With apologies to Jeff Cope and my fellow Texas Wine Lover contributing bloggers, my latest adventures with wine were not as a Texas wine lover, but as a wine-loving Texan. My wife Phyllis and I enjoyed the entertainment, food, and wines on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Vision of the Seas as it re-positioned from Galveston to Barcelona, Spain April 19-May 6.
Since six ports of call were intermingled with 11 sea days, we knew that there would be a lot of time to enjoy wine at the various bars and dining rooms on the ship. Thus, we purchased the Deluxe Beverage package that provided unlimited daily glasses of wine up to $12 a glass and nice discounts on bottles of wine. We paid the difference plus 18% gratuity for wine costing more than $12 a glass.
We also purchased a “Wines around the World” tasting class, the “Chef’s Table” experience, five specialty restaurant dinners, and a galley tour with brunch to ensure we had a wide variety of wine choices. Unfortunately, those choices did not include any Texas wines. However, my Texas Wine Lover business card was left with the Cellar Master, Restaurants Manager, Chef’s Table Supervisor, and numerous guests to encourage the inclusion of Texas wines on RCCL cruises that depart from Galveston.
Having taken a dozen cruises on various lines in the past and finding available wines to be “so-so,” I was pleasantly surprised to discover (IMO) better quality wines offered by the glass or bottle on the Vision of the Seas.
During the “Wines around the World” tasting, Cellar Master Christopher noted that the Vision of the Seas had almost 12,000 bottles of wine on board for the 17-day transatlantic cruise. Due to shipping logistics and permit requirements of the different ports of call, he said it took anywhere from 4 to 15 weeks to obtain a particular wine.
Wines we tasted both with and without cheese and fruit at that seminar included Domaine Chandon Brut Classic from California, Chateau D’Aussieres Vin de Pays D’oc Chardonnay from Domaines Barons de Rothschild in France, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, Spy Valley Pinot Noir from New Zealand, and Michael Mondavi’s Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.
The “Chef’s Table” was a four-hour gourmet feast for seven couples featuring wines paired expertly by supervisor Darius with dishes prepared by the Jamaican chef. After a welcoming glass of Domain Chandon Brut and an Amuse–bouche of Scallops Carpaccio, we enjoyed a 2008 Torres Milmanda Chardonnay from Spain with Maine Lobster Salad followed by a 2016 Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley with Smoked Tomato Soup.
A 2014 Attems Pinot Grigio from Italy paired with the Roasted Branzino, and a 2014 “Wine for Sailors” Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County complimented the Grilled Filet Mignon. The best wine of the evening (IMO) was the 2017 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County that accompanied a Truffle Tagliatelle.
White wines we enjoyed in the ship’s dining rooms and bars included Danzante Pinot Grigio, Conundrum White Blend, an unidentified Albariño from Spain, Ipsmiller Gruner Veltliner, Jean Lac-Colombo Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc, and Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.
Dry Rosés imbibed included Jean Luc-Colombo Rosé, Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel, and Anew Rose from Washington state.
Our Red wine choices included Family Castel Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Frescobaldi Toscana Remole, Empress Sissi Weinviertel from Austria, Franciscan Merlot, Clos du Bois Merlot, Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau D’Aussieres Vin de Pays D’oc Cabernet Sauvignon, and Torres Celeste Crianza from Spain.
On the Malaga, Spain port stop tour, we tasted Verdejo, Vicuna, and Rioja wines with tapas at three restaurants. In Alicante, Spain, our ship-based tour traveled to the Casa Sicilia vineyard in Novelda Valley to taste a 2018 white blend of Muscatel, Macabeo, and Malvasia, a 2017 Rosé blend of Monastrell, Merlot, and Syrah, and a 2017 blend of Monastrell, Petit Verdot, and Syrah.
A two-day stay in Barcelona after the cruise enabled us to do a private neighborhood tour of five bars that featured tapas and pinchos (tooth-picked hors d’oeuvres on bread). At each bar we had a glass of wine – a white blend, a Verdejo, a Rioja, an organic red blend, and a Cava.
We traveled to the north of Barcelona on the second tour to the Penedes wine region. The first stop at Oller dl Mas (Potter’s House) included a tour of the property and cellars before sitting down to enjoy a large variety of tapas with a 2017 Macabeo and Malvasia blend, a clay-amphora aged 2017 blend of Garnacha, and a unique 2017 red blend of Picapoll Negre.
Before battling traffic back to Barcelona, our bus of 16 passengers drove through the Montserrat National Park and stopped at Bodegas Ca N’Estella where we again toured cellars and production areas while enjoying three Cava Reservas made from Chardonnay, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo grapes.
Tasting wines from around the world which were made from many of the same grapes being grown successfully and made into good wines in Texas, provided us with a greater appreciation of the strides being made by Texas wineries. Hopefully, future cruisers out of Galveston will be able to draw their own comparisons by finding Texas wines on the cruise lines’ wine lists.