Let’s call it the closest I have ever come to Prohibition, and let’s also call it bullshit, shenanigans and downright greedy.
If you’re related to me, you know something most of my friends don’t know, and that is, at my core, I am deeply committed to rule-following. It’s something I hate about myself but also something I have to work hard to escape. A lot of life is embracing yourself as you are, but in other cases, you realize there are things that just need to be changed. This is where it lands for me.
It started with arriving in tropical splendor (Isla Mujeres), and all of the problems that brings with it, i.e. you find yourself staying at this so-called rad hostel that presents you with a list of rules, #7 of 10 being that alcohol from outside of the hostel is PROHIBITED. Naturally my eyes caught the bold letters and I had to ask if they really meant that or if it were simply on the sheet in bold letters as a test of everyone’s good humor. Nope this was the real effing deal.
I felt defeated. Which was a state to which I had already been traveling following 7.5 hours on a Mexican second class bus (never again). Here I was in what was supposed to be paradise and I’m being told, “No juice”? No way. And I soon find it is just one of many injustices I will be made to endure during my four night stay here in “paradise.” All this fun comes at a price, you know. And if you aren’t paying for it in green, they’ll get you some other way. There really is no free lunch.
But just when I felt my little rule-following, straight-shooter, buttoned-up, second-grader self starting to cower a little, I found myself matched up with a real no-nonsense-F-that-S kind of broad that changed my tune. She was a flight attendant and let me tell you, those girls know all the tricks.
“You drinkin’ somethin’?” she asked (Southern accent and all).
“They don’t allow you to bring in wine,” I whined.
“What? That’s crap. I saw some other guys bringing their own beer to the beach.”
“I think you can bring it to the beach, just not to the hostel.”
“Yeah, well, um, do you have a backpack or a bag or something that can carry something else?”
“So get out there and get yourself a bottle. Go. Now. You’ve had a long day and you deserve it.”
“I don’t have a corkscrew,” I mewed, ashamed that I had three shades of lipstick with me, none of which have I have ever thought to apply, but I left the house without my most important tool.
“I do,” she said. “Never leave home without it. I’ll set it out for you because I might go to bed.”
I loved this woman.
I went out walking, but by that late hour of 10:30pm everything on this one-horse island was shut down. But Sharon had strengthened my resolve. Why should I be pushed around by a hostel that simply wanted to put more money in their pockets by selling their own swill and not allowing the populace to democratically select their own adult beverage of choice? Nonsense! This is tyranny!
So the next day, I set off on a two or so mile walk to the island’s main grocery store, which I was delighted to find had a respectable selection of wines from all over the world. But in the spirit of revolution, I chose a Mexican wine—Misión 11. I bought that wine. I bought a wedge of cheese. And I bought a bottle of some interesting-looking, hippie-ish black tea drink.
Why the black tea drink? Well, because it was housed in glass (the only proper receptacle out of which wine should be drunk, though ceramic will pass in a very, very desperate and tight pinch) and because it is naturally dark in color, which seemed like it might make a good disguise for the vino, because at this time I am being whisked straight back to my early college days and still worried about being caught.
I hid both in my beach bag under my towel. Yes, it takes a little planning to be a rampant-badass-evil-doer-rule-breaker. I figure, what’s the worst they can do to me? Kick me off the island? At their baddest, they can make me leave the hostel without my $10 deposit. I’d be pissed about it, but it wouldn’t break me. And it would have been worth it because I had the choice opportunity to give the middle finger to the Establishment—hipster and wannabe-chill as it was.
I have to hand it to this crap hostel, however, there is live music every night and I think with each year of my life I am coming into a greater love and appreciation of such sweet and simple pleasures. Especially bands playing Buena Vista Social Club as this one is now. “Chan Chan” in the Caribbean with the winds blowing off the water? Really? And with a glass-drink-bottle of reasonably priced Mexican wine? Ah, yes, now we’re getting there. Now this is the business.
Let’s talk about this wine, because cheap and seemingly forgettable as it is, it’s actually worth a talk about. Santo Tomas, a Mexican producer in Baja California, produces it and it is, coincidentally, their least expensive label but, I dare say, one of their better. “Better” because I haven’t tried their high-end stuff, but surely superior to their mid-priced wines which went the way of the drain some weeks ago when I found it not just “not great,” but actually undrinkable, which before this trip was such a unicorn, but on this trip has been all too sadly common, causing me to entitle this current adventure “Two Months of Very Bad Wine.” One would have thought, by this time, I would have given up and pledged my loyalties to tequila.
It’s not perfect. Like the land from which it’s born, it’s a little wild west and twisted, each sip unpredictable and angular. There are rough edges, abrasion, and the sense that at any moment this is going to totally collapse; this wine is with you for the moment, but you suspect it’s soon on its way out. It will not make it 24 hours. It isn’t easy to drink, it isn’t even smooth, but it is not without it’s charms, and it’s charms go beyond the simple fact that it is wine and I am drinking it.
Not that anyone cares about tasting notes, but somewhere in there is oak, cardamom and pretty bitter chocolate with an acidity that gives it a pleasing levity. The wine has life, it’s just something of an animal we’re not used to–like a Gila monster. This is part of what I like about the Mexican wines, but also what makes buying them such a crap shoot. However, this wasn’t entirely a shot in the dark, I’d had this wine a few weeks ago, and at somewhere around $6 per bottle, it was worth a revisit.
It’s a Carignan-Tempranillo blend, which I think is generally wise. The wine is also low alcohol which, of course, is always wise, weighing in around 13%. Everyone wants the standards like Cab and Merlot, but these wines tend to get too big in Baja, and big, at least in my experience, often tends to mean salty (yes, really) and absolutely heinous. Undrinkable. I would take lighter, lower ABV and less saline, any day. Not that easy to come by if you are committed to a broad sampling of the Mexican fruit of the vine.
Misión 11 is not perfect—don’t think it is. It’s that dysfunctional friend that makes you a little uncomfortable, but that you don’t mind spending the evening with, especially when there is absolutely nothing better to do. And in the end, you find, you enjoyed it all very much.