Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Some of my favourite wines come from South America, especially Chile and Argentina, but I had no idea that Guyana had a local winery. Guyana itself doesn't have a very big wine appreciation culture - folks are much more about rum or beer here. They don't even really grow grapes here, so when my friends recommended I check out Pandama Winery, I was surprised to hear that a local winery existed.
Pandama Winery is located off the Soesdyke Linden Highway, approximately an hour from Georgetown, along a rugged dirt path that is only accessible by trucks with four wheel drive. It's run by a friendly Guyanese-American couple named Tracey and Warren (and a few extremely friendly dogs) who not only make wine, but also soap, art, and, on that particular day, absolutely delicious pizza. There were also little lizards running all over the place, beautiful butterflies that would flutter by, and two big gorgeous parrots in the back.
The thing that made Pandama particularly special was its lovely ambience. It's a retreat in addition to a winery, so you can stay overnight in one of their cosy cabins, hanging out at a bushcook at night, and going for a dip in their creek, which has an awesome deck with hammocks (hammocks!). We were just there for the day, but we spent the day lounging on the deck and swimming in the cool refreshing creek.
There were no snakes in the blackwater creek this time either luckily, although we were warned not to bring food down to the creek, because something would eat them. I did not want to know what.
I've been told that once you drink the black water from the creek, you cannot leave Guyana - you always feel compelled to return. I did not drink the black water - had to leave room for wine, I claimed - but I could totally see why people believe it has a magical effect.
And of course, wine tasting. As I had mentioned, grapes don't really grow here, but in a creative twist, Pandama makes wine from a variety of other local plants, including soursop, sorrel, mango, pear, and jamoon. I wasn't sure about it at first, but all of the wine that I tried was surprisingly good. They were definitely on the sweet side, as you might expect, but quite enjoyable.
The one the surprised me the most was a wine that Warren gave me without telling me what it was.
"Which wine is this?" I asked.
"I want you to try it first before I tell you," he answered.
I sipped it, swirling it around my mouth in curiosity. It seemed familiar but I couldn't quite catch what it was made of. It was at the tip of my tongue, so to speak.
"Pear?" I guessed.
"Eggplant," he replied, and went away.
Eggplant! I would never have thought to make wine out of eggplant, but here it was, and quite delicious, actually.
Then there was the pepper wine, made out of hot peppers. Now, I'll tell you that I love spicy food. I'm Korean, so I'm all about the hot things. I have definitely found that hot peppers here in Guyana are quite hot. There have been a few times where I've squirted pepper sauce on my food only to realize that yes, even Koreans have their limits to how much heat and pain they could take.
So now Warren lay down in front of me a pepper wine.
"You have to shoot it," my companion told me. She had tried the pepper wine before.
I looked at her in disbelief. "I'm not going to shoot wine," I said, pretentiously examining the colour of the wine against the white of the table. Then I took a sip and swished it in my mouth, like a fool. I should have taken it in one shot.
I waited for the intense burning in my throat to subside while my companions laughed at me. I have no idea why they even make a wine this spicy. It strikes me as a mean joke to play on guests that you don't like very much. Maybe it might be interesting to use in cooking?
Needless to say, we did not order another bottle of pepper wine. Instead, we chose the sour sop, which we took our time drinking while talking about the things that ladies talk about when they have a ladies day out: makeup and diets and where the Pokestops in Guyana are (if you want to know, the Botanical Gardens, but definitely not at Pandama, since they barely had cell phone reception).