Friday, April 5, 2013

Sunshine and Wine

The beautiful aqua blue water beckoned me.  The heat of the sand between my toes warmed me inside and out.  Everyone around me ordered a margarita.  However, I asked for the wine list!  Our recent trip to Cancun might have seemed an odd place to be looking for wine, yet I wasn’t disappointed.  Margaritas and pina coladas may have been the rage, but for me, it was still a wine adventure!

The first night we arrived, I, of course, had to have a margarita (on the rocks, with salt, please).  It just so happened this ONE drink was the size of my head!  After that, I was ready for a glass of vino.  The hotel sports bar had a wine list:  house red and house white.  Yes, that was the entire list.  My companion and I were quite fearful about ordering the house red, but when the server brought out a bottle of Tempranillo and beautiful Schott Swiesel stemware, we were very pleasantly surprised!  Night one:  wine mission accomplished!

Night two was pizza, pasta, and vino night at the hotel buffet.  Still basking in the glow from my lucky wine break the night before (and the tan I was working on from eight hours on the beach), my family and I decided to enjoy the buffet.  Again, I was very impressed with the wine list, which included a decent variety and number of bottles.  We choose the Casa Madero 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This reasonably-priced, one-hundred percent Cabernet was from the Baja region of Mexico--on the western side of the country--from the Parras Valley.  It was filled with cherry, currant, and cedar.  Though not as bold as a California Cab, I enjoyed the wine with homemade pesto from the pasta bar.  Night two:  wine mission accomplished!

Night three found us experiencing a wonderfully, upscale restaurant: Harry’s Prime Steakhouse and Raw Bar, on the lagoon side of the Hotel Zone in downtown Cancun.  The food, the wine, and the service were all impeccable.  This was a wonderful experience!  From Kobe beef to sushi to seafood, Harry’s was such a special treat.  My family ordered sizzling steaks cooked perfectly (medium rare for us:  red, warm center).  I had the crab cakes as my meal with truffle mashed potatoes; my mouth is watering again just thinking of the potatoes!  The wine list was equally impressive.  I could have ordered anything from the U.S., France, Mexico, Spain, or anywhere in between.  My choices ranged from half bottle to magnum in size, and the price was from the very reasonable to the very expensive, like a Petrus, a Mouton Rothschild, or an Opus One. This evening we sipped another Mexican wine:  L.A. Cetto 2009 Nebbiolo.  I am a Nebbiolo lover, and this bottle (about twenty dollars, U.S.) from the Ensenada region of the Baja area was an interesting Nebbiolo.  Aged for 14 months, it was more tannic and not as smooth as a typical Italian Nebbiolo; however, it was a beautiful ruby red, with spice and leather exploding from the bottle.  It was not the best pairing for my crab cakes, but I ordered the crab knowing this.  That being said, the bite of steak I snagged from my husband’s plate was a much better match for the tannic red.  After the meal, and wine, and dessert (for the teenage, growing son) the server brought a HUGE pole of cotton candy, a fun and functional way to end the meal with sweet on the palette! Night three:  wine mission accomplished!

Alas, our time in the sunshine had to end, and our travels home began.  We faced an incredibly long layover in Houston, at the George Bush International Airport.  We found our gate and sat reading and napping after having breakfast in the airport.  Just before the three hours was over, we decided to go for a short, pre-flight walk to stretch our legs, and just around the corner from where we sat (for three hours…did I say this already!) was the cutest little wine bar, Le Grand Comptoir.  It was such a site for sore eyes; yet, at this point there was only about fifteen minutes left until our boarding time for the flight, so I didn’t get to sit, sip, and enjoy the fabulous selection of wines teasing me from the front window of the establishment.  I spotted Opus One, Louis Jadot, and other reputable producers. I was truly disappointed at being so close, yet so far from one more wine experience on our trip!  If there ever is a next time I layover in Houston, Le Grand Comptoir will be my FIRST stop.  Day four:  wine mission failed.  (Insert sad face here.)

Though most travelers go to the beautiful beaches of Cancun to have their toes in the water, their “rear” in the sand, and a margarita in their hand, I went for the beautiful beaches, pristine water, Mexican sun, and any unique wine I could find.  I am proud to say, Cancun lived up to my wine standards!