Thursday, July 03, 2008

Costa Rica

Shane's Notes

For the sequel to our honeymoon, Jen and I spent ten days in Costa Rica and had a wonderful time.

While waiting for our plane in Miami, we perused a duty-free store and I spotted the Inniskillin Vidal. We had been curious about Inniskillin but had balked at the price. Why spend $50 on Canadian Ice Wine when German Eiswein costs only a few dollars more? However, we managed to rationalize that we should try it since we were on vacation. We bought it and drank it our first night in Costa Rica. The palate was pleasantly sweet with tropical fruit flavors. If you strain, you can almost detect several different flavors but they aren’t really different, more like shadings of the same flavor. It would be a very nice wine for about half the price.

We began the trip with a half day in San Jose which was a half a day too long. Other than the McDonalds, we could have skipped San Jose.

We boarded a tiny plane the next morning and enjoyed a one hour plane ride to Puerto Jimenez where we caught a boat to La Nicuesa, a rainforest lodge. The lodge was fantastic. We had a private cabin with a bed, a flush toilet and an outdoor shower. We could sit in chairs on our porch and look out into the rainforest. All the meals were served at the lodge and it was akin to eating at a four star jungle restaurant. The food was so good that I ate many foods I wouldn’t eat at home – papaya, watermelon, plantain chips and many types of very tasty fish.

The cabins were designed for maximum air circulation so that the humidity wouldn’t rot the wood. The gaps between the slats in the shutters and between the ceiling and the walls were small enough to keep out jaguars but large enough to admit many intrepid creatures. Every cabin had their resident “pets” and fortunately, our cabin pets were tiny lizards called Anoles. I was sitting on our porch watching an Anole when it started bobbing its head up and down. Suddenly, a membrane underneath its neck extended in a wide, colorful semi-circle. This show was repeated many times for our benefit and we never tired of it.

The bar in the lodge opened one hour before dinner, and Jen and I always seemed to be the first ones there. On our first night, we noticed that they carried a line of wines from Concho y Toro called “Sunrise.” Jen tried the Chardonnay and I tried the Sauvignon Blanc. Both were excellent. The Chardonnay was slightly malolacted but certainly not a butter bomb. The Sauvignon Blanc reminded us of the racier style of Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs albeit without strong grassy/green bean flavors. It was pure citrus and very refreshing. Due to the extreme heat, we decided that the S.B would be our go to wine and we ordered a bottle every night. We were charged $16 a bottle which means that the regular price is probably around $8.00 a bottle. At that price, this S.B. is a fantastic deal and if we could find it back in the states, we wouldn’t hesitate to buy a case.

Believe it or not, we did more than just drink on this trip. There were around a half a dozen self-guided hikes at the lodge and we hiked all of them. On one of our hikes, we noticed some movement in the tree tops. We stopped and watched. Within about ten minutes, we spotted a group of Capuchin Monkeys in the trees. It was an amazing sight. At first, we had to strain to catch glimpses of them through the branches and then it seemed like they were everywhere. We watched them climb trees, sit on branches and eat and swing from tree to tree. It was like being in the middle of a National Geographic special. We watched them for about a half an hour before the tree tops were once again silent.

On another hike, I felt something slam into my shoulder hard enough to knock me off balance. My first thought was that a snake had somehow leapt from a tree to attack me. As I looked up, I saw a tree frog jump from my shoulder to the nearest tree. We watched this otherworldly, bright green frog leap from tree to tree and disappear into the forest.
While taking a boat ride to a nearby wildlife refuge, we spotted dolphins. They seemed to surround the boat and were so close to us that we could see their bodies under the water. At the refuge, we saw animals that had been rescued and were being nursing back to health. We were able to hold a sloth and tried in vain to get a monkey to crawl on us. When the tour was over, our boat was late and we were the last people at the refuge. So, an attention starved monkey had no choice but to crawl all over us.

One night, we were looking for frogs near a tiny lagoon (maybe 10 feet deep and 20 feet across) left by the outgoing tide. At the far end of the lagoon, our flashlights were reflected back by two eyes hovering above the water. I told Jen that I didn’t think it was a frog. We leaned in and shined both of our lights on the eyes. We could just barely discern the ominous mouth of a Caiman under the water. Now that we had bothered it, it started swimming towards us. Since the lagoon was so small, I just assumed that the Caiman was tiny. Jen made no such assumption and ran towards the cabin like she was in the Olympic trials. I ran after Jen yelling that it was a small gator and that we were in no danger. However, I did keep turning around just to make sure we were not being followed. Since I had on a headlamp, my vision was bobbing up and down and it looked like a scene out of the Blair Witch Project. I finally caught up with Jen and we headed back to the cabin.

Naturally, our story made the rounds and the guy running the lodge told us that there was a small crocodile in the pond. A few nights later, after many rum based drinks, a couple asked us if we could take them to see the crocodile. We had downed a bottle of wine so we agreed and off we went. As the four of us approached the pond, I spotted the tell-tale eyes on the near side of the lagoon. I pointed to it and we all shone our flashlights on it. There was a collective, audible gasp as we could clearly see the six foot long body of the Caiman (it was not a crocodile). We watched it lazily swim to the other side as we quietly backed away. It’s one thing to agitate a tiny Caiman but quite another to agitate a six foot long Caiman.

After we left La Nicuesa and survived a harrowing flight back to San Jose, we checked in to the Adventure Inn and walked to a supermarket on the other side of the freeway for supplies. We bought a Concha Y Toro Sunrise Cabernet and a Concho y Toro Brut. We drank the Cab on the first night and did not like it. Quite simply, it was massively overoaked.

On our last day in Costa Rica, we bypassed San Jose and took a half day tour of La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is a beautiful park with many exotic animals, and as the name implies, many impressive waterfalls. If you are going to take day trips from San Jose, it would be tough to beat La Paz.

Back at the hotel, we opened the brut to celebrate the last night of our trip. It was simple, fruity and very enjoyable to drink. It reminded us of a Prosecco.

We did have some wine on the plane ride home. However, we were in second class so the “wine” was not worth reviewing.

Top Twelve

Here’s another top twelve list. A quick review of the rules that we follow: we choose 4 wines in the under $15 category, 4 in the $15 - $30 category and four in the over $30 category. Also, a winery can only appear once on the list.

$9.99, Jean-Luc Colombo, 2005 Les Abeilles CDR
7/3/08, It’s Colombo!

$10, 2003 Schloss Vollrads, Kabinet, Rheingau
4/28/08, An Amazing QPR

$10.99, 2004 Barbera d'Asti, Fratelli Ponte
6/26/08, Barbecue Wine

$11.99, 2006 Fontanafredda “Briccotando” Barbera
6/24/08, Fantastic Fontanafredda

$15.99, 2007 Saracco Moscato d’Asti 2007
6/24/08, Sumptuous Saracco

$20, 2005 Knebel Winninger Rottgen Kabinett
5/14/08, Voluptuous Kabinett

$25, 2007 Alban Vineyards Viognier
6/24/08, Opulent Viognier

$30, 2005 Puligny-Montrachet, Clos du Chateau, Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet
6/20/08, Montrachet

$35, Ariston et Fils "Aspasie" Champagne NV, Brut Prestige
4/28/08, Amazing Aspasie

$45, 2005 Cuvee Vatican, Chateauneuf de Pape
6/20/08, Memorial Day Weekend

$70, 2004 Tablas Creek Panoplie
6/24/08, Panoplie

$99.99, Kongsgaard, 2005 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
5/14/08, King Kongsgaard

Bargain Riesling

2003 Gerhard Kabinett, Rheingau
Shane’s Notes

We found this one in the bargain bin and couldn’t resist. The palate is simple with the flavor of a sour lemon. The finish is short and it is a good food wine. It was definitely worth the price.


Eberle 2005 Cotes du Robles
Shane’s Notes

I had high hopes for this one so I was very disappointed when I had to pour it down the sink. It was so overoaked that it tasted as if someone had replaced the wine with a perfumey, vanilla concoction. We could taste nothing besides the heavy, vanillin overlay. This is a lousy bottle of wine.

Reliable Kunde

2005 Kunde Cabernet Sauvignon
Shane’s Notes

Many years ago, a Kunde Cab was one of the first non-plonk wines I drank. I have always enjoyed Kunde wines even if they do tend to be a bit oaked. The palate on this Cab shows olives, cassis and blueberry with a hint of vanilla. It is a bit overoaked but still shows varietal flavor. Kunde continues to produce solid wines for their price point.

Another Marlborough SB

2006 Kirkham Peak Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Shane’s Notes

This is a respectable Marlborough SB. The palate is herbaceous with hints of lemon and green beans. It is nicely crafted although the finish is too short.

It's Colombo!

Jean-Luc Colombo
2005 Les Abeilles CDR
Shane’s Notes

The palate shows black cherry and a little funk. The finish is too short but overall, this is a very good wine.

Powerful Prosecco

Il Sogno Di Annibale
Prosecco di Conegliano, Valdobbiadene
Shane’s Notes

Massive flavor on this one. Mostly tropical fruit flavors with a tangy, almost sour finish. Most flavorful Prosecco we have tasted.