My sister and I are just back from our annual Girls Only Vacation. Hot Caribbean sunshine, long sandy beaches, and – shall we say – a few challenges when it comes to wines and spirits. Tonight is our last night before heading home, and we are at a St Thomas hotel adjacent to the airport.
Last year, to the consternation of a beaming Trinidadian bartender at this same hotel, I attempted to order a pre-dinner Scotch neat. Simple enough I thought. However, our jovial Uncle Jemima simply could comprehend the idea of Scotch without something to go with it. Anything – water, ice, soda, just something. Eventually, to the amusement of two fellow Canadians who had evidently gone through the same ritual several times before, I did manage to convince him that Scotch can be savoured all on its own.
This year, there is a smiling young man with the whisper of a French accent who tells me the white wine is Chardonnay, then looks at me blankly when I inquire where it is from and whether it is heavily oaked. He thinks – perhaps – it is Chilean, from the Walnut Crescent vineyard? It is more question than statement. He shifts uncomfortable from one leg to the other, pen hovering, embarrassment obvious. Yes, yes, it is actually Walnut Crest… he thinks.
A fleeting look of panic flashes across his face when I ask, as gently as possible, what the red wine might be. It is a Mare-Low. Somehow he manages to make the word into three syllables. He hurries to assure me it is from the same vineyard clearly hoping this information will be sufficient to quell further interrogation. The thought flashes through my mind that in a beret and army fatigues he could be a poster boy for freedom fighters anywhere in the world – lean, trim, with a clean-shaven innocence, he is bordering on handsome but missing that je ne sais quoi mystic to be a runway model.
I order the Chardonnay, not so much because I prefer it to the red, but because it seems to fit the mood of a tropical afternoon. The "Caesar Salads" we both order are Virgin Island originals – slightly limp butter lettuce, Mozzarella cheese, and a dressing that tastes more closely related to blue cheese than garlic. The croutons are soggy. But the wine works better than the Mare-Low would have – whether it was two or three syllables. Like Frank, I could write a tasting note on the wine but why? It was pleasant enough in this place, at this time. And it is a vintage now imprinted on my memory more permanently than any ink on paper.
(Photo taken on the beach at St John, US Virgin Islands)