Barbados, Part 2

I can’t do justice to Barbados without mentioning rum. Rum was born in Barbados on the sugar plantations. Mount Gay started fermenting and distilling cane juice in 1703. The clear distillate is barreled and aged. The rum of Barbados plays a part in world events. The British sailor was entitled to his rum ration until 1970. The Canadian sailor probably still gets his tot, if I know my Canadians.

The plan was to hire a driver and tour the island’s distilleries, but we wisely settled on just one, St. Nicholas Abbey, a Jacobean Mansion built in 1658. It is one of the last surviving, intact plantations in the hemisphere. The current owners, the Warren family, want to turn it into a self-sustaining operation, by continuing to sell their sugar, in luxury products like their 10-year-old rum.

Wandering around the grounds, we gave ourselves a tour of the distillery, all clean and shiny German-built, and of the huge building where the cane is pressed, and the juice is stored – this so they can make rum all year round, not just after harvest. My bottle was filled from the cask on the same day I bought it. We happened to find the owner, checking the machinery, and had a pleasant chat with him beside a stack of fresh-cut mahogany.

Sunday night is chef’s night off, so Margaret and I went by cab to Champers, a mile or so past the St. Lawrence Gap toward Bridgetown. We had a beautiful table by the sea, and when it rained we moved to another fine table, not by the sea. Margaret started with a glass of champagne, Lanson non-vintage brut. Made with 50% pinot noir, 35% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier, it had a toasty nose, with hints of apricot and nuts. For our dinner of a shared calamari salad, lamb for the lady and mahi-mahi with pepper jelly for the gentleman, I ordered a 2008 pinot noir, Joseph Drouhin’s Laforêt. It had all the characteristics we wanted, light, cherry and enough tannin to battle the pepper jelly to a draw, and it didn’t bankrupt us at $33.

With Monday’s lamb curry, 2008 Duboeuf Côtes du Rhône. There were spices everywhere in this meal. I’m pretty sure, by the end of the night, my light and fruity côtes du rhône emitted anise, cardomom and chocolate.

On Tuesday, at a Bajan Barbeque, for what we thought was our last dinner at Peach and Quiet, we tried the 2007 Bishop Riesling. From the Mosel Valley, this is what the English called hock, after Hochheim on the Main River in the Rheingau wine region. It was crisp and tasted of apples, a pleasant quaff on a hot night.

But of course we didn’t leave on Wednesday. Instead we had to lay in the shade reading our Christmas presents, or wade into the rock pool and bob, protected, in a warm, embracing ocean. What for samosas, pork tenderloin and mahi-mahi? Getting near the end of the wine list, I called up a 2008 Orvieto Classico from Bigi, who have a common owner with Folanari. These wines are a blend of white grapes of Umbria, including Trebbiano and Grechetto. The wine is medium bodied, with good acidity, a little flowery on the nose, with a tang of apple, or pear on the palate, and white stone-fruit on the finish.

And we didn’t leave on Thursday. More reading, floating in the pool, napping on a chaise in the wicker room, wolfing down the Cane Cutter’s Lunch of cheese and fruit, bread and salad. For dinner, carvery again, Margaret ordered a half bottle of Georges Duboeuf’s 2007 Mâcon-Villages, Chardonnay as god meant it to be, unoaked, fresh, flowery, lemon, apples turning to spiced apple cider on your palate, with a clean finish.

Or so Margaret said, and I could discern from my one taste. By this time, I was heavily into gin and tonic, and wondering if I’d ever get off the island.


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