Rum and Vino In PortieSaturday, March 04, 2017
Dylan Coke, gadabout, and occasional lawyer/banker, tells SO all about it...
Serendipity is a beautiful thing. Good fortune is what led a son of Switzerland and a daughter of Jamaica, both living abroad, to meet and eventually marry. And Providence surely is what led that same couple, who had fallen in love with Portland some years before, to discover the beautiful Belmont Villa while casually looking at vacation homes on the Internet. The final stroke of good luck was that, on the day they chose to celebrate their heritage with friends and family by sampling a few premium rums and wines from their homelands, there appeared a single afternoon of perfect sunny weather in a week when it had otherwise rained continuously.
The villa of which we speak sits on 1.8 acres at Alligator Head, a rocky peninsula that overlooks idyllic San San Bay and Pellew Island (aka Monkey Island) to the east, and the rough cliffs of Jamaica’s north shore to the west. It has a long and romantic history. It was built in 1962 — when Portland was a favoured vacation spot for the rich and famous — by the Honourable Hartland de Montarville Molson, a Canadian senator and member of the renowned Molson family of brewers. The villa was named Belmont after their family mansion in Montreal, and Hartland and his wife Magda used it as their winter home for many years. After Hartland’s death in 2002, their beloved vacation home was sold to a prominent Jamaican family that kept the villa for close to a decade.
The current owners acquired Belmont in 2013 and, with the help of Kingston-based architectural firm Atelier Vidal, spent several months renovating and updating it and making it a modern vacation home with a sleek and minimalist yet cosy feel.
Belmont’s new owners, who share a love of fine wine and Jamaican rum, count among their close friends Adrian van Velsen, a leading Swiss wine expert and blogger, and decided that while vacationing they would ask him to host a wine tasting. The husband, who is from Switzerland but is also lover of Jamaican rum, had long expressed a desire to meet the world-famous Joy Spence, Appleton’s master blender and the genius behind many of the fine Jamaican rums he had come to love. Luck intervened again when it turned out that a local friend of the owners, who also happened to be an acquaintance of the master blender, agreed to see if she would visit Belmont and turn the planned wine tasting into a wine and rum tasting.
As a gracious and tireless ambassador for Appleton rums, Spence readily agreed to travel to Portland to do the proposed wine tasting for an audience comprised of the owners’ Swiss and Jamaican friends.
On a gorgeous sun-drenched Tuesday afternoon, with Albert and the Upstanding Mento Band providing live entertainment, Belmont’s Swiss-Jamaican owners demonstrated that, apart from producing great athletes (Bolt and Federer) and visionary artistes (Marley and LeCorbusier), their respective homelands also produce exceptional spirits in the form of fine Swiss wine and delectable Jamaican rum.
The afternoon started with a sampling of five wines from Switzerland: two Pinot Noirs, one from a small town called Malans in the German-speaking area of GraubÃ¼nden (Studach, Pinot Noir, 2012), the other from Geneva (JP Pellegrin, "P", 2009); a Syrah from the French-speaking Canton of Valais (JR Germanier, Cayas, Syrah du Valais Reserve, 2013); and two Merlots from the Italian-speaking area of Ticino (Agriloro, Tenimento dell’Ã r, Merlot Riserva, 2011 and Zanini, Castello Luigi, Rosso del Ticino, 2009). Wine blogger Adrian (www.vvWine.ch) presented an overview of viniculture across Switzerland, the grape varieties that are typical for each of the country’s main wine regions and moderated a tasting of these fine examples of Swiss wines.
Having regaled guests with his knowledge of Swiss vino, Adrian handed over to Spence, who guided guests through the 300- year history of Appleton and described the painstaking process of creating a fine rum; from the selection of sugarcane varieties that are grown on the estate in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country to the distillation and blending methods employed since 1749. Spence, who is the first woman to be appointed master blender of a major rum producer, led the sampling of the Appleton 21-year-old rum, a "minimum age" blend of aged rums matured for at least 21 years; the Appleton rare blend 12-year-old rum, a blend of hand-selected rare, golden rums; as well as Appleton’s Estate Reserve blend and its Estate V/X signature blend.
Steps away from the wine tasting, in the spacious dining room of Belmont Villa, Swiss artist and mural painter Melanie Tauscher of the "MÃ¼ller Tauscher" duo, completed a mural inspired by famous Jamaicans and invoking Bob Marley’s wisdom that some people feel the rain while others just get wet — a fitting theme for a delightful, and serendipitously sunny afternoon in Jamaica’s rainiest parish.