Today I traveled to the southern part of Puerto Rico in search of the one and only winery on the island: Bodegas Andreu Solé. It was easy enough to find, after we passed the driveway and stumbled upon an adorable hotel two doors down. Trying to be the proverbial "early bird" gets you no where on this journey. The gates stay locked until 1:00 p.m. when the first "tour" was scheduled. We were 20 min early, having driven in from San Juan, and I was eager to get in those gates!
Once inside, it was a bit chaotic for my American sensibilities. Here's the deal: you call ahead and reserve a spot on the tour, which I had. Once there you are seated at your outdoor table on an amazing patio right on the water! So gorgeous. You are asked which of the menu you would like: just the tour and included tasting, the previous plus manchego cheese, or all of it with lunch. This reflects a variation in cost, of course, but a reasonable range at $10-$30 per person. The next part is that you then await the signal from the tour guide and speedily depart in your own vehicle (which you have JUST meticulously parked within their gates) to follow the guide, in a caravan of several cars, to the vineyard. Once there, you will receive a brief presentation about their history and have the chance to take photos. Then we all caravan back to the winery for the real fun: tasting!
Once back, we had a bit more of the tour to see where they ferment and age the wine. It is quite a small space and an amazing feat. They only serve one actual wine that they make themselves: a red blend of merlot, cabernet and tempranillo. It is on the sweet side, which I learned was because they fortify it with brandy. They serve it chilled and it went nicely with the manchego. The rest of the wines are all sangrias and they use wines from other producers to make them. They also have a series of liquors including: coffee, coconut and cilantro! We enjoyed the two former and were not adventurous enough for the latter. The sangrias are passionfruit, white, red and pink. I found the red rather smoky, in a delightful way. I should mention that the sangrias are smooth and contain no actual chunks of fruit, as one may be accustomed. They were all refreshing, especially in the tropical climate.
The grapes themselves apparently do well in the location and climate. The terroir is rich as it was once where sugarcane thrived. The constant sunshine ripens and sweetens the grapes into what our guide referred to as "sugar capsules". This also accounts for the threat of iguanas raiding the vines. Oh the things they worry about in Puerto Rico! On that note, they claim to be the only established winery in the Caribbean, though they have heard that the Dominican Republic is experimenting with growing grapes there. In the interim, it is quite a claim to make.
All in all, it was a lovely visit.