rustan’s and tried making them using what we could find in Manila… They turned out yummy. The Calimocho was beautifully refreshing, and the Hostiazo* made me finish this article the following day (it’s a rather strong drink).

Here’s how I made them:

calimocho collage

Pinoy-style Calimocho

Calimocho:

  • 1 part Sunkist Lemonade (soda)
  • 1 part red wine (preferably a Rioja)
  • Ice cubes

Put ice cubes in a glass (or mug, as I’ve used here). Pour the wine in. Top with the soda.

20150630_132400

What you need to make Hostiazo*

20150630_133424

A carafe of “a slap in the face”, Hostiazo*

Hostiazo*:

  • 1 part vodka
  • 1 ½ parts red wine
  • 2 ½ parts blueberry juice
  • ½ part simple sugar (1 part sugar diluted in 1 part water)
  • Soda water
  • Ice cubes

Put ice cubes in a carafe. Assemble all the ingredients except for the soda water. Stir. Top with soda water.

So, whether or not you appreciate wine with all the pomp and circumstance, or drink it with soda and (gasp!) ice, at the end of the day, it is what it is: an alcoholic beverage.

How do you want to drink your wine? Salud!

*Honestly, I tried to look for Hostiazo online and failed… I had to look for a cocktail that translated to “a slap in the face” in Spanish, and my friends from Barcino’s totally helped me out (gracias, TR and RI!). So, disclaimer: I may be spelling it wrong. Another spelling I got was “Ostiazo”. I based the mix from K’s story but made up my own proportions. 😉

Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan.

Standard

Pierce Brosnan will always be James Bond to me.

Well, so is Daniel Craig… But when your father-in-law looks like Craig, it gets really awkward.

So, Brosnan as Bond it is.

#childofthe90s #goldeneye

007 will always be associated with a “Martini – shaken, not stirred” (except for recent Craig movies that made Bond drink beer, but let me save that for another entry).

So imagine my surprise one afternoon when we went to Barcino’s for a late lunch and saw Pierce Brosnan’s name on a wine bottle.

James Bond, Tempranillo in a Spanish restaurant, a bright red bottle… It did not compute.

2015-06-24 13.36.37

Bond… James Bond.

We decided to buy the bottle and take it home (for research purposes, of course).

The label said that the bottle is part of the Whatever It Takes (whateverittakes.org) collection. The organization raises funds for “global development causes – poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and the protection of children”.

The artwork for the Tempranillo bottles was created and donated by Brosnan to Bodegas Vicente Gandia, who in turn has committed to raise a minimum of €450,000 from the wine collection for Whatever It Takes.

Donating to a good cause, check. Patronizing a piece of Pierce Brosnan, check. The potential to get drunk and happy, check.

The all-important question, however: Is it any good?

Absolutely. It is a stereotypical Tempranillo, with lush textures, notes of cassis and vanilla, plus a hint of tobacco and prunes. I rarely have high hopes for a 100% Tempranillo (most Spanish wines would be a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha to make “well-rounded” wines), but this one was splendidly smooth and balanced (quite a long finish, too).

So… Live another day and try one for yourself. It’s not too expensive, and is available in your friendly neighborhood Barcino’s.

Who’s your favorite Bond? Cheers!

Tomás’ Tremonte

Standard

I love watching fathers dote on their children… There’s something about the joy in their eyes, the passion emanating from their bodies as they discuss the development of their kids, and even watching them in varying levels of protection, correction, and nurture.

I know this seems like a hard-sell segue from father’s day to wine, but I promised myself to tell you about a winemaker that acts like such a father to his wines, Tomás Uribe Martinez of Viña Tremonte.

Now, I’ve met several winemakers from different parts of the world, and all of them have a certain personality: There are really professional ones who know all there is to know about their wines. There are those who have inherited and are running family owned estates (I appreciate those the most for their no-nonsense, personal touch). I’ve met a man in Chianti who was too embarrassed to sell me his limited edition bottles for 8€ a pop (after we came from Burgundy, it was a STEAL).

Tomás was different… A very good kind of different.

I met him in Chile last November. By that point in the trip, I had just gotten over my jetlag, established a rapport with the ProChile representatives (with my silly gringa Spanglish), and was used to being shuttled around in established vineyards via open white 4x4s.

Tremonte is a boutique winery, and as such it was a little challenging to spot it from the highway (note to self: spot the red truck). Our apprehension disappeared after being welcomed personally by Tomás (Manager of Operations and Winemaker, Tremonte). He had this big, wide smile, open personality, and a huge amount of eagerness to show us his “babies”.

As we toured his vineyards in his SUV (which he said he also used to shuttle his own family around), he spoke so warmly about his “untended” vines that were growing the way he wanted them to (and were due for pruning).

IMG_1956

Tomas’ Babies

We got off the car, and he encouraged me to look around, take photos, and por favor touch the baby grapes if I wanted to.

As I excitedly did just that (I promise I looked like a little kid let loose in a toy store), I looked back at Tomás, who brandished a cutter and was pruning away at his vines.

IMG_1953

I’ve never seen that happen before. I mean, you could see his genuine delight in applying measures to ensure a phenomenal growth to his vines by pruning erring ones. It was just that it has never happened to me in the middle of a vineyard tour. It was an awesome sight to see.

Even the way he introduced me to the barrels of wine that were in the process of ageing was so paternal. He spoke about each wine, grape, and vintage like their characteristics are human personalities; even justifying why certain ones won’t meet preconceived notions.

They will be beautiful but different, and he made no apologies for that.

IMG_1977

Sampling wines straight from the barrel

We went around his cellar to try his wines straight from the barrel (how cool was that).

IMG_1978

Tremonte, Monte Rekewa, and Inkari

I loved his Monte Rekewa Gran Reserva, a mix of three powerful grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Shiraz). It was so big, so robust, and begging for food to be paired with.

He also let me try his Malbec, something he was passionate about. Malbec is normally associated with Argentina (Chile’s next-door neighbor that also produces wine). While it is produced in Chile, Chileans have a tendency to make Malbec with their own personal touch (a little less violet on the nose, but with the soft textures of its Argentine counterpart).

Tomás’ Malbec is in its own league: jammy, with significantly smaller hints of that spicy characteristic I am accustomed to, and quite smooth on the mouth. It was an unorthodox interpretation indeed, but absolutely gorgeous.

Then, there was his Inkari. A bold, well-balanced Shiraz, it had delectable notes of ripe fruits, tapered by intense tannin. I described it in my head as a “no-holds barred, in-your-face Shiraz”.

I loved everything.

IMG_1960

Inside Tremonte

I also loved the fact that Tomás made most of the things in the vineyard himself: The barns, the patches of flowers, and the layout of the oak barrels resting in his cellar… Home Improvement meets winemaking.

IMG_1969

Excited to see these babies in bottles!

When he welcomed us, he did mention that his vineyards and wines are “up and coming”. I am personally excited to watch him and his wines establish themselves in the wine scene.

Like a new dad watching his kids grow up.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone! Cheers!

#latepost: Burpday Month

Standard

We celebrated Chad’s xxth birthday earlier this month, but with the craziness of that week (and the weeks that followed), I haven’t gotten around to posting anything online about it.

Now, I know he’d potentially freak out if I get all mushy-cheesy and describe his every silly, loveable trait in my blog, so let me just tell you Chad’s favorite beverage/legal addiction: Coffee.

He loves coffee chains (I detest them, but would be willing to go for the mugs, the water, juice, and his company). He gets cranky without a cup to get him going (a valuable advice I readily give to his colleagues).

I think that his coworkers (and audience in a convention) took this information to heart (and a whole new level) when they decided to give him a huge set of coffee items.

edited ucc2_Fotor

The 114 is one of my personal favourites

2015-06-04 08.56.23

I fell in love with the Caramel Milk Tea. Yum!

The UCC set came with a gift box containing sachets ranging from milk tea to café au lait. The three signature instant coffee jars ranged from the mild 114 (which I highly recommend) to the bold 118. It even came with cute little cups of single-serve cream.

2015-06-18 11.58.21

Yummy, chocolatey Toby’s Arabica (Rodyk Blend)

His colleagues gave him a fragrant bag of Toby’s Estate coffee beans (which will need grounding and me getting out the coffee machine). I’m a big fan of Toby’s Estate beans, and I’m so happy I could make cups for us to enjoy at home (without having to contend with the crowd in their cafés… Introvert alert). There’s something about their coffee that’s unique, chocolatey, smooth, and creamy. Don’t let me spoil it for you, though… Visit their stores and their baristas can tell you all about it. 😉

So, to my phenomenal husband, best friend, occasionally cranky, silly, loveable bear, happy birthday! I am looking forward to an eternity of adventures, misadventures, and endless cups of coffee with you. I love you!

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Standard

…Make margaritas.

Chad and I have had a couple of weeks worthy of a telenovela. Think fathers in hospitals (yes, plural), and a flood inside our high-rise, complete with the plumber from hell.

We finally reached the end point of all these shenanigans last night, and being the introverts that we are, Chad and I decided to celebrate with a TV dinner at home and some drinks.

I wasn’t in the mood for wine, so I had (gasp!) water, promising myself to make a cocktail after.

After seeing (and getting inspired by) Practical Magic earlier in the day (and taking a mental inventory of our pantry and bar), I decided to make some frozen margaritas.

We had tons of lemons in the ref, and I really wanted to make something out of the proverbial life’s lemons.

I used:

MARGARITA

Excuse the presentation… We decided it was worthy of a blog post after we’ve had a couple of sips. Eheh…

  • 8 ice cubes
  • 4 sachets of stevia (I don’t like sugar), diluted in the juice of…
  • 2 lemons
  • A dash of (bottled) lime juice (we didn’t have fresh ones last night)
  • ½ cup of tequila (gold)

I put all ingredients in a blender, blended, and serve in a margarita glass (optional: rim the glass with salt, if you don’t feel as lazy as I did last night).

It turned out pretty well. Purists would prefer using simple sugar, and I’m all for that.

What do you do when life gives you lemons? Cheers!

Writer’s Block and #drinkspirations

Standard

The biggest struggle for a non-writer is overcoming a huge writer’s block.

Admittedly, mine stemmed from a combination of not-so-nice circumstances and a full-to-the-brim schedule.

While I did have topics in mind, it was a struggle the past week to sit down and write.

But as Hemingway said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

So here’s my one true sentence: When I hit a writer’s block, I like to seek inspiration from drink-related sources.

These are some of my #drinkspirations:

NATALIE MACLEAN

2015-06-10 10.45.11

Books by Natalie MacLean: “Unquenchable” (Kinokuniya Singapore) and “Red, White, and Drunk All Over” (a gift from EDB and Wine Story)

Natalie is aspirational. She is a female wine enthusiast who studied the subject (for real: being an educated alcoholic is not just a joke). She has traveled to different parts of the world to get up close and personal with the vines, the terroir, the winemakers, and their wines. She can talk about wines in a level that a novice wine lover can relate to, but academic enough that I learn something new every time I finish one of her books. She is not a wine snob, and manages to insert enough humor in her books to get me laughing in a salon while reading them (true story).

One of my favourite Natalie anecdotes was her foray into Burgundy. I loved her interview with the famous Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy, once the manager of the legendary Domaine de la Romanée-Conti winery, and present owner of Domaine d’Auvenay and Domaine Leroy:

“Her (Mme. Bize-Leroy) face darkens. “Who knows?” she snaps. “Certainly, the critics don’t. How can they predict when to drink my wine, when even I can’t? They’re making it up. C’est terrible! And their descriptions – filled with every silly berry on the planet!” We both shake our heads grimly at the stupidity of wine writers.

“They should write about how they feel, what’s going on inside them when they drink wine,” she says. “That would be much more helpful and interesting – and more truthful.””

– The Good Earth, “Red, White, and Drunk All Over” by Natalie MacLean

I re-read (and re-loved) the book this week, and the chapter on Burgundy inspired me enough to look back at our adventures in the wine region during our honeymoon… We were young, I was slightly more stupid (I just finished my WSET exam but have not exposed myself to enough wines to merit an intelligent conversation with Burgundian winemakers), and armed with a sense of bright-eyed enthusiasm, adventure, and a better-functioning liver.

Maybe I’ll write about that one day. Hmmmm…

OZ AND JAMES’S BIG WINE ADVENTURE

This, by far, is one of my all-time favourite wine documentaries. I have always been a fan of Oz Clarke’s down-to-earth, relatable, no-nonsense approach to wines.

The documentary put Oz with the loveable gearhead from Top Gear UK (and wine novice), James May.

They went together like motor oil and water, but it was hilarious to watch them banter. Oz also achieved his goal of getting a seemingly uninterested dude like James to understand wines (and what a feat that was).

PAUL CERON

I know I have written about “The Professor” and multi-awarded flairtender a year ago, right before I launched the blog publicly.

Like I’ve mentioned during the start of this entry, the past week has been quite a struggle. As I made myself a gin and tonic to wind down, It made me think of this wonderful and talented gentleman, always with a smile to his face, and generating 20,000 watts of pure good vibes.

It made me think… What would Paul do?

He would flair.

Then take a #selfie. Hehehehe…

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy Hallmark card, things will get better, and it’s always a good exercise to look for something inspirational to bring a smile to your face.

Mine happens to involve drink. 😉 Cheers!

*P.S. Try not to drink when you’re feeling highly emotional, it can cause alcoholism from using alcohol as a crutch