Many perhaps could easily identify the typeface used in the signage of Planet Grapes, a wine bar that recently opened its doors at the new wing at the Ayala Center in Cebu.
Whether it is in fact a tongue-in-cheek homage to that movie or not, Planet Grapes assures the public that they are not aping around when it comes to wines. They are here to provide Cebuanos a truly memorable wine experience, sans the drama or pretense that usually comes along with it.
I realized that when I came in un-fashionably late for a media invite they organized not too long ago. Thankfully, I still found myself an empty stool at the back. At that time, I was admittedly more intimidated by the crowd who came dressed rather appropriately for the occasion, than the restaurant’s upscale yet surprisingly casual ambience.
Displayed on its walls are interesting selections of wines, which was what I came there for. But what do I know about wines in the first place? – I found myself asking this again as I browsed over our tasting menu. Wine to me is like cheese, anime and the latest EDM. I know a thing or two about these, but that’s just about it.
Our evening started with three whites – a Sauvignon Blanc (Nuevo Mundo 2011), a Chardonnay (L’escargot 2011) and a Riesling (Joel Gott 2011). In this batch, I found the taste of the Chardonnay closer to my liking with its creamy notes and nice balance of flavors. It paired well with the danggit, the isaw and that utterly delicious fried oyster mushroom.
Since I was seated far from the stage, I had to ask Luke, one of their busy waitstaffs, regarding the taste differences of each glass. He babbled a simplified explanation, of which I could still remember him adding that “the Riesling is the nerd, one that’s misunderstood and always left-out from the crowd.”
This I think then is one of Planet Grapes’ strongest suit – that they have crews who are not only knowledgeable with wines but also able to explain that into everyday terms we all could understand.
Next up was the red plate – BBQ Pork Spare Ribs, Rib-eye Steak, BBQ Garlic Chicken Wings, Penne Putanesca, Salted Egg Rice and Beef Tapa. This ensemble came with exquisite red wines – a Pinot Noir (Ventura 2011), a Merlot (Cartlidge & Brown Merlot 2009) and a Cabernet Sauvignon (Nuevo Mundo 2011).
“How should we go about this?” I managed to stop Luke again on his tracks. He then recommended that we start with the lightest, the Pinot Noir in this case, until we end up with the Cabernet Sauvignon. The latter in particular, with its darker and fuller flavor, was the clear standout for me. It paired well with the fall-off-the-bone spare ribs.
And just before we could even protest, the final course was served – an assortment of desserts which included a bite-sized turon, a classic Filipino snack but with a welcome gourmet twist.
I wanted more of it, including a refill of the Crane Lake Gewurztraminer 2011 which incredibly complemented the durian and the banana creme brulees. I was informed that they ran out of this wine already. I took that as a sign of some sort, that I should not spoil a perfect evening with way too much wine than I could possibly handle.
Before I left the place, I dropped by the Enomatic, a state-of-the-art wine vending machine. Planet Grapes has ‘prepaid cards’ that would allow one to try different wines at flexible portions – a sip, half glass or full glass. It’s something that I’d definitely try in my return.
So did I become a snobbish wine connoisseur or an expert sommelier after 7 different glasses? Far from it of course. But it was an extremely satisfying learning experience, something that I’d like to do again in the company of friends, especially on a perfectly lazy Saturday night.
Because at Planet Grapes, I am assured that even if we come in our favorite pair of jeans and worn-out sneakers, we’ll still enjoy the wine, the food pairings and everything in between.
That being said, Planet Grapes will definitely refine and redefine Cebu’s watering hole scene.