Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coup d'Etat in Poronga City

Thumbs up!
My poor abuela. An entire married life surrounded by porongas. The abuelo, her three sons, my two beautiful male cousins. Casual observers might think my abuela was queen among a cast of plebes, but truth is she was condemned to a brutish life catering to the whims of the sexumvirate. Cook, chauffeur, janitor, substitute teacher, babysitter, chaperone, bad cop, and so on.

I've been waiting thirty-eight weeks for this day to arrive. Load my baby bottles with scalding milk and holster them onto my diaper. Make Molotov cocktails stuffed to the brim with poo. Belt out cries like deafening wartime sirens and crawl into their fortress, not afraid—if push comes to shove—to pull off some porongas along the way. My poor abuela will stand by my side armed with her menacing Warrior III pose and tongue-lashing, and together we will lead this rebellion to topple, once and for all, the Jarrin patriarchy.

If revolution fails, there's always psychological warfare. I will bat my minute black eyes and yawn. I will blabber what sounds like Nerudian poetry to my Daddy's ears. I will stretch in the same way a Cypriot Shorthair does when the sun strokes its fur. I will fart in my sleep. The boys will fall under my spell and have no choice but to love me indiscriminately. With them beneath my tiny thumb, my poor abuela will regain her spot atop the hierarchical ladder and rule from here to eternity alongside her Cyprio-Ecuadorian consiglieri.

Lest I forget, now's a good time to drop my first F-bomb. Daddy, fuck island wines. I only drink Burgundy Grand Cru.

Pacifier Out,

Little Miss Despot

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Another Side Note

Several months back, I submitted a short story to Fluster Magazine's Tell Us A Tale competition. My piece got picked from hundreds of entries from all over the world, and the book, published in collaboration with Cyprus' Armida Publications, is now for sale on Amazon. So pony up some spare change and support The Rock's literary scene. My story isn't that great, but the others, I guarantee, will tickle your insides like the finest of island wines.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Budget Island Wines: The List!

In this harsh economic climate, with your pockets desperate for cash, you might have to think twice before swiping any of your credit cards for a couple bottles of ten Euro wines. Personally, I have all but given up on my dream of making out on a daily basis with bottles of pricy Burgundy and settled for Tetra Pak wines, Cypriot moonshine and the local equivalent of Natural Light, a piss-in-a-can kind of beer that brings back looooovely memories of my first year in college. All because alcohol soothes the worried heart and empty wallet.

So in honor of these perilous times and before troika (the European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank) straps us onto that torture machine known as fiscal reforms, here's a list of budget island wines (under five Euros!) to make it all seem just like a bad dream. By the way, I will update this list regularly as I ramp up my household's consumption of cheap wine. Stay tuned.

2011 Marks & Spencer Nerello Mascalese (Sicily) - Nose dominated by red fruit and plenty of smokiness. A very fruit-forward wine with touches of cherry and raspberries. Light, smooth and with chewy tannins. For 4.50 Euros, great, and one to chill a bit before serving. Plus, they redesigned the label and replaced the cork for a screw-top—it's now much snazzier. 89/100.

2010 LIDL Kritikos (Kotsifalia and Mandilaria from Crete) - Forrest fruit and cherries on the nose. Very short finish. Smooth yet simple. Okay for the four Euro price-tag. 84/100.

2011 LIDL Santorini Assyrtiko - Muted yet fresh bouquet marked by citrus, orange-like aromas. To the mouth, a citrus explosion accompanied by the vibrant acidity associated to the variety. Little minerality, short, not as complex and maybe a tad gloppy compared to higher-end versions. For €4.99, though, definitely worth drinking and great for the summer scorch. 84/100.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Introducing Hacienda "El Establo"

The Road to Nowhere
It took us close to two hours from Nicosia to reach the narrow road into Kato Arodhes. We sat in the car by the side of the road, waiting for R.O.I., his wife and The Duke of Ducati to drive by and lead us to our sleeping quarters for the evening. A two-story eyesore of a house entertained us for what felt like a half an hour wait with its owner's impeccable architectural gusto; terracotta-toned statues of frogs, saddled ponies, menacing eagles, giant mushrooms and roaring lions surrounded a tacky fountain and stood guard by the entrance of what must be a Russian magnate's idea of the American dream. After wiggling our way through several tight bends, rows of beautifully renovated stone houses stood on both sides, we reached the southern edge of town, a road that seemingly led to nowhere and a wooden gate that creaked as it swung open and invited us in. 

Hacienda "El Establo"
The small yet idyllic two-bedroom stone house, which was a stable in its previous incarnation and was refurbished by The Duke's family, is the archetypical Cypriot mountain retreat. Rusticity, hominess and the unencumbered sound of nature come together to provide the perfect escape from boisterous beaches, traffic-tortured cities and snotty crowds. A beautiful shaded outdoor patio and an orchard full of citrus and plum trees that shake and rustle like XXL maracas as the refreshing breeze works its way up the hills from the island's western shore serve as center stage for drinking, dining and disassociating from everyday life. Just around the corner, quasi-identical stone houses, all like first cousins in a sleepy village, line the meandering streets and give the place that same touch of symmetry found in a meticulous architect's sketchbook. And not too far, the wild and uncrowded beaches of Latsi and Polis Chrysochous, century-old monasteries and churches, boutique wineries and roads slithering like serpents down the mountains. In fact, your chances of crossing paths with ravenous snakes, rats, lizards and other polychromatic critters are much improved at these lofty elevations, but this should not detract from what I consider to be the superior and most relaxing weekend getaway on The Rock. What's that? Protaras? Sorry, I can't hear you, my piece of shit phone ran out of batteries.

Foukou in Action
Agritourism, the sort of tourism that hosts visitors in farms, ranches and rural cottages, has taken off since I moved to The Rock six very long years ago. In an effort to introduce tourists to life in traditional Cypriot villages, the Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) initiated "a programme of restoration of traditional houses and enhancement of the traditional element in Cyprus villages." Under this initiative managed by the Cyprus Agrotourism Company and subsidized by the Cypriot government, dozens of tattered rural abodes have been restored to their past charm and put up for rent for the benefit of guests willing to discover the island's countryside. Accommodation ranges from single bedrooms in countryside hotels with basic amenities to fully-stocked, multiple bedroom houses, some with swimming pools and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, vineyards and rolling, dried-up hills. Price, location and availability also vary, and all participating properties can be booked directly through the Cyprus Agrotourism Company website.

Patacones on The Rock
Even though The Duke's hillside quarters are only available to his fancy friends, I recommend scouring through the listing so that you too can some time escape reality. That cool night, after a long swim in Latsi's empty seas, we uncorked two Kyperounda whites and several bottles of KEO and Grolsch, grilled lamb chops, vegetables, halloumi and yoghurt-marinated chicken kebab, and forgot about our lives back in the capital, all to an R&B and old school hip-hop soundtrack cooked up by R.O.I. The mood was so merry, The Wife, Ph.D., in an obvious lapse of judgment, granted me carte blanche to deep-fry plantains and add a hint of mi tierra to the soiree.

2011 Kyperounda Petritis (Xynisteri) - Bright nose with notes of jasmine, citrus and some peach. On the palate, grapefruit and a touch of melon, a meticulous use of oak and nice acidity. 87/100.

2010 Kyperounda Chardonnay - Already reviewed here!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Delayed Reaction

Coral Bay, Paphos
Sorry everyone. The blog's been on holidays these days. Sipping French bubbly packaged in island regalia by the sea. Tough motherf___ing life.

KEO Duc de Nicosie

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Samos Tryin' Ta Kill Me

Many of my fancy friends, particularly those who enjoy the blog but secretly wish to see me perish at an early age from liver failure, bring me island wines back from their travels. For example, after I complained about the lack of quality Vilana, Mr. Mars gifted me two bottles of Cretan whites in exchange for a home-cooked meal, an austerity package for Greece and my box set of The Wire so that he works on his own interpretation of Clay Davis' favorite excretion expression once that plan fails. Last time around, an acquaintance who wants no starring role in my ramblings but would like to see me under The Rock, gave me two bottles of Muscat from the Greek island of Samos that I later put to the test.

First, though, this post's didactic component. Per my go-to-guide on Greek wines, New Wines of Greece
"Muscat White is often referred to as Muscat Samos since the variety is closely associated with the island. Apart from its presence in the PDO Samos, the variety is also found in four other PDO wines (PDO Muscat of Cephalonia, PDO Muscat of Patras, PDO Muscat of Rio Patras and PDO Muscat of Rhodes). Muscat vineyards are spread on stone terraces mostly around Karvounis (1,153m), Samos’s central mountain, which is also known as Ambelos, after the homonymous village on its northern side. Sizeable vineyards are also found on the northeastern slopes of Kerki (1,443m), Samos’s western mountain. Samos has long had its own particular wine management, the Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives of Samos being the only producer. This cooperative has succeeded in making the sweet wine of Samos the best known Greek wine abroad, while dessert wines under the geographical indication of “Samos” have also found their way into the international pantheon of excellent sweet wines. Two wineries outside the island which collaborate with the cooperative also market  PDO Samos wines."
The grape itself produces wines (from dry to sticky) marked by aromas of lemon, apricot, linden, peach, honey and muscat (somewhat reminiscent of crushed coriander seeds).

2011 Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives of Samos (EOSS) Psilés Korfés Muscat (Dry White Wine) - Beautiful nose marked by citrus, passion fruit and flowers. To the palate, tropical fruits all the way. Simple quaffing wine with a medium body. 85/100.

2010 Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives of Samos (EOSS) Vin Doux (Samos Muscat) - Intense bouquet of dried apricots, honey, nuts and spice. Dried apricots, dates and golden raisins, brown sugar, vanilla and a touch of menthol to the taste. Too cloying for my palate, could use some acidity. 82/100.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sleepless in Row One Eight Seven

It's tough for me to sleep on airplanes. I'm the opposite of The Wife, Ph.D., who minutes before takeoff unlaces her shoes, drapes a blanket over her small frame, rests her head on the window and several hours later needs an extra-strong coffee to acknowledge my cranky presence next to her. While she dreams, I watch lame movies and television series, spread runny cheese on stale bread, stuff my face with complementary Twix bars, and try to read without being interrupted by sudden turbulence. If someone remotely interesting is on the other side, I'll talk and talk and talk as if the airplane's engines depended on my verbosity to keep humming. In the past, I've even self-medicated with drowsy cough syrup, which helped me get some shuteye but seemed somewhat irresponsible. These days—no surprises here—I get sloshed on multiple aviation bottles (187 ml) of average wine and wake up depressed and hungover yet with little recollection of the trip. Hyperbole is indeed my middle name so don't be too frightened if one day you are sitting next to me on a transatlantic flight.

Four down, one to go
Besides helping me cope with travel, these minute bottles are ideal for certain occasions. First, they keep my drinking during dinner in check; no longer do I feel tempted to polish off a regular-sized bottle with little assistance from The Wife, Ph.D. Plus, I still experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from consuming an entire bottle minus the massive blow to the liver. Second, it facilitates multiple tastings of fresh wines without the uncorked bottles sitting around to be finished a day or two later and being exposed to oxidation. Third, I can stuff a bottle or two down my pants and smuggle them into a boring football match, Greek theater, Sunday mass, doctor appointments, AA meetings and lonely nights in bed.

Here on The Rock, as far as I know, your best bets for decent Cypriot wine in aviation bottles are Aes Ambelis and Makkas Winery. Alfa Mega stocks miniature versions of Makkas' white, rosé and red and these have become my go-to wines on school nights.

2011 Makkas Red Dry (Grenache, Shiraz, Maratheftiko and Lefkada) - This was the highest-rated Cypriot wine at the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards. Very smoky and meaty nose with a floral component and a touch of cherries. Chewy tannins, great mouth-feel, good weight and smooth transitions. Flavor-wise, meaty and earthy with notes of red fruit. 88/100.

2011 Makkas Rodostafylo Rosé (Maratheftiko and Lefkada) - To the nose, sweet red fruit like pomegranate and candied strawberries. Tastes predominantly of raspberries but I found it kind of mild and rather flat. Short with a bitter finish. 80/100.

2011 Makkas White Dry (Chardonnay and Xynisteri) - Green apples, peaches and a citrus component come together in a pretty nose with some sweetness to it. Medium-bodied with a flavor profile that recalls tropical fruits (some pineapple, some guava) and citrus. Fresh and good for the summer. 84/100.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wine Withdrawal Syndrome

Wine Detox 101 with Prof. Disney-Obsessed Man-Child.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Intergalactic Visitors

Geographically speaking, The Rock is on prime global real estate, [CLICHÉ ALERT] the crossroads between East and West. You'd think it'd be easy for those of us living here to pack a rucksack and embark on weekend trips to Rome, Berlin, Amman or Prague. Problems, however, are manifold. Outbound flights to such livelier places are either prohibitively expensive for the underemployed (i.e. me) or painstakingly long. My always willing blue station wagon stalls at the sight of that cul-de-sac known as the Mediterranean sea. The daring captain of the fluorescent yellow bicep-powered kayak—it flies the Ecuadorian flag—breaks down, dehydrated and teary-eyed, exactly one nautical mile into his virgin voyage to the Holy Land. Applications for a single-entry visa into the teleportation device keep getting rejected because of weight limitations inside the vortex.

To stave off the depression that builds up like chimney soot from too many sea-locked weekends, The Wife, Ph.D. and I often play hosts to intergalactic visitors brought to The Rock by our fancy friends. This is by far the safest and most responsible form of escapism available to islanders. Cue Random White Guy (RWG), My Life Coach's Midwestern buddy and chatterbox on a sabbatical from his job as head choreographer, special effects consultant and costume designer for the "We Are Mizzou" series of basketball videos. Friday night barbecue. Protaras, the blog's summer headquarters. We break bread and he drinks my wine. He quizzes The Wife, Ph.D., and My Zolpidem Supplier on American history and praises (because he does not know better) family life on The Rock. We drool at the thought of Bavarian girls pounding liters of beers and hiding their curves under a dirndl during Oktoberfest. Prediabetes strikes after taking a few small bites of the—what's a word for cloying to the tenth power?—store-bought cake he brought for dessert. Time comes to deal with the burning charcoal. RWG approaches the grill, notices the glowing embers and chivalrously offers to pee them out. I chuckle at the potty humor, douse the fire with what's left of an insipid Roditis Sauvignon Blanc, and think it'd be awesome to visit the faraway planet RWG calls home.

2007 Domaine Vlassides Shiraz - Nice bouquet marked by smoke, black fruit, plums, pepper and coffee. On the palate, blackberry, pepper and vanilla. Chewy tannins and very smooth. 88/100.

2011 Ktima Keo Rose (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc) - Strawberry, pomegranate and some lingering sweetness on the nose. Flavor-wise, candied cherry, other bright red fruit and rose petals. Thirst-quenching. 84/100.

Friday, May 25, 2012

...And Back to Busboy

Help's here!
Here's a good example of how context can affect one's appreciation of wine. A week ago I boasted about my tasting prowess regarding the 2011 Tsalapatis Rigena Xynisteri only for my thinly-veiled arrogance to do a one-eighty and open its fangs on my upper hams. I ran a similar experiment with the 2011 Tsalapatis Melapsopodi Sauvignon Blanc and the tasting experience couldn't have been more different. The first bottle I sampled two months ago in a packed wine lounge where I presume the cacophony, charcuterie, cheese and conviviality threw me for a loop and had my un-Saleem-Sinai-like nose picking up green apples, melon and savoriness. The second bottle was meticulously studied within the confines of our headquarters, and hence I believe its notes are a better reflection of this particular wine's flavor profile. You probably think such inconsistency confirms my lack of talent and condemns me to a pathetic life as a busboy. Yet fear no more, dear readers. Le Nez du Vin est arrivé sur Le Roche and my nose will soon be trained to sniff out hints of quince, lychees, bilberries and saffron from nautical miles away.

Notes for March 17th, 2012 at Cava Inon Pnevmata
Muted bouquet marked by a distinct grassy component with notes of green apples, melon and guava. Some savoriness to the palate. Medium body but lacking acidity. A bit gloppy. Obviously, given the jovial setting, I enjoyed this bottle much more than the second one. 87/100.

Notes for May 17th, 2012 at Home
Bouquet is dominated by passion fruit with slight hints of fresh-cut grass and some kiwi. Gloppy body with some tropical fruit, pineapple and orange peel on the palate. Bitter finish and overall rather tame flavor profile. 84/100.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rock @ DWWA 2012

It's that time of the year again. The Decanter World Wine Awards, version 2012.

bronzesilverAs usual, The Rock sent multiple samples and received its share of the hardware. I was hoping for a better showing by Mara Theft, Inc., but the variety failed to pack a punch internationally. In any case, Makkas Winery in Pafos emerged as the big winner with the only two silver medals awarded to Cyprus. Below is the complete list of Cypriot silver and bronze medal victors. For the commended wines, run a search here!

Silver Medals

2011 Makkas Winery Gold Red Blend (Shiraz, Grenache & Maratheftiko)
2010 Makkas Winery Gold Shiraz

Bronze Medals 

2011 Aes Ambelis Winery Rose
2009 Ezousa Shiraz
2010 Makkas Winery Maratheftiko
2010 Makkas Winery Gold Merlot
2011 Sodap Stroumpeli Rose (Maratheftiko)
2011 Tsalapatis Winery Rigena (Xynisteri)
2011 Tsangarides Winery Chardonnay
2007 Tsiakkas Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Tsiakkas Winery Xynisteri
2010 Zambartas Wineries Maratheftiko
2011 Zambartas Wineries Semillon - Sauvignon Blanc
2010 Zambartas Wineries Shiraz - Lefkada

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From Busboy to Washer

Stumbled upon an interesting experiment while perusing my wine notes.

During the past two months, I twice tasted and rated the 2011 Tsalapatis Rigena Xynisteri, a silver medal winner at the 7th Cyprus Wine Competition. To my surprise as a nobody who's better suited to be a busboy in a Tex-Mex eatery, my descriptions and final marks weren't that off given the month separating each tasting and the different environs. You people are in deep doo-doo once I receive my Le Nez du Vin Master Kit. It's on its way to The Rock from France and I guarantee it'll promote me from busboy to spit bucket washer.

Notes for March 17th, 2012 at Cava Inon Pnevmata

Bouquet of white flowers (jasmine), peaches, citrus and white pepper. Fuller than usual for a Xynisteri with notes of pineapple, honeydew and floral components. Good length. Tasted with cheese, cold cuts and bread. 89/100. 

Notes for April 14th, 2012 during dinner on Easter Saturday

Nice bouquet of white flowers, pineapple, citrus and hints of kiwi. Touch of tropical fruits and citrus, honeycomb towards the mid-palate. Tangy finish. Tasted with avgolemono soup and a lamb's head. 87/100.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Dousing popcorn with butter or dropping a healthy nob on a stack of pancakes makes perfect sense. So does buttering up Hawaiian Tropic models before a photo shoot. Having your white wine taste purely of butter, however, borders on criminality. Whenever I uncork a Chardonnay, I tread carefully, hoping that first sip does not feel like jumping headfirst, mouth open into a ghee-cuzzi. Many consumers, particularly in the US, like their Chards full-bodied and rich, the fruit itself obscured by the wine's buttery unctuousness and notes of oak. Thanks to my father, though, I am a man who's learned to appreciate balance in life so I best enjoy Chardonnays that incorporate a range of flavor profiles from tropical fruits to nuttiness to spice to, yes, a minute hint of butter. Case in point, the magnificent 2006 Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru I merrily guzzled at Vinocultura.

What's wonderful about Chardonnay is its versatility. Throughout the globe, winemakers can play mad scientist with this noble variety and come up with wines that cater to all tastes and senses. According to Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson's "The Concise World Atlas of Wine,"  Chardonnay "routinely takes on whatever character the winemaker desires: vivacious and sparkling, refreshingly unoaked, rich and buttery, or even sweet." With this in mind, here are some brief notes on three acclaimed Chardonnays (Made on The Rock™) I recently sampled and enjoyed. Butter up!

2010 Sodap Stroumbeli Chardonnay - Good waxy bouquet marked by mangoes and pears and a touch of butter. Full bodied and fatty (in a good way) and with nice hints of papaya and other tropical fruits. This wine received a Silver Medal at the 2011 Chardonnay du Monde competition in France. 88/100.

2010 Kyperounda Chardonnay - Aromas of honey, white flowers, pears and bitter orange. Sleek, medium bodied with notes of white pears and red apples. Very good. 87/100.

2009 Domaine Hadjiantonas Chardonnay - Pineapple and citrus fruits on the nose. To the palate, citrus-like fruits such as grapefruit and pomelo and a touch of butter. Probably the leanest of the bunch. 87/100.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mara Theft, Incorporated.

Like a Central American mara highjacking a military arms convoy, Maratheftiko stole the show at the 7th Cyprus Wine Competition staged in Limassol this past weekend. The Rock's most important indigenous variety ganged up on its rivals and beat them to the pulp, amassing five gold medals, three silver and multiple accolades from the international panel of jurors. Tom Cannavan, editor at wine-pages.com and a jury member, tweeted about the overall selection to acclaimed wine writer Jancis Robinson: "some lovely Syrah and Maratheftiko (really very good) and one or two Xynisteri's really singing. Cabs and Merlot so so." Such success bodes very well for Cypriot wine and I, for one, hope to see similar performances by the variety in future international wine competitions.

Besides serving as Maratheftiko's coming-out party, the event was marked by the Grand Gold Medal for the 2005 KEO St. John Commandaria and yet another gold for Agia Mavri's Mosxatos, which a Cannavan tweet referred to as "mind-blowingly good" and "some of the world's great sweet wines." Personally, I was surprised no medals were awarded to Aes Ambelis and Domaine Hadjiantonas, two excellent wineries that usually take their share of the loot. Likewise, I believe I was robbed of an opportunity to blog live about the event when I wasn't extended an invitation to the gala dinner. Yes, my writing is utterly shallow but that shouldn't detract from my self-assigned status as the Beauloais Nouveau of Cyprus wine writers. You know, fresh, festive, a tad immature and unrefined yet perfectly satisfying.

Gold medals are listed below. For the full results, click here.

Grand Gold Medal

2005 KEO St. John Commandaria

Gold Medal

Sweet Wines

2010 Agia Mavri Mosxatos

Dry Red Wines

2009 Kyperounda Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Vassilikon "Methi" Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Argyrides Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
2008 Ezousa Metharmi Maratheftiko
2010 Argyrides Maratheftiko
2010 Apostaktirio Nicholas Ignatiou "Gerani" Maratheftiko
2010 Zambartas Maratheftiko
2010 Makkas Maratheftiko
2009 Kyperounda Shiraz
2009 Constantinou Shiraz
2010 Kyperounda Shiraz

Dry White Wines

2011 Kyperounda Petritis Xynisteri
2011 Constantinou Ayioklima Xynisteri
2011 Kyperounda Chardonnay

Monday, April 30, 2012

Treasure Hunting

LIDL is a savior. The German discount supermarket chain set up shop on The Rock last year, opening one of many stores in Protaras just a few blocks away from Whine On The Rocks' summer headquarters. Before its time, The Wife, Ph.D., and I had to lug our sun-roasted rinds all the way to Paralimni (fifteen minutes away!) to buy beer, broccoli, beef and bustiers. What's fascinating about shopping at LIDL is the element of surprise. The experience itself isn't posh, but this is made up by dirt cheap prices, excellent product quality and, best of all, the possibility of unearthing edible treasures that weren't there on a previous visit. On separate occasions, I've stumbled upon Weisswurstsenf (the sweet mustard I fell in love with in Munich), risotto with white truffles, chocolate-covered coffee beans, salmon tagliatelle and American marshmallows. Last time around, a bottle of 2011 Santorini Assyrtiko made exclusively for LIDL puppy-eyed me from its shelf and I took her (Is wine male or female? Depends on the variety, right?) home where she spent her last minutes on earth whetting my burning lips. 
By the way, LIDL, if you ever lay eyes on this blog, where has all the sweet mustard gone?

2011 LIDL Santorini Assyrtiko - Muted yet fresh bouquet marked by citrus, orange-like aromas. To the mouth, a citrus explosion accompanied by the vibrant acidity associated to the variety. Little minerality, short, not as complex and maybe a tad gloppy compared to higher-end versions. For €4.99, though, definitely worth drinking and great for the upcoming scorch. 84/100.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lick Yourself Clean

If you told me I could take one food item with me to my grave, a juicy, medium-rare beef burger topped with blue cheese would be my first or second choice. The Wife, Ph.D., knows by now that if I see one on the menu (specially if we're stateside, a gourmand's burger heaven), I will order it, devour it and then suck my fingers clean. Unfortunately, The Rock has not been very kind to me when pertaining to a fatty ground chuck patty stuffed between a sliced buttery bun. The meat is generally overcooked—one's rarely asked one's cooking predilection—and loaded with unnecessary spices and herbs. What shines in an excellent burger are the quality of the beef and the toppings selected, and this is forgotten to many local chefs.

Cue Artisans Burgerbar, an eatery that recently opened in Nicosia and caters to The Rock's burger fiends. I prefer my burger joints on the dive rustic side, so I was taken aback when I sauntered in and felt I had entered a typical Nicosia cafe: sleek lines, matching ochre furniture and sparse decor except for several rows of potted plants hanging on a wall above the main dining area and a blackboard used to write down the specials. While chic, it did not immediately inspire me to dive headfirst into a greasy burger. Irrespective of ambiance, though, what needs to be highlighted is Artisans' generous and tasty patty. It's made with 100% Angus Beef (20% fat!) flown in from the U.S. and includes none of those unnecessary ingredients that muddle the meat's flavor. Likewise, it's cooked medium unless you request otherwise. I must admit it's the most classic and well-executed burger I have come across on the island.

Of course, toppings, types of bread—white bun, wholewheat or ciabatta—and side dishes vary and cater to all tastes. First couple of times, I had the whole grain mustard sauce, which I found too overwhelming for the meat, and a well-balanced burger with pancetta, gruyere cheese and barbecue sauce. Then, after receiving multiple requests for a blue cheese burger from those in the know-how, Artisans added one as a special and I was on it like white on rice before it disappeared from the menu. The crumbled blue cheese and some chopped dried figs perfectly complemented the thick patty and had me salivating throughout my meal. Even though the 2008 Domaine Vlassides Cabernet Sauvignon worked well with the blue cheese burger, I so wished I had a bottle of Colorado's Great Divide 17th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA (available at Brewfellas) to really round out the experience. This desire only leads me to believe that Artisans should expand its rather limited beer selection since there are fewer things in life that are more rewarding than matching a cold one with a well-made burger.

On a side note, what's up with using cutlery to chow down on a burger? It's a glorified sandwich, people. It ain't rib-eye, it ain't lasagna. Pull up your sleeves. Don't be scared of the juices running down your hands. They will not scar you for life. They will not seep into your pores and make you fat. They are not the mysterious source of vitiligo. The blood/ketchup/mustard/mayonnaise/barbecue-blend might stink up your skin a bit but it's rained plenty this year on The Rock. Water shortages are not a valid excuse for bludgeoning your burger with a fork and knife. Make sweet love to it for God's sake, and later, like the feral cats and me, lick yourself clean.

Whine On The Rocks Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fútbol and Death

With little suffering, my paternal grandfather passed away early the morning of the seventh of March. He was ninety-three years old and had a long and rewarding time here on earth. Having spent most of my life outside of Ecuador, I cannot say I was close to the man. He had a disciplinarian streak and was often grumpy. Fussy does not even come close to describing his attitude towards food, a shrimp omelet and white rice his idea—at least in my mind—of a perfect meal. Yet, he was also tender and encouraging, lovingly cupping my cheeks with his frail hand or driving my brothers and me to pick up our favorite pizzas for dinner. One of my fondest childhood memories is of him sitting by my bedside, patting my legs and whispering a lengthy prayer while I tried to sleep and not think about the scary volcanoes looming at a distance or the jets’ rumbling as they made their final approach into Quito’s tricky airport.

As children, my mother and father made sure we traveled to Ecuador once a year to see our grandparents, but as my brothers and I grew older, our own commitment to our studies, professions and families made it harder to visit regularly. I last saw him and my grandmother in 2008 during Christmas. My Cypriot wife and I flew in from Nicosia—our home for now—and spent ten days exchanging stories, laughing and cherishing each other’s unfortunately short company, all the while my better-half courageously using her rudimentary Spanish.

When my mother called that morning about his death, I hardly blinked. My upbringing as somewhat of a nomad who is used to city-hopping and promptly readjusting to change in life certainly helped. I am thirty-four and the longest I’ve been in one place is eight years and that long stint in Bogotá ended nearly a quarter of a century ago. So often I’ve had to say goodbye to new-found friends and family—sometimes temporarily, other times forever—that detaching from all kinds of relationships has come too easily for me. I’m not sure whether there is any value in this personality trait. Perhaps it’s a cover I use to avoid dealing with grief or it simply reveals my true colors as a selfish insensitive human being. Fact is, however, all the moving around has allowed me to handle loss in all of its multifaceted forms.

Little did I know that a strange kind of mourning would creep up on me later that day in the company of nearly twenty three thousand people at GSP Stadium in Nicosia. It was the return leg of the round of sixteen Champions League match-up between APOEL Nicosia, arguably Cyprus’ best team, and Olympique Lyonnais, a French behemoth, and I had a ticket to the east stand.

Minutes before kick-off, the fogged-up sky threatened the crowd with rain. I remember looking up at the GSP stadium’s bright lights. The lampposts drowned in the thin clouds and a ghostly, some would say premonitory, white sheet blanketed the night. The bleachers, however, were electric. On the south end, the hardcore fans, most of them clad in vivid orange or yellow, jumped and sang about how their squad took on Porto, Zenit and Shakhtar. A hooded man, emulating Spider-Man or a typical Argentine football fanatic, clawed his way up the tall fence separating the pitch from the supporters and held up a Greek flag.  A handful of irresponsible fans lit four or five flares, leaving behind a trail of thick smoke and a likely hefty fine for the club from UEFA. Throughout the stadium, cameras and iPhones flashed to capture this historic moment for Cypriot football. Around me, men, women and children were on their toes, giddy in anticipation for the match and hoping their team could revert the 1-0 loss in France.

APOEL’s Serbian coach Ivan Jovanović, who plied his trade as footballer and coach in Greece, moved away from his preferred 4-5-1 counterattacking formation and utilized an aggressive 4-4-2 lineup with Ailton Almeida and Esteban Solari as out-and-out forwards. Wingers Constantinos Charalambides and Gustavo Manduca were set up to feed balls into the area, while Nuno Morais and Helder Sousa were parked in the middle of the pitch to destroy and distribute. Within nine minutes, the coach’s strategic acumen paid off as Charalambides captured a poorly-cleared ball, split a couple of defenders and slid the ball across the box for Manduca to tap into the back of the net. 1-0 APOEL.

Throughout the first half and most of the second, APOEL created a few solid chances with good link-up play between their four attackers. Despite their advantage in possession, most of Lyon’s attacks focused on swinging balls into the area and these were dealt with adroitly by Portugal’s Paulo Jorge and the rest of APOEL’s staunch defense. As players tired and substitutions were made, APOEL switched back to the familiar 4-5-1 line-up and lost some of its incisiveness. In extra-time,  an isolated Ailton, who for some bizarre reason refused to shoot with his left foot, tried to single-handedly take on three French defenders, time and again cutting right and being dispossessed of the ball. After an exhausting two-hour stalemate, Nicosia would bear witness to the most important penalty shootout in Cyprus’ history.

I thought things looked bleak with Manduca, Charalambides and Solari, three of APOEL’s usual penalty takers, watching from the sideline. After Ailton and Morais scored APOEL’s first two strikes and Bafétimbi Gomis beat APOEL’s goalie Dionisis Chiotis to give Lyon a 3-2 lead, Cypriot winger Nektarios Alexandrou, who had entered the match as a substitute in extra-time and performed quite like a perch out of water, walked confidently towards the spot. Many around me worried the stage would prove too immense for a local player who worked his way up APOEL’s youth ranks and into the first team. Alexandrou, though, as fresh as a watermelon in August, rifled a left-footed strike straight down the gut of Hugo Lloris’ goal and once again evened out the tie.

What followed was hypnotic. Alexandre Lacazette, Lyon’s future star, struck low and to his right but Chiotis timed his lunge perfectly and denied the French squad the lead with a breathtaking save. Macedonian international Ivan Tričkovski scored easily for APOEL and put the Cypriot team up for the first time in the shootout. Then, Chiotis, inspired by the crazed cries of thousands, flung his body left and blocked Michelle Bastos’ poorly-taken penalty. The stadium erupted and the yellow-clad players rushed the field, piling onto the match’s hero.

Later, I would find out that APOEL’s goalkeeping coach had studied each of Lyon’s past penalty-takers and told Chiotis exactly where to dive. Right then and there, though, I hoped my grandfather had had a deft hand in that night’s victory, gifting a bright moment in European football history from beyond his deathbed to his oldest grandson. I don’t recall him ever playing football or even being an avid spectator of the sport, but I will live with the belief that on that particular night he was. The skies now clear, I looked up at the lights and my eyes welled up for a few seconds with the fleeting thought of my grandfather saying goodbye touching my heart. I laughed and clapped and prayed “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” who that same day had put five past a haplessly awestruck Bernd Leno in Catalunya, wouldn’t be next.

Keep in mind that I have some serious issues with APOEL. Too many Greek flags and no Cypriot ones fly in their matches. A small and misguided faction of the fan base has embraced ultra-right-wing ideologies and anti-Semitic emblems as their own. Despite all of this, APOEL’s ballsy yet disciplined performance is a victory for an island that has been rocked by a turbulent and violent history and recent economic hardship. Many among APOEL’s local rivals might not feel pride in this team’s achievements, but it’s impossible for me to see what has been accomplished in any other light. I don’t support football teams. I follow the sport itself—as a beautiful brushstroke, as a battlefield where many times will defeats skill, as a cauldron of mixed emotions. I might have rarely experienced the ninety-minute roller-coaster of a ride reserved for the typical football fan, but I have learned to love and stand behind the place—wherever and whenever that may be—I call home.

On the drive back from the stadium, my wife, who’s not a football fan, woke up at around twelve-thirty a.m. startled by the celebratory commotion out on the streets. We live a few blocks from APOEL fan’s headquarters and the honking, football chants and loud hoorays had taken over the night. She sent me a text message wondering whether APOEL had somehow miraculously gone through to the next round. Knowing all too well he probably had nothing to do with the victory, I selfishly replied “Yep. Penalties. A gift from my grandfather to Cyprus.” I guess we all grieve in our own little ways.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Awards! Awards! Awards!

A Friday quick hitter before I waste the weekend away glued to a television screen watching college basketball. It's that time of the year. Finally. Check out Act II if you're oblivious to the greatest sporting event on earth.

Awards have been handed out for the 2012 Thessaloniki International Wine Competition held from March 8th to 10th in Thessaloniki, Greece. As usual, The Rock's wines performed admirably well, bringing home a handful of Gold and Silver medals and, most importantly, the Grand Gold Medal for the 2002 SODAP Saint Barnabas Commandaria. Below you can find a list of The Rock's victorious entries. Click here for a complete list of winners.

Grand Gold

2002 SODAP Saint Barnabas Commandaria


2008 SODAP Stroumpeli Merlot
2007 Hadjiantonas Winery Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Ayia Mavri Winery Mosxatos
2011 Ayia Mavri Winery Mosxatos
2005 Kolios Winery Shiraz
2011 Hadjiantonas Winery Rose
2008 Hadjiantonas Winery Shiraz


2011 Hadjiantonas Winery Chardonnay

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wine On The Seahorse

After Crete, what's Greece's largest island? Quick, clock's ticking.

Do you see the seahorsey?
If you answered Evia, the seahorse of a rock separated from mainland Greece by the Euripus Strait, then, congrats, you get a well-earned smiley face (or pat on the butt) on this impromptu quiz. At its narrowest, the strait is only thirty-eight meters. So unless you are Greek, a geography or history buff or some sort of mutant with superhuman vision, it's practically impossible to tell it's an island from just looking at a map. I live on this side of the world and I had no clue up until about a week ago that what I thought was a strip of land north of Athens was no other than a bewildering wine-producing rock. I guess this "discovery" could've only occurred thanks to my quasi-obsessive-compulsive need to walk up and down the wine aisle at our local supermarket studying labels instead of picking vegetables for her highness, The Wife, Ph.D.

Anyhow, I've spent the past twenty minutes trying to disinter information on Evia (or Euboea) and its wines and, unfortunately, I've come up (almost) as empty-handed as Olympique Lyonnais the crisp night of March 7th. Here's a brief excerpt on Central Greece from Greekwinemakers.com:
"Central Greece is the traditional stronghold of retsina and plantings are dominated by the Savatianó variety, from which retsina has been most commonly vinified. Savatiano accounts for most of the production in Attika (roughly 90%), a majority in Evia (around 75%) and half of production in Voetia. The Savatianó, historically, was never the exclusive basis for retsina, and until phyloxera arrived in central Greece between the first and second World Wars, was just one of a number of white varieties grown in the region. Today, the Savatianó owes its dominance less to historical preeminance [sic] than to the need to replenish vineyards with a highly productive variety suitable to the climate. Although the grape is characterized by low acidity, it at least has had the advantage of displaying some varietal character when resinated. Low yield farming and modern vinification have resulted in quality un-resinated mono-varietal versions of Savatianó that display the best attributes of the grape."
More specific to the actual island, New Wines of Greece, a portal designed to market indigenous Greek varieties in the US, notes that:
2009 Vriniotis Winery IAMA
"...[u]p until 10 years ago, all that was known of winegrowing [sic] activities in Evia regarded the traditional production methods in the central and southern part of the island. Nevertheless, the particularly successful entrance of northern Evia in the game through cultivation of numerous Greek and international varieties as well as through production of many new wines, created the need for the establishment of a PGI Evia zone. The presence of the native varieties of Vrathiano and Karabraimis is noteworthy as is the Aegean influence (Aidani White, Athiri, Assyrtiko, Liatiko and Mandilaria) due to Evia’s geographical position. At present there are only four area wineries producing PGI Evia wines but their numbers are expected to increase."
"Discovery" made, I updated the blog's approved list of rocks and celebrated accordingly.

2009 Vriniotis Winery IAMA (Syrah and Vradiano blend) - Nice bouquet marked by red fruit, dark chocolate, vanilla and a hint of oak. Raspberries on the palate with great length, firm tannins and a fantastic tart fruit finish. Its awesome acidity had The Wife, Ph.D., and I puckering our lips like babies sucking on lime wedges. 90/100.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where's All The Si-Silliness Gone?

Allow me to be serious for once in my life. All I hope is that this very brief overview of Nero d'Avola, Sicily's premier red indigenous grape, is not overbearingly pedantic. Or taken over by one hefty paragraph lifted from a revered wine publication since I have never set foot on what I assume is a lovely Italian rock occasionally run asunder by slick-haired mobsters and tempestuous old ladies swinging ratty brooms at immature miscreants for stealing over-sized undergarments that have been hung out to dry.

According to Decanter's March 2012 issue and its sponsored guide on Sicily (pages 70 through 84),
2008 Zisola "Doppiozeta"
"It's the [island's] reds...that have captured the interest of an international market. Nero d'Avola became fashionable in the 1990s, and for good reason. Its bright cherry and plum fruit can be delightful, and more serious, oak-aged versions can have an appealing savoury intensity and lush texture...The heartland of Nero d'Avola is the region north of the coastal town of Agrigento, although Noto in the southeast is often thought to produce the finest and best quality."
The two excellent Sicilian wines I tasted along with The Wife, Ph.D., and My Zolpidem Supplier came from the Zisola Mazzei Estate located in Noto and can be purchased at Cava Inon Pnevmata in Nicosia.

2009 Zisola Mazzei Sicilia IGT (Nero D'Avola) - Nose recalls cherries, raspberries, powdered chocolate, pepper and some greenness. A meaty wine of medium length with juicy tannins and black cherry undertones. 87/100.

2008 Zisola "Doppiozeta" Noto Rosso DOC (60% Nero D'Avola, 30% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Franc) - Leathery, smoked meats, red fruit, vegetables and loads of spice come together in a powerful nose. Some chocolate and vanilla and fantastic meatiness through the mid-palate. Sweet, caramel-like finish. I have another bottle which I will age for a year or two or three and see what's up then. 90/100.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Plonk By Monks?

Do you see what I see?
Few things in this world would beat witnessing the Lord Almighty, Virgin Mary or any of the Apostles emerge sublime and immaculate from the thick and creamy head of a rich Trappist Belgian beer. Doubters might argue you suffered from the hallucinatory effects of one too many Tripels, but sipping on anything lovingly crafted by monks is bound to involve a spiritual awakening of sorts. Soon enough I hope to land in Brussels, hand the keys to the rental car over to The Wife, Ph.D., and drink my way through the six Trappist monasteries in search of apparitions and that elusive case of Westvleteren. Until then, I am content to be sea-locked and chasing visions of heaven in the tears of a wine glass.

There's only one Cypriot winery that has enough clout with God to offer me a religious experience. Near the village of Panagia in Pafos, the Holy Virgin of Chrysorroyiatissa Monastery has been producing wine for more than two centuries. According to Yiannos Constantinou's Cyprus Wine Guide,
"...in September 1984...winemaking at the monastery was really modernized, when the present Abbot Dionysios decided to start operating the winery again. This was the first attempt to set up a regional winery that would restrict its activities to producing limited quantities of wine, in contrast to the large wine factories that dominated wine-production in Cyprus at the time. Today, Chrysorroyiatissa winery turns out around one hundred and fifty thousand bottles of wine annually, produced from grapes grown on some 25 hectares of its own vineyards planted with both local (Xynisteri, Mavro, Maratheftiko, Ofthalmo) as well as imported (Mataro, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling) grape varieties. The winery plans to treble its acreage of vineyards in the next few years."
2009 Monastiri, a Holy Blend.
The monastery is probably best known for its two table wines, Ayios Andronicos, a white wine made of Xynisteri and meant to be consumed young, and Ayios Elias, a simple red quaff of local varieties. Both are decent wines but neither of them had me seeing things. Lo and behold, the Parents-in-Law, after a recent weekend peregrination to the monastery to (I presume) cleanse all sins, brought me a bottle of 2009 Monastiri, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz blend I had no clue the monks made. Alas, let's just say I am still desperately seeking Savior.

2009 Chrysorroyiatissa Monastiri (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz) - Satisfying aroma marked by blackberries, plum, black pepper, cloves and a light hint of vanilla and chocolate. To the palate, harsh tannins and a noticeable spike in the alcohol that smoothed out once the wine was matched with food and had enough time to breathe. Black fruit predominates in a blend that lacked some flavor in the mid-palate and ultimately failed to pack a punch. 83/100.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What A (Ce)Bitch(e)!

Someone—anyone—I beg you please. Send me a good bottle of Cretan Vilana.

I first tasted her in Athens. It was a joyous evening among fancy friends in Psiri, a fashionable neighborhood that once witnessed my drunken crooning of "Besame Mucho," landing me in hot water with The Wife, Ph.D., and on a sidewalk near Exarcheia passed out napping among anarchists. The French Connoisseur handpicked a bottle, which unfortunately was unremarkable and received low scores from those in attendance.

I tried again a few weeks ago in company of The Wife, Ph.D., Cousins #2 and #6, Radio Free Cyprus and My Alternate Personal Skipper (MAPS). On the menu, a fish ceviche matched with homemade tree tomato aji and plantain chips I ordered from Amazon (the website, not the jungle) because The Wife, Ph.D., has placed a ridiculous ban on all kinds of frying in our kitchen. Like a 90-60-90 brunette model strutting her stuff all over the catwalk, the ceviche took center stage. The Cretan whites, however, were tame villains (pun intended) to the ceviche's super powers and fell flat on the runway.

By the way, if you're ever interested in cooking some Ecuadorian food, check out Laylita's. Pretty reliable English recipes of Ecuadorian classics.

2010 Lyrarakis Vilana (Crete, Greece) - Peach, lime and some melon on a pretty nose. However, this fails to translate to the palate as it is very light, a bit flat and quite short and could have benefited from brighter acidity. Maybe it's past its prime (i.e. meant to be drunk real young just like Cyprus rosés) and I should have procured a 2011. 80/100.

2010 Boutari Kretikos (70% Vilana and 30% Other Cretan Varieties) - Some wild herbs and peach in terms of bouquet but even emptier to the palate than the Lyrarakis. Did not feel very fresh. 78/100.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Prozac Ain't My Road to Happiness

Many days I miss being alone in a bustling coffee shop with my music, literature and thoughts. To settle on a couch or chair for hours and grow unaware of my surroundings, sipping on a large piping hot cappuccino until the last—now cold—sip marks my time to depart. Between 2002 and 2004, when San Diego was "home," I'd take a break from social movement theory by fiddling through a Nick Hornby novel at Claire de Lune in North Park or checking out the Monaco-Grand-Prix curves on the sexy bespectacled emo chick tending the till at Pannikin Coffee & Tea on Girard Avenue. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, I'd roll out of bed at 6 a.m. and drive down to Mission Coffee Cup in La Jolla for breakfast quesadillas and the house brew. I spent so many hours in solitude drinking coffee, reading and writing that one day my mother, Mrs. Broken Record, felt compelled to audit me. Following a twenty-minute conversation, she advised that I could save close to $1,500 per year by cutting down on this fleeting luxury. I told her that if that was the price to pay to stave off depression, she could either hop on my road to happiness or bankroll a healthy stash of Prozac. Woman hung up.

Even though The Rock's coffee culture (i.e. booming social hour) is not very conducive to my modus operandi, I have found a few spots sprinkled throughout the city where I can defeat depression for about four Euros a mug and ample space to read a book, write (productivity galore!) and slam my head to my music of choice (right this second—Jeff Buckley's posthumous Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk.) So this post is dedicated to them. And, by the way, if you ever see more than one person flipping through a book at a Cypriot coffeehouse, there's a good chance you might either have to dial 112 to send the paramedics or count your blessings and wait for the deluge.

Gloria Jean's Coffees (Andrea Avraamides Street 50, Strovolos, Nicosia) - Located diagonally from Aretaeio hospital, this warm coffeehouse is often packed with pregnant women, morose patients and the usual suspects like myself. Plugs abound for laptops, my preferred spots the four tables leaning against the long wooden wall right across from the counter. Up until recently, they had the best coffee mugs on The Rock but for some reason felt the need to change them for some clunky black things that fit my lips as well as Hugh Heffner in a West Texas retirement home. Loyalty card (Buy 10, Get 1 Free) and plenty of parking at the back are a plus. Whine On The Rocks Rating: 4 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas.

View from my usual table at Mocca
Mocca Café (Stasinou 44, Nicosia) - My neighborhood coffeehouse with a modern yet homey decor. Quite small but a few tables tucked towards the back of the room are perfect for those hard at work. Probably one of the only establishments that has flat whites—a smaller, more flavorful cappuccino—on offer. Salads and sandwiches are also tasty and, to Mrs. Broken Record's excitement, prices with a discount card are far more affordable than those at the chains. Two large televisions usually screen football matches or music videos and the baristas are friendly. Whine On The Rocks Rating: 4 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pastel Pink Mummies

The Wife, Ph.D.'s Latest Nightmare
One morning a few months ago The Wife, Ph.D., and I ran out of toilet paper. Colorful IKEA napkins and a couple packs of pocket-sized tissues were on standby just in case I couldn't track down extra-soft, fragrant and medicinal rolls at the convenience store just two blocks from our apartment. The selection wasn't remarkable, but a six-pack of pastel pink toilet paper printed with evenly distributed strawberries or dandelions (depending on the angle) caught my attention with its "Buy One, Get One Free" seduction ploy. Maybe it was the paper's shades of creamy-beetroot-and-mayonnaise salad that seduced me or the fact that deep down I stalk all types of bargains. The Wife, Ph.D., took one look at the puffy tubes and for a minute I feared she would wrap me in all that pink paper during my sleep, turning me into a flowered mummy Michael Kors would have been proud of calling his own creation. Her distaste for pink TP sparked my own revelation—Cyprus rosé season was upon us.

In the past, rosé wines never really rocked my kayak. However, as I sampled more and more of The Rock's rosé, the diverse bottlings made both with local and foreign varieties grew on me and have become a spring and summer staple chez nous. Unlike the toilet paper, The Wife, Ph.D., loves their fruitiness and freshness, and I agree with my friend AK-47 when he says that it's one of the better accompaniments to the schizophrenic spread—from crisp greens to grilled meats to saucy stews—known as Cyprus meze. Some bottles—the Zambartas rosé made of Cabernet Franc and Lefkada comes to mind—have become cult-classics, selling out quicker than the time it takes me to mock The Wife, Ph.D., on these pages. Besides Commandaria, I have no hesitation whatsoever asserting that, across-the-board, rosés are the best wines being produced on The Rock.

2011 Aes Ambelis Rosé (Maratheftiko & Lefkada)
Consumers, as well as the international and local press, seem to think alike. When I spoke to Theodoros Fikardos of Fikardos Winery at last year's Limassol Wine Festival, he pointed out that his clients' most beloved wines are his dry and medium rosés, Iocasti and Valentina. Furthermore, wine journalist Yiannos Constantinou extols on the virtues of The Rock's rosés throughout his Cyprus Wine Guide, probably the leading book on Cyprus wines. Likewise, year in, year out, Angela Muir, regional chair for Central & Eastern Europe in the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA), highly recommends these wines to visitors but warns consumers to stick to the current year's vintage to enjoy maximum freshness and flavor. Personally, I find it mind-boggling that (last time I checked) The Mall's Carrefour still shelved many bottles of the 2007 (?!?) Sodap Kamantarena rosé, a wine that's definitely way past its prime and might taste like some of the really old plonk I uncorked as a joke with My Zolpidem Supplier one merry Sunday morning. This oversight is a true pity since this wine's 2010 vintage won a Silver Medal at last year's DWWA. 

What's great about The Rock's rosés is that wineries are crafting them with many different varieties, creating a wide array of distinct aromas, flavor profiles and vibrant hues. Meant to be drank young, these playful wines explode upon being uncorked with the scent of raspberries, cherries, cranberries, strawberries, pomegranate, red roses, violets and/or wild herbs, among others. To the palate, the drier ones are fresh, crisp and abundantly acidic, while those with some residual sugar (off-dry) feel weightier yet remain thirst-quenching when served at a temperature between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius. Ultimately, they are not ultra-complex but they do a fine job once the scorching heat rolls in and you spend your afternoons preparing asparagus omelets with the sidewalk as a skillet. Keep in mind that not all Cyprus rosés are great but lately I haven't come across a disappointing bottle. Besides the aforementioned, some of my favorites are Aes Ambelis (Maratheftiko & Lefkada), Ezousa (Maratheftiko) and Hadjiantonas (Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz). Additionally, people I trust—Cousin #2 and Radio Free Cyprus—rave about Tsangarides Winery's rosé (Shiraz), a wine I have not had the good fortune to try. The day I do, though, rest assured I will spill some all over a white tablecloth and force The Wife, Ph.D. to pat the splotches dry with some sea salt and bargain toilet paper.

2011 Aes Ambelis Rose (Maratheftiko & Lefkada) - I chose this wine to launch our humble abode's 2012 rosé season. Vibrant aroma of roses, strawberry and pomegranate. Candied strawberries and other red berries on the palate. Syrupy with good length and a nice lingering sweetness. 87/100.

2011 Zambartas Rose (Lefkada & Cabernet Franc) - Lovely red fruit (cranberry and pomegranate) on the nose with just a hint of sweetness. Bright red fruit (red apple?) throughout the palate with a tangy finish. Good acidity but not as remarkable as past years' vintages. 86/100.

2011 Tsangarides Rose (Shiraz) - Tame nose with hints of sour cherries and cranberry. Dry to the mouth with notes of raspberry and a lively acidity. In my opinion, lacked some flavor and length. 85/100.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good Ol' Texas

Here's the rundown of a typical two-week holiday in good ol' Texas. My little brother, Shawarma Leg Lover, currently obsessed with cross-fit, farro and whiskey Old Fashioneds, facetiously tells a gathered family that he's come across faith in strip clubs and that his new-found religion's missionaries are the Brazilian dolls in Michel Telo's video for "Ai Se Eu Te Pego." My mother, Mrs. Broken Record, this time around relatively content with her oldest son's body mass index, focuses her attention on him trimming his beard and growing his nails just a bit longer to have a chance at Best in Show. My father, Mr. Flog, home for the first time in months yet missing his bachelor pad in São Paulo, goes on long bike rides decked in loud lycra and a self-imposed "green" diet better suited for a guinea pig or New Age hippie. The Wife, Ph.D., scavenges through SALE racks and baskets for designer items, squealing like Justin Bieber's greatest fan whenever she unearths a 200 Euro pair of jeans on The Rock for $29.99 and an additional 30% off at the register. We all ooh and aah at my middle brother's Australian son's antics over Skype and try to egg him on to saying cookie or pretend to be a gorilla. We eat well. We drink well. We ridicule each other, also very well. Meanwhile, most of my hours are spent in search of new literary fiction, bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir and red skinny Levis jeans (now a proud owner) to keep that stubborn bastard of insanity at bay.

2009 McPherson Cellars "Tre Colore" 48% Carignan, 37% Mourverdre, 15% Viognier (Lubbock, Texas) - Burst of red fruit on the nose. Cherries and raspberries. Myrtle berries according to Mr. Flog. On the palate, cranberry, raspberry, papaya (?!?) through the middle. Short, light and fresh. 85/100.

2010 "Serenu" Vermentino di Gallura DOCG (Sardinia, Italy) - A nice nose of white pepper, cream and pears. Honey, baked apples, pears, vanilla to kick us off. Tangy citrus on the sides, a fatty middle. Served at room temperature. 87/100.

2009 Domaine Argyrides Maratheftiko - Dark fruit, mulch, chocolate, flowers and coffee on the nose. Sweet beginning with notes of blueberries. Short with smooth tannins. 87/100.

2009 Villa Maria Unoaked Chardonnay Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) - Aromas of white pears, flowers and pineapple. Medium bodied wine with flavors of peaches, pears, pineapple and a tangy citrus finish. Not my favorite, a bit empty. 82/100.