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Flashback Friday: Inviting Imbibements

I swear I don't have a drinking problem, although people who only know me through social media could be forgiven for drawing that conclusion. I have posted A LOT of photos of boozy beverages. I couldn't count the number of distilleries, wineries, and breweries I have toured and sampled. I am developing real knowledge about the regions and taste differences. I have true preferences.

I have often enjoyed an afternoon aperitif on my journeys. Depending on the location and time of year, this could be a glass of wine or a pretty cocktail. Red wine is my preferred beverage but in hot climates, my afternoon drinks are more likely to be light sparkling wines or fruity concoctions. It is very common to be provided some simple snacks along with an afternoon drink. After spending a day doing whatever activity, and walking tens of thousands of steps, a late afternoon wine break is one of my favourite indulgences while travelling.

Late afternoon is prime people-watching time. This is the transition time between daytime activities and evening activities. Locals may be heading home after leaving work. Perhaps they are meeting a friend. Youth and children are out of school. People are browsing the markets while considering their dinnertime choices. Late afternoon is a casual time in most establishments and allows for a chat with staff and other patrons. I often use the time (and free WIFI) to journal or read a book. The drink is often a prop providing a reason to linger or provide a shield for my people-watching.

Tours of distilleries developed my palate and my ability to recognize taste differences between processes, and materials. I've learned to appreciate the skillful versus lower quality blends. My visits to Irish and Scottish distilleries were truly enlightening. I had grown up thinking all whisk(e)y tasted like licking charred firewood. I have since learned that I truly enjoy a lighter non-peated Islay Irish.

A nightcap of Jameson's should be cherished when sleeping in an Irish castle, don't you think?

I was fascinated to compare the whisky distilling process to the process used to distill pisco in Perú. Pisco is a form of brandy popular in South America. Tourists are told that the Pisco Sour is the National Drink of Perú. The South American distilling process is smaller and less automated. At this co-op there are no shiny stills or computer-controlled gauges. The clay pots are all hand-made and are lined up outdoors under a shade cover for the distilling duration. I really wanted to bring one of those pots home...

When in Porto, port wine tours may go deep into the cool caves offering welcome relief from summer heat. Tours can last from 30 minutes to full-day experiences. The tours offer generous tastes of each grade and colour of the highly alcoholic fortified sweet wine. For me, port is best enjoyed after a meal, preferably with some strong cheese.

Winery visits, I admit, have been a lot less about learning and a lot more about the sampling. When visiting a wine region, I prefer to do tastings, moving from one winery to the next. (note: when touring multiple wineries, please don't drive) When I find a particularly nice patio, I may park myself for a while.

In Santorini, completely by accident, ATB#1 and I found SantoWines, a wine co-operative of all the local cultivators. The huge patio was perched on the edge of the volcanic caldera, overlooking the Aegean. We chose the biggest sampler collection ever seen for our slow afternoon. This organization and Wine Tourism Center could include dining with wine pairing in their higher end restaurant. We were able to savour plenty of outstanding foods, as recommended by our charming sommelier. We did have a bit of a fuzzy bus ride back to our lodgings.

We had a great time exploring the Rioja wine region in Spain. We arrived in Haro via train about 10 o'clock in the morning and walked to the first of several historic wineries in the traditional Barrio de la Estacion area. We were particularly impressed with the Cvne winery and wines.

We decided to take a tour of their facilities which included a tour through the storage caves where special bottles are stored. This is not recommended for travellers with respiratory issues as the mould is very thick. We were shown a locked door behind which was stored a supply of a very special vintage preferred by King Felipe IV, and served at special state events.

Our favourite was a premium wine not available for export. It was our first winery of the day and we didn't want to carry multiple bottles of wine, so we carefully noted their closing time to return to pick up wine before returning to the train station. We were devastated when we returned 15 minutes prior to the posted closing to find it locked up tight without a soul in sight.

Canadian wines are improving in quality and reputation with some very celebrated vintages, especially in the primary wine regions of British Columbia's Okanagan and Ontario's Niagara Peninsula. Both areas have wineries clustered together encouraging walking or bicycling between individual facilities.

BC's Okanagan wine region is about a 5 hour hour drive from Vancouver, in good summer conditions. There are four official wine sub-regions within this area. The unique microclimate in this area includes very dry hot days with cool nights. Wineries have built facilities to entice visitors. I've enjoyed day trips with friends when visiting the area. Wineries are generally in the hills surrounding the lake with smaller patios and amazing views. Wineries are a little further spread apart so having a designated or hired driver is recommended.

The Niagara On The Lake stretch of Ontario wineries provides walking paths from one winery to the next. Architecture ranges from the castle-like Chateau des Charmes to the modern Wayne Gretzky Estates.

I have yet to leave this area without purchasing multiple bottles of wine.

A developing taste for me is all things beer and cider-related. Beer and Cider just works better in some settings and contexts. I'm tasting and learning about specific ales, pilsners, stouts, and lagers. I have discovered that I quite enjoy tart ciders. I doubt I will ever develop a true appreciation but I have found several types of each that I thoroughly enjoy.

Whether enjoying a sample flight after a tour or stopping at a sidewalk café in the late afternoon, responsibly enjoying a local adult beverage is part of my travel experience. Ordering a fermented, distilled, or brewed beverage gives me an excuse to slow down and reflect on my day. I look forward to taking a break in the late afternoon and making a slow transition to my evening activities.

It's a great time to indulge in people-watching or to do some journaling. By chatting to servers and other patrons, I can often solicit excellent recommendations for an evening meal... and has led to more than a few facebook posts with the comment "oh look, I'm drinking again..."


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