I never was used to pairing my food with wine. Never really appreciated it much. Until now.
After receiving an invitation from Breakfast Magazine to a Wine Appreciation event, I suddenly felt excited. I hated red wine but had a nagging suspicion that it was mainly due to the fact that I wasn't exposed to the different types; hence, never really discovered one that I liked. In a way, this was my opportunity to go on an inebriant adventure without the guilt and with the hopes that I may somehow appreciate these fermented grapes thereafter.
Situated at the R. Joseph compound in Aurora Blvd. near the airport, the Wine Museum is a four-storey building that comes with a restaurant and bar, a museum and gallery, a training center, and a bed and breakfast. It is owned by the Joseph brothers of the Philippine Wine Merchants Inc. Adjacent to it is a branch of Ralph's Wine and Spirit Store, of which they are also the proprietors.
Upon entering, a huge mural of what looked like a dark wine cellar greeted me, and an old grape crusher structure stood on the right. The resto bar, which mainly served Spanish and Colonial cuisine, occupied the ground floor, fairly lit by warm yellowish lights. A long table had been prepared for us, with bottles of wine at the center.
I took a look around while waiting for the others. At the far end of the restaurant was a table covered with books and magazines on wine. Racks of wine bottles were displayed adjacently to a golden batibot chair illuminated by the tall lamp on the corner, while a chiller beside the nook kept some of the best wines in the house.
In a little while, a short presentation about wine -- how it was made, the different kinds, the order of tasting it, etc. -- was given by Jorge Joseph, and the history of The Wine Museum was told to us by John Joseph, Jr. through a tale of rags to riches -- how he started as busboy and worked his way up before opening his own restaurant, and eventually this. Jorge then continued to teach us how to use a simple clean sheet of bond paper to determine a wine's "true" color. Apparently, you can use this trick to check if the succeeding glass of wine being served to you is the same as the first.
We then proceeded with the first wine pairing. A glass of chardonnay was placed in front of us, later on followed by a plate slowly filled with gambas, mushrooms and longaniza. Jorge taught us not to be afraid to sip loudly while inhaling the intoxicating smell of alcohol, to better experience it as a whole. Served chilled, the Chardonnay is redolent of tropical fruits, riding on a gleam of acidity, a hint of freshness in its trail. The Gambas Al Ajillo went perfectly with it, and so did the Mushroom Vinaigrette which boasted of a bold, savory taste. The Sliced Vigan Longaniza had a spicy epilogue which was curbed beautifully by the lightness and subtleness of this white wine.
The second pairing comprises the Sopa de Calabaza, a very nice rendition of pumpkin soup; one that is hearty and quite the opposite of the disappointing lackluster squash soups I keep encountering lately. Also included is the Pescado con Ali Oli, a fish fillet ensconced in a thin batter then fried to a gentle crisp. The succulent fish meat dipped in the canary yellow sauce was good enough until a sip of the Merlot seemed to enhance its flavors. So it's quite true what they say, wines do improve a food's flavor profile. That is if it's the right one, I guess. The Merlot turned out to be my favorite. Its intense aroma wasn't overpowering and it hinted of plums and cherries. I especially like the sweet aftertaste that lingered deliciously in the mouth. Next was the Paella Colonial which had an abundance of ingredients even underneath. I'm not really a fan of paellas but this one was indeed good. Too bad, I didn't get some of the famed tutong.
The third pairing had us tasting a couple of pieces of Mexican Chicken -- quite nice, but admittedly faded into the background when compared with the others -- and some Crispy Toro. At first glance, these huge chunks of meat looked tough and intimidating, albeit when bitten into, it was tender amid the crisp exterior. And oh the sauce, it lent another level of taste to the beef shank which was already rightfully saporous on its own. The Cabernet Sauvignon had a stronger flavor than the Merlot and the scent completely overtakes you. I can almost taste the tannins of which I'm not so fond of as it leaves a quite bitter aftertaste.
The museum on the second floor holds several photos of wines, vineyards, grapes and barrels with information such as what wine is, the different major types of wine, its history, the popular grape varieties, the important factors in wine making as well as the process itself.
Also mounted are information about wine barrels, the types used, its importance and how it is made. Moreover, there's the difference between Old World and New World wines (the simplest way to distinguish the two lies in the bottle -- Old World wines use cork and the New World wines use screw caps), and the countries that produce such. Vintage artifacts used in wine making and wine storage were displayed as well.
The training facility was also set up here, with long tables to accommodate the attendees. The Joseph family organized the R. Joseph Wine Foundation Inc. to help boost the hospitality industry in the country. It collaborates with the Department of Tourism, other Tourism organizations as well as colleges and universities in the Hospitality Management. They don't stop at educating only those undertaking hospitality and tourism courses though, if you're an avid wine lover or even just someone interested to learn about wines, you're more than welcome to join the classes.
On the third and fourth floors were the bedrooms -- simple yet very clean and neat. There were 8 available rooms and the rates go from Php 2,200 for a standard bedroom to Php 3,500 for a suite.
Jorge even showed us this certificate of accreditation as a tourist inn awarded to The Wine Museum.
After touring the whole place, we went down for dessert and our last pairing of the day. Hazelnut Crepes were served ala mode and as I was taking shots of it, I can see the hazelnut syrup melding sensuously with the slowly melting vanilla ice cream. The crepes had the right texture and thickness, none of that too-much-batter taste, while bits of nuts provided that textural contrast to this smooth, saccharine treat. I also loved the Lambrusco Emilia Rosato which had a very light, refreshing taste; I particularly adored the sweetness that surfaced in this sparkling wine.
It was definitely a wonderful experience trying out different types of wine and how they fared with various types of victuals. It was certainly an eye-opener and I was extremely glad I had the opportunity to attend such an event. Getting to know wines left me with the confidence to not be afraid to order one when dining. After all, there is only truth in that it elevates one's dining experience.
The Wine Museum
Spot: 2253 Aurora Boulevard (formerly Tramo Road), Pasay City
Contact Nos.: 853.5894 or 239.4278
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com