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What I Drank On My Winter Vacation
by Jonathon Alsop
April 1995


Whereas summer vacation can end up being a blend of so many different forces and preoccupations -- the obligation of shipping the kids halfway across the continent to see the grandfolks, the necessity of getting the wife back to Canada to reconnect with her "roots," or just the desire to leave town out of habit, for instance -- winter vacation is pure escapism.

It had been easily three or four years since my last winter vacation, and I'd completely forgotten the thrill of stepping off an airplane pasty white and chilled into a world of warmth and greenery (in this year's case, St. John in the US Virgin Islands). I'd also forgotten how difficult the re-entry into the New England atmosphere could be. After being back in town for a week or two, however, the tan has faded and I've given up crying my eyes out every day when I get up for work.

Like most resort locations, St. John allows groceries and convenience stores to sell wine, beer and booze, mostly at hyper-inflated prices, but not always. The best place I found on the island with a good selection of wines at reasonable prices was Pine P eace Liquors. The wine room was well-chilled and full of tasty selections priced just two or three dollars beyond what you'd expect to pay in Boston.

Day One: 1993 Wente Brothers "Estate Grown" Chardonnay ($10.50) The perfect resort wine, light and crisp, excellent when well-chilled. Unlike many California chardonnays of the moment, not over-oaked, not super-rich, just solid and bright with good fruit and acid.

Day Two: 1993 Fetzer "Sundial" Chardonnay ($10.25) A newly-restyled and upscale high-art concept label can't quite hide the fact that this is essentially a $5 wine (in Boston) that's best sipped while cooking and then used for cooking.

Day Three: 1991 Seghesio Reserve "Old Vine" Zinfandel ($15) Brought this one from home, and damn glad I did, too. 61-year-old vines have produced a sturdy zin in this case, classic and elegant, perfect with Jamaican jerk chicken on the grill.

Day Four: 1988 Domaine Chante Perdrix Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($20) Also from home, a long-term favorite of mine that seemed to have suffered somewhat in transit, a victim of travel shock showing up on the island a little scattered and confused, a shadow of i ts former self.

Day Five: 1992 Calera Chardonnay ($14) Exquisite and exuding butterscotch even from a distance. One of my favorite wines of the week, and I'll be loading up on it once I find it in town.

Day Six: 1989 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($89 on the restaurant wine list) Just before boarding the plane for the trip home, the landing gear collapsed on some American Eagle flight (YIKES!), and we ended up in St. Thomas for one more night, not entirely diappointed, either. We spent the night and had dinner at Hotel 1829, and their amazing wine list featured this legendary C-d-P. It lived up to its reputation completely with immense smoke and spice and provided a fitting send-off from the islands.

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