By Simon Roberts

Graileys was recently invited to attend a wonderful evening of wine and food in Cozumel, Mexico. One of our members Mauricio Moreno is also a member of the Cozumel chapter of the La Confrerie de la Chaines des Rotisseurs. We gathered in a restaurant called Pancho’s Backyard situated right on Cozumel’s promenade. We were greeted by Pancho himself and Gustavo Ortega, the ex-Mayor of Cozumel. Gustavo has bowed out of politics and stepped right into the wine business without nary missing a beat. His winery, El Cielo, is in the up-and-coming region of Guadalupe Valley. Gustavo is a passionate guy and it shines through in his wines. A crisp Chardonnay named Capriconius was popped open first. This was the perfect aperitif to get the dinner started. The Nebbiolo-Sangiovese blend named Pursues was tasted next. This interesting cuvee was slightly disjointed at first but with air, it opened up to reveal a broader, more complete wine.

When we sat down for dinner, we poured  Gustavo’s 2011 Capricornius, a Cabernet-Merlot blend, followed by his most interesting wine of the night, a Tempranillo-Grenache blend called Orion. Orion’s unique blend worked for my palate and was superbly matched to the perfectly cooked seared duck.  The food pairings that night were hitting all the right notes and were very well received by the group. I was glad to be part of this night of wine, food and new friends.  Glorious, cool breeze was blowing through the patio and I’m in a great mood. I highly recommend Pacho’s Backyard if you’re ever in Cozumel.

In true Graileys fashion, we also brought a few of our own wines to share amongst the esteemed guests. I was sat next to a very interesting couple, Guido and Trina. They are proper oenophiles who know their wines. They were captivating; they regaled us with stories of their serendipitous meeting in London on the tube in the 1950s. Along with Mauricio, another Graileys member who made the trip was Tom Hellman.

As we talked shop, we sipped on 2009  Nicolas Rossignol Pommard Le Fremiers that was drinking like a champ with its bold and spicy flavors; this was a very attractive young pinot. This vintage showed some oak undertones but they were nicely integrated and extremely pleasing. With the wine flowing and our dinner guests relaxing, Guido shares more stories. He hails from Switzerland and moved to London in the fifties where he worked as a chef in the prestigious Savoy hotel. Next up, from the Graileys stash, was a perfect bottle of 1997 Tenuta Del Ornellaia. Guido raised his bushy eyebrows as he tasted this wine blind. Tom and Mauricio both went straight to Bordeaux on this one; full-on cedar, underbrush, and tobacco were shooting from the glass. The mouthfeel was pure velvet and no harsh edges. This was a great glass of wine that was the perfect complement to the great company we had that night.

Guido owns one of the best restaurants in town. We spent a long Sunday afternoon with him tasting through his menu and sipping on more Graileys treasures including a 1969 Remoissenet Nuits St George that was smoking and a perfect bottle of 1999 Dujac Clos St Denis that defies any descriptors. Suffice it to say it was a perfect marriage to Guido’s signature lasagna dish.

I think we will be visiting this island again and very soon. I see another Graileys tasting looming on the horizon.