When Los Tres Hermanos Hall are in town, a couple of things are guaranteed. There’ll be a lot of wrists flicked dealing out poker hands. There’ll be a lot of elbows bent lifting glasses.
I’d been trying to get all three of the brothers, Doug, Don and Dave (aka Shemp, Larry and Moe…you can have one guess who Curly is), together in San Miguel all at one time for years and, this week, it finally happened (“Yes, of course there’ll be a daily hold ’em tourney” was the clincher). Not that I ever need much of a reason, but it was a great opportunity to go out and buy a box of some of the world’s best wines. I cleared it with the Halls and they were “all in”.
The world’s best wines on a government pension budget, you’re thinking. Yes, it can be done. Great wine is available in San Miguel for less than ten bucks a bottle. If you know what you’re looking for and know where to look.
The World Wine Awards are held every year in, of all places, a country almost as less renowned for good wine than Mexico. I’m talking about Canada. I think the awards are better than any other in the world. Not because I’m a Canadian. But because the World Wine Awards have a little fine print that goes with their eligibility. To compete, a bottle must be priced at less than $50 Canadian. Which is about $650 Mexican. Which means quite a few of the winners also made it under my $300 peso ceiling.
Over five days, the judges tasted almost 1000 wines and selected gold, silver and bronze winners in 22 different categories. This week, I printed a list of the top reds and off I went with the Hall brothers to see what we could find in San Miguel. We found three. All in one place. And if you know San Miguel, you probably know that place was La Europea.
It wasn’t easy. Because despite my twelve years of constant bitching, the store still doesn’t get that wines need to be sorted by country, grape or price. I don’t care which one of the three but, please, just one, just once.
After at least 15 minutes longer than it should have taken, we found three of the Gold winners, one from Italy, one from Spain and one from Chile. I’ll tell you first about the one from Chile.
I’ve probably drunk as much wine with the words Santa Rita on the label as I’ve drunk with any two words on the label. And this year, the winery scored in one of the toughest of all categories, the grape that I once heard someone say was “the only one I’d give up marijuana for”. I’m talking about Cabernet Sauvignon.
Santa Rita 2010 Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon has all of the classic aromas and tastes of a cab. There’s blackcurrants, blackberries, figs and tobacco. The wine spent 14 months in oak. It took a lot less time than that to make it my new top choice of cabs in town. It’s priced at $259 a bottle.
Next up was the winner from Spain. It’s from a winery I’ve written about a lot and as recently as last year. It’s been my “go to” Rioja for many more years than that. It’s Campo Viejo. And it wasn’t the Reserva or Gran Reserva that won the World Wine Award, it was the bottom of the line Crianza, priced at a rock bottom $155 at La Europea.
We paired the Campo Viejo 2013 Tempranillo with a verdolaga, leek and poblano soup and then prime rib, on baguettes from Cumpanio, with a beef dip that Don Day’s Wife had made from marrow bones. Call it a marriage made in heaven.
The Hall brothers were shocked at the next World Wine Award winner.
“Can’t believe the price”, said Don.
“Very smooth and lots of fruit”, said Dave.
“Can I get this in Canada?”, said Doug.
The wine they were talking about was the under ten buck one, the one from Italy. The Citra 2014 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This wine from the Abruzzi region never sees oak barrels, resulting in a fresh and fruity red that’s still hearty enough to work with a red sauce. You’ll find it on La Europea’s shelves (though I guarantee it won’t be easy) for $133.
After many hours of getting cards in the air, Los Tres Hermanos Hall are now in the air, heading back to their homes. Their biceps and triceps now finely tuned after so much poker playing and wine quaffing. What a joy to share three world class wines with three world class guys.
La Europea is located at Canal #13 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.