Cocktails at Flor de Oriente

I recently took a post-pandemic trip to Aruba and Curacao, two islands located in the very farIMG_7480 southwest of the Caribbean, well out of the path of any hurricanes, and just 17 km off the coast of Venezuela.

056C85F3-BD0A-4050-A319-52700568D36AUsually when I venture to warm climates, wine is not an option, and because beer is not my ‘go to’ drink, I focus on the cocktail menus at the restaurants we visit.

This past trip, we were extremely fortunate to stumble upon a lovely restaurant, Flor de Oriente.  And stumble over it we did – dazed and compressed from 24 hours of travelling, we took a nap and a shower, and returned that evening to enjoy Dutch treats like stamppot, frikandel, and bitterballs – and some incredible drinks made for me by mixologist, Peter.

I left it wisely to ‘bartender’s choice’ each evening – after all, Peter really knows what he’s doing.  He hasIMG_7505 published a recipe book of drinks called ‘How Can I Make You Happy’.  And I was – very.

IMG_7478I drank the Lemon Drop before I remembered to take a picture, but the dirty Gin Martini with a whole dish of olives was a hit,IMG_7504IMG_7434 followed the next night by a Reverse Cosmo (aka Char-Tini).  The Dark & Stormy was delicious, and again, I drank the Old Fashioned made with Diplomatico Rum instead of Bourbon before I realized I’d forgotten to document its deliciousness.

IMG_7502IMG_7501But the pièce de résistance was the Pornstar Martini, complete with its accompanying Prosecco shot.

If luck should find you in Orangestad, Aruba looking for a fabulous meal and even more fabulous cocktails, you need to visit owner Marion and her crew.  With its full five stars on Trip Advisor, it’s a true find on this beautiful Caribbean island.  DSC_3372

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Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains + Clairette, Cuvée Ancestrale, Tradition, Scea Domaine Guigouret, Vigneron Récoltant, Clairette de Die AOC, Rhône Valley, France, NV, 7% abv., US$16

image4image2This wine has a history going back 2,000 years in France’s Rhône Valley, but the first bottle I found and enjoyed was in Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela.  What a find it was at the Carrefour supermarket – it was incredibly fun to drink, and absolutely delicious.  

Produced in France’s image3Rhône Valley, it’s made out of a maximum of 75% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and 25% Clairette.  Naturally sparkling, it undergoes the first fermentation in a vat and the second in bottle.  

Pale lemon with a persistent, soft and dainty mousse, the aromas showed jasmine and white flower with peach and pear.  The palate is delightfully doux, but with excellent acidity, so it’s not sticky or heavy.  image0Flavours include more white flowers and nectarine, Clingstone peach, and fruit cocktail. 

Super delicate and light at only 7% abv., this is a wine you can literally drink all day long – as I did, poolside.  The price was equally remarkable.  Everyone should know about this kind of wine – why hasn’t it had a marketing renaissance?  If you ever come across a bottle in the sparkling section, buy it!

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Tempranillo, Flor de Pingus, Ribera del Duero DO, Spain, 15% abv. 2014, US$100

I cannot afford the top line of Pingus wines, but the Flor de Pingus, Peter Sisseck’s almost equally famous second label wines from Ribera del Duero, are within reach.

Pingus is slang for Peter – the Danish owner and winemaker of this Spanish benchmarkDSC_3074 estate. Now that the world is reopening, I can’t wait to take a trip there some time in the next few years.

This wine is a deep, inky purple with some garnet tinge (we opened it at 8 years).  It’s beautifully aromatic with explosive field berry, blackberry, incense, and a rocky minerality.  The dry palate has superb acidity with flavours of cassis, tar, asphalt, meat, some serious dark chocolate, and leather strap.

Complex and plush with gentle tannins, and a long finish, there is so much going on in the glass.  Everything about it is integrated and balanced.  We likely opened this far too soon.  If you happen to be holding, keep doing so.  It has fabulous ageing potential.

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Nebbiolo, Luigi Oddero, Barbaresco DOCG, La Morra, Piedmonte, Italy, 2008, 14% abv., C$100

DSC_3072From one of the truly bona fide, historic and traditional Barolo houses comes a 2008 Barbaresco.

The Oddero family has been in La Morra since before the 1700s, and the seventh generation of family members is still in charge of their 35 hectares of Nebbiolo planted for Barolo and Barbaresco wines, some on seriously famous cru level land.

We opened this at 14 years old, and it took some time to open and evolve. We chose not to decant it, but rather enjoy it over a couple of hours, and watch its evolution in the glass.

On the eyes, it’s a translucent garnet with a nose of dried plum, roses, and dried herbs.  The palate is resplendent with purple plum, cherry, soy sauce, dusty violets and roses.  Tarragon and Chinese five spice are layered with light leather at the base of this elegant wine.

While on one hand it’s tender and delicate, the 2008 Barbaresco also has a structure that stands up well to food, and it loved our prime rib.  If you have a bottle of this, you’re one lucky camper.  Enjoy – it’s smack dab in the drinking window.

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Lambrusco Reggiano, Frizzante Secco, Arte e Concerto, Lambrusco DOC, Reggio Emilia, Italy, 2019, 11.5% abv., C$23

I was looking for something interesting to serve friends with some charcuterie, and realized I had a few bottles of Lambrusco hanging around, so decided to put them to work.  The wine that is, not the friends.  IMG_7197

Lambrusco is both the name of the grape and the wine – and it comes from Italy’s north central Emilia-Romagna region.

There are 4 types of Lambrusco, mainly produced in 3 provinces – Lambrusco di Sorbara (generally agreed to be the best version and made dry in the traditional method), Grasparosssa del Castelvetro, Salamino di Santa Croce, and the Lambrusco Reggiano which is usually served amabile or sweet.

This one happens to be dry, but fruity, and is a beautiful deep purple with aromas of black cherry and ripe plum, dried roses, and dried herb.

The palate echoes the nose with violets, roses, more black cherry, dried thyme, and tarragon.  The frizzante mousse, great acidity, and light tannins love all sorts of food and it’s easily pairable with many dishes.

If you’re looking for something new to try but don’t want to break the bank, pick up a bottle.  It’s the best deal around, and so much fun to drink.  You can find it in the sparkling wine section of any liquor store.

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Pinot Noir, Dehart Vineyard, Martin’s Lane Winery, Okanagan Valley VQA, British Columbia, 2015, 14% abv., C$100

From the heavily lauded Martin’s Lane Winery located in Kelowna, BC, this Pinot Noir is absolutely world class.

Its translucent garnet tone offers a deep nose of mulberry, cherry, deeply ripened strawberry, freshly turned soil, and mushroom.

The palate has mouth-watering acidity and rich berry flavours – decadent mulberry, black cherry, more overripe strawberry, and August boysenberry. A touch of soya sauce with Chinese five spice and cinnamon rounds it out, and is layered over supple leather and fresh soil.

The tannins are resolved, and the finish lingers. What a wine. Every component delivers and is beautifully integrated and balanced.

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Chardonnay, Premier Cru Chablis, Kirkland Signature, AOC Chablis, France, 2019, 13.5% abv., US$17.79

dsc_2946While perusing the shelves at Costco Lihue, I picked this Premier Cru Chablis up for a song.

Aged inDSC_2944 stainless steel for a year, this was a great wine to enjoy in the warmth of Kauai on the lanai.  I did not want any wood on my wine, so I was in the market for some Chablis, and this one delivered.

On the eyes, it’s pale lemon with a nose of citrus, green apple and white flowers.  The palate has super acidity and flavours of lemon verbena, green hay, jasmine, chalk, and a rocky minerality.

Pierre Brissy is the winemaker but that’s the only proprietary information on this bottle.  This is a new winemaker for the Kirkland Chablis which started out in 2014 at US$14.99.  The buying power of this chain has kept it sub US$20 – and for a Premier Cru, white Burgundian wine, that’s an awesome deal.

If you can access this wine in the US, run, don’t walk, to pick some up.

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Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Gérard Bertrand, Côte des Roses, Languedoc AOP, France, 2020, 13.5% abv. US$15

One of the things I like to do most when in the US is to shop in the liquor section in Costco.  Usually that just serves to get me really riled up though – because I become overwhelmingly jealous at all the fabulous deals I don’t have regular access to – especially with regard to spirits.

There was no way I was going to get through the 1.5 litre size of bourbon (unless I wanted to seriously offer up my liver) on a recent vacation to Hawaii.  So, I went for this lovely, yet innocuous bottle of rosé. 

On the eyes, this wine is a pretty shade of pale watermelon with aromas of light strawberry with green grass.  The palate is dry with more watermelon and strawberry, pink grapefruit, green hay, white flower, and a touch of garrigue.  

There’s nothing too memorable about it, but the price point is pleasing.  So, go for it – and enjoy it on a patio or at the pool.  Follow it up with bourbon shots.  

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Pinot Noir, Ayoub Estate Vineyard, Dundee Hills AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 13.5% abv., 2017, US$65

Mo Ayoub is a fascinating person and well-reviewed vintner for whom growing grapes and making wine DSC_0075is a retirement gig – and what a gig it is.  His wines are eagerly sought after and elusive, as he doesn’t make much, and what he does make is often only available at his home in theDSC_0072 beautiful Dundee Hills AVA of Oregon.

So, that’s where we went to meet him – in his kitchen for a tasting in August 2018.  There we tasted through his five offerings that day, and came away with several bottles which have been sleeping ever since in the cellar – that is, until visitors and turkey with trimmings gave us a reason to pop the cork over the holidays.DSC_2318

At five years old (January 2022), this Pinot is translucent garnet on the eyes with aromas of black cherry, nutmeg, and leather couch.  The palate DSC_0051has mouth-watering acidity with flavours of more ripe cherry, mint, leather, savoury light mushroom, a little freshly turned dirt, and some softly scrubbed tannins.

I can’t recommend this wine, and a visit with Mo, highly enough.  Next time you’re going to be driving DSC_0068through the Willamette Valley, make sure to contact him in advance for a private tasting.  Visiting with him and talking with him about his wines are well worth the effort.

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Cabernet Sauvignon, Jordan, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California, 2003, 13.5% abv.

Offspring of the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most renowned red grapes of the world, rivalled only by Merlot for worldwide plantings and popularity.

Its power base is in Bordeaux and especially on the Left Bank in Medoc and Pessac-Leognan, but it is grown in virtually all parts of the New and Old World.DSC_2326

This delicious example is from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley.  I opened the first bottle of this (magnum) in 2014 at 11 years old, and the second in January 2022 at 19 years old.  Both were outstanding examples and I could have waited a good 7 or so years on the second tasting.

Magnum – February 2014 (11 years old) – This wine is deep ruby with generous legs. On the nose it’s clean and still developing with pronounced aromas of ripe red fruit (raspberry, red currant, dried strawberry) and deep blackberry, the kind you pick on wild vines in August. There is significant vanilla along with nutmeg, sweet cedar, light kid glove leather and a slight quality of sage.  The palate is dry with good acidity and ripe tannins with the slightest and most satisfyingly small streaks of grip. There are flavours of Damson and red plums, black and red currants, more dried strawberry and ripe blackberry. Significant spice box, sweet tobacco and vanilla complement the finish.

Bottle – January 2022 (19 years old) – I was concerned when I started on the cork and it crumbled and fell into the bottle.  I had stored this bottle appropriately and carefully – on its side and in proper cellar conditions – but the cork had to be strained out.  Luckily, there was no problem with the wine at allDSC_2327 despite this.  Translucent ruby with classic aromas of blackberry, cassis, and vanilla pod, there was great acidity and flavours of more purple fruit and raspberry with capiscum and leather belt.  The tannins were ever-so-slightly scratchy and loved our prime rib.  This wine was super alive at 19 years old and has plenty of life left in it.  If you’re holding, wait on opening!

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