I am going to make a brief detour from the world of wine and into the world of coffee. I trust my noble readers will forgive the foray.
While visiting the Monteverde cloud forest, Regidia and I were lucky enough to stay at a B&B where the owner, Jen, originally hailing from NYC but also a 10 year resident of Santa Cruz (NorCal love), sent us off on two truly excellent tours in the short time we had in the area. The first was a wildlife tour, which was excellent, and the second was a coffee plantation tour. Regidia and I almost skipped this — I think we were expecting something more akin to the Dole Pineapple tour — but I am so glad we decided to go.
After bouncing down the mountain on rutted roads in a minivan, our welcome committee was adorable:
Our guide gave us an overview about coffee, specifically growing it in Costa Rica, and also about how he saw the fair trade market, which was very interesting — and dispiriting. The rest is from notes I took from him speaking on my iPhone, and yes, I know I’m a dork, but hey, three months later, I have notes.
Here are some beans, the ones that have already leafed can’t be used, but the ones that haven’t could be if they are transplanted.
Here are some transplanted coffee plants aging gracefully towards productivity:
Olman hand-roasted some beans in a little shed. A tropical storm passed overhead and we saw the troop of monkeys playing nearby.
And we got to see the cool machine used to roast coffee on the farm in action (looked much like a small jet engine):
Coffee tasting tips from Olman:
Olman’s thoughts on fair trade coffee and the economics of growing coffee in Costa Rica:
And then the farmer and his adorable little daughter made us coffee and we bought a ridiculous amount of it directly from him to take home to friends and family.
Regidia noticed immediately at the airport that the coffee prices were the same as what the farmer charged us — which means the middlemen have taken their cut out of the farmer, not the tourist. ”Oh, poor farmers,” she said.
Leaving the cloud forest for the beach and towards the horrible decision to buy Tres Corones:
Ogod. This was practically cough syrup. I stood in the wine section of the local quicki-mart, attempting to grab some wines that would be interesting and different and an exotic experience, if you will, and I also didn’t want to spend a huge amount of money. I grabbed this bottle, and I still regret it. A delightful newly wed couple stopped over and we opened this up and immediately regretted it.
The mug shot of shame:
You’d think the plastic cap would have tipped me off! Oh well, my horizons were expanded, but please, dear reader, learn from my experience and if you see a Tres Coronas on the horizon, run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction, as fast as your feet will carry you.
Wine #2 of the evening was the palate cleanser for wine #1. It was a very pleasant cabernet sauvignon from Chile. We had seen this bottle on offer at several places and I was happy to finally get to try it. It had a light tanin, some fruit, was not too sweet, and would go very well with steak (especially a less humble cut than we had on offer). This we enjoyed as the sun set over the ocean and tropical night descended.
It was exciting to get so many decent Chilean wines on this trip, since Regidia, our friend Nisie, and I are planning on a day or two in Santiago towards the beginning of February. I’m sure we’ll get more “wine-ers on the road” blog posts then o_O
Well, we’ll get to that in a moment.
I was extremely excited to find a verified Costa Rican wine at the local supermarket in Samara when Regidia and I went over there to check out what was on offering. We picked up some fish, some steak, a bottle of wine, some plantains, and some chips ahoy. Regidia wanted the normal bag of chips ahoy and I wanted the special “feliz navidad” bag, so we bought both. This was good, since it ended up being pretty much all we ate that evening (until some of our neighbors brought over their own bag of Mrs. Field’s soft baked oatmeal raisin).
What we thought we were going to have for dinner (note that at this point the bottle is already close to done because we’d been fussing with the fire for so long):
What we actually wound up eating for dinner:
It turns out that while Regidia somehow managed to coax an excellent roaring flame out of this (with the invaluable help of another set of next door neighbors, an older Swiss couple, who gave us some sort of fire-starting bricks after the newspaper didn’t work):
…the cuts of meat we had procured by pointing and agreeing with whatever the man behind the counter said in Spanish were HORRIFYING. They were tough and not tasty. The steak we could eat, but the fish ended up going to the stray dog that became my “vacation pet” for the few days we were there (note: the fish did not kill the dog):
So! Back to the Costa Rican wine we were so excited to procure. It was very very sweet, which seems to be in line with the food and beverages we had in Costa Rica. Either they really like sugar and sweet there, or they think tourists do, because everything we were served usually had a lot of sugar in it. It had a unique approach to a cork:
And tasted a lot like communion wine. Sugar and fruit and practically guaranteed hangover in a bottle.
But fear not, dear wine-ers! My decision capabilities diminished by a meal of cookies and sugar wine, I crossed the street to the convenience store and grabbed a couple more bottles of wine to try out.
To be continued…
Regidia and I are exploring the many charms of Costa Rica, starting with the Arenal volcano (near La Fortuna), staying at the lovely Lost Iguana resort.
The Lost Iguana resort room is gorgeous. It includes a stocked mini bar with alcohol for less than I could buy it at my corner store at home, local wines (well, Chilean), local beers (taste a lot like bud lite). The view of the volcano and surrounding jungle is eminently pleasant while sipping said libations.
After checking in, Regidia and I went on a self guided tour of the premises. We walked over towards the hibiscus maze after procuring cheap sugar cane (the national liquor of Costa Rica!) mixed drinks at the hotel bar (2 for 1 happy hour). Then we (I) suggested that walking through large bug infested grass in flipflops and babydoll dresses (to cover our swimsuits) did not sound like the most fun we (I)’d ever had, and we resolved to return tomorrow with long jeans and sneakers.
We found the spa, checked out the gym and sauna (gorgeous, very reminiscent of Turkish baths, but with a jungle lodge flair), and then went to give the swim up pool bar a once over. The larger pool was sadly unheated, and Regidia was only brave enough to paddle around for about 45 seconds, and I was only brave enough to laugh at her from the heated pool bar pool above.
We discussed dinner options, tentatively settling on the recommended local soup. Then I realized that the wine was $7/glass at the bar, and $18/bottle in our room. So we returned to our pretty balcony to sip Chilean cabernet sauvignon and admire the night sky. The stars are bright, but the constant flow of clouds obscures them — for some reason the volcano is highlighted in the sky even now, when it appears to be full dark (7:38pm).
Iguana #1 inspects the vino:
Service with a smile:
The wine is very pleasant, dry, it needed to breathe a little, has a nice amount of tannin (I am not a big tannin person, but find the amount pleasant, oaky). It would be fantastic with most food.
Regidia: “I think it has a hint of blueberries. So it feels healthy.”
The back of the label is entirely in Spanish and I can’t figure out (in low light too) what year it is.