Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Eve in Cuba

The red-eye to Toronto and the connecting flight to Varadero eventually - and thankfully - ended and we made it to the resort without incident. I knew before we left that this wasn't going to be a vacation that offered up much in the way of wine-centric opportunities. Cuba isn't exactly Mendoza or Argentina.

Rum, on the other hand, is a whole different thing and I spent the first couple of days getting acclimatized to the resort and to locating the best bars and bartenders at our disposal. It didn't take long to conclude that the mojito and I were going to become fast friends over the next week.

As easy as it might have been to just lounge around on the beach or at the pool, doing a bad impression of Jimmy Buffett sipping away in old Mojito-ville, I wasn't going to get any feel whatsoever for Cuba or its people staying close to the resort. I'm not so sure that the town of Varadero is all that more representative, but at least you can veer off the main tourist drag and wander around the residential streets a bit.

I didn't really know what to expect. Prior to arriving, I'd really only heard about how difficult life can be in Cuba - mostly in terms of finding or being able to afford a lot of the daily household goods that we simply take for granted back in Vancouver. I never really got a sense of that by just walking around. From what little I saw, the town was clean, had plenty of colour and was neatly picturesque with all the vintage cars driving around. It's not like I spoke to any of the locals, but things certainly didn't seem as bad as parts of Peru or Argentina. It may be all a facade for tourists, but it sure didn't seem like a communist hell-hole or anything close to it.

The first wine that we came across that was worth asking for the bottle to be left with us - and to be added to The List - was at the buffet for Christmas Eve. The resort presumably pulled out a few stops for the special occasion and wanted to add a little sparkle to the table.

685. N.V. Canals & Nubiola Grapa Brut (D.O. Cava - Spain)

I was quite intrigued to see what wines the resort would be serving and I suppose it shouldn't come as any surprise that they would have some Spanish wines in the cellar. My guess is that there isn't a lot of California wine available. I'd never heard of this producer as I don't think it's available in our market, but I see that it's primarily a Cava house that has been producing sparkling wines since the late 1800's when the Penedes region started making the bubbly juice.

The website says that the Canals family started making home brew just for the relatives and friends but they soon got a local reputation such that they graduated to commercial production. The winery is now owned by Spanish conglomerate Freixinet and, although I didn't specifically read this anywhere, it looks to me like Canals & Nubiola was purchased as an easy way of resolving a 1980's lawsuit between the winery and Freixinet over C&N's use of a black frosted wine bottle - much like the bottle that is now so closely associated with Freixinet's enormously popular Cordon Negro. Just a thought.

The wine was clean and crisp and is made from the traditional Cava grapes - Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. It wasn't my favourite bubble - not even my fave Cava - but then it was a bottom-less bottle that was at our disposal. So, one shouldn't complain - particularly on Christmas Eve. I wouldn't want Santa to think of me as a whiner after all. Wino, maybe, but certainly not anyone to be checked off as "naughty" on such an occasion.

Once the dinner was done, however, it was back to coffee and mojitos before heading off to visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.

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