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Island Wines

Posted: Feb 7, 2008 11:37am ET

Does good wine taste great when you drink it somewhere you don’t expect to drink it? Yes. Oh yes. Definitely yes.

I went to a small restaurant in the suburbs of Havana a couple of nights ago, La Paila, and we came across a bottle of 2004 Bodegas Mauro Viño de la Tierra de Castilla y León. The wine was so satisfying, delivering lots of blackberry, mineral and juicy fruit on the nose and palate. It was round, rich and velvety. It was just a baby but so fruity and delicious. 91 points, non-blind.

We drank it with grilled wahoo fillets with shrimp and grilled pork with a balsamic meat reduction. The starters of octopus and mango salad and tomato bruschetta were equally tasty. La Paila is a small, private restaurant called a paladar. These types of restaurants were very popular in the mid-1990s but they have dwindled in number due to tighter laws on the business. But occasionally a new one surfaces like the one I found last night.

The 14-seat restaurant was in the garden of a small house. The chef is the owner. I hear the phrase “home cooking” all the time to describe small restaurants around the world, but this really is home cooking!

It was a cool night in Havana as we enjoyed our meal and the hearty red. A cigar after the meal only enhanced the island experience. I am in Cuba for Cigar Aficionado at the moment, researching a number of articles as well as blogging about my comings and goings. Check it out. Adios para ahora.

Bill Robinson
Calgary —  February 7, 2008 1:44pm ET
James, I know I am off topic but I just recently found a couple of bottles of Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port from 1980(my birthyear), and I was hoping you had some idea how much longer I should wait. The last review is from 1989 and has no ready date, while the vintage chart has a drink or hold rating. In all likely hood I will just try and find a special time to open it with my Dad, it would be nice to know when it is peaking.
James Suckling
 —  February 7, 2008 4:11pm ET
Bill. Drink and enjoy. I have some in my cellar and recently cracked a bottle. It's better than even my tasting note from 1989 says...I think it's just right now.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  February 7, 2008 5:18pm ET
I believe that if you finished the dinner with a cohiba maduro 5 or a padron 80Th it should transform a nice evening in a unforgetable moment!saludos ludovic
Cesar Venta
VERACRUZ , MEXICO —  February 7, 2008 6:49pm ET
James:Mauro is the winnery of Mariano Garcia, who was the winemaker at the famous VEGA SICILIA for decades, and he is doing some of the best wines in Spain right now .Did you have the Mauro "Vendimia Selecionada" or just the one called "Mauro" ?
Dan Liguori
West Palm Beach, Fl —  February 7, 2008 11:55pm ET
Nice blog - are you hitting Floradita or Bodeguita del Medio? Our guys from Padron frequent the newly opened BdM on Miracle Mile - great spot to play some dominos and enjoy and 80 anniv! I am still holding out for those reserva de familia!
Jordan Horoschak
Houston, TX —  February 8, 2008 1:33am ET
James, how is it that you are allowed into Cuba? Are you not an American citizen? I thought our government did not allow commerce/visitation to the island. My girlfriend's parents are from Cuba, but I thought the only way to visit was by "sneaking in" through a flight out of Canada or something.
Niall Cosgrove
Ireland —  February 8, 2008 7:51am ET
totally un-related but I THINK you should know, I was looking up a web-site today and they have your scores for March 2008 for the Cos & Las Cases.
James Suckling
 —  February 8, 2008 9:26am ET
Jordan. What sort of commerce do you think I am doing? I am a full-time journalist (European Editor) of Cigar Aficionado. I travel under the general license issued by the Office of Foreign Asset Control of the United States Treasury as a full-time journalist.
James Suckling
 —  February 8, 2008 9:28am ET
Is the magazine out now? I am still in Cuba.
J J Gallagher
Near Napa, Ca —  February 8, 2008 10:25am ET
Niall, If you go to "editors picks" at the top of this WS online page and then choose "advance" and the the 3/31 issue, you will see that a few of James scores appeared including the Cos and Las Cases.
Niall Cosgrove
Ireland —  February 8, 2008 11:40am ET
thanks J.J i was worried, just case someone got hold of the ratings when the shouldn't have.
Alexander M Medina
Roseville, CA —  February 11, 2008 7:08pm ET
James, I apologize for going off topic, but this is something that has been bothering me for a while now and I don't know who else to ask. Does WS have a particular methodology to arrive at a wine's final score? I know what the final numbers represent (outstanding, classic, etc.) but can you tell me how the editors get to those scores? For instance, I have seen 100 point scoring guides that assign, for example, certain maximum numbers of points for different characteristics such as aroma, fruit intensity, balance, complexity, and finish, and the total points for each characteristic equals the final score. I'm trying not to be as much of a "score chaser," so in addition to reading the tasting notes more to find things that I like, it would be helpful to find out what went into a wine's score. For instance, I recently drank the 2001 Casisano Colombaio BdM. It was delicious, but it had an unbelievably subtle aroma that was barely detectable. That detracted from my enjoyment because the nose is one of my favorite parts of enjoying wine, so using a 100 point scoring criteria I found from a local retailer, I gave it only 1 out of 5 possible points for aroma, which led to a final rating of 90 points for me, instead of your 92. Does WS does something similar or is there some other methodology? Thanks for your time.
Cesar Venta
VERACRUZ , MEXICO —  February 13, 2008 4:08pm ET
User Name: Cesar Venta, VERACRUZ , MEXICO Posted: 06:49 PM ET, February 07, 2008James: Mauro is the winnery of Mariano Garcia, who was the winemaker at the famous VEGA SICILIA for decades, and he is doing some of the best wines in Spain right now .Did you have the Mauro "Vendimia Selecionada" or just the one called "Mauro" ?
Peter Dengenis
los angeles CA —  February 20, 2008 11:24am ET
James,Why was there no rating for the 2005 Pavie?
James Suckling
 —  February 20, 2008 11:50am ET
It was still in barrel when I was there in December to taste bottles.... I will taste it in March.

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