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Glue Food and Red Wine

Monday, January 18, 2016
Vintner Sherlon Campbell...blender of Calmapass Finest.

My name is Sherlon Campbell and I am a winemaker from Mayaro. The word for “winemaker” is really “vintner.” I play for Guaya United in the Super League, the best supported team in Trinidad & Tobago football. I’m the vice-captain and the last stopper. If a goal scores, I get most of the blame.

I tried cricket once but it wasn’t my thing. I hear West Indies had great teams back in the glory days. There was a big batsman...what was his name? Something Richards.

About 11 years ago, a guy from Diego Martin came to Guaya to teach ballroom dancing. My father convince me to take the class. “If you want to show off, learn to dance.” After the third day, I realise I could do this thing good. For about a year to a two-years, the guy was boasting about being the best winemaker in Diego, exporting his wines. So I asked him to teach me. I started with his method and improved it a lot.

My wife, Helya Morris, and I are together six years now. We want children but I’m trying to put things in place so they’ll be comfortable when they reach. In my village, they depend on the oil and gas industry. The next best thing is fishing. Then pull bull on the road or work in a grocery. And that not good for me. I’m 28, but I always had ambition. I learned that from my father. He owns a construction heavy equipment rental company.

Me and my father, Elias Hyndman, come like brothers. You could never tell we are father and son, how we interact. Anybody come home by us, he like to show off my wine. If he go to a big meeting, he carry a bottle of my wine as a gift.

Anybody who know me will tell you I like an old man. I always listening to some kinda Sparrow. I retro like my father.

We don’t grow winemaking grapes in Trinidad so I import from Canada. For the red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot grapes. For the white, either Riesling or Chardonnay.

Blending is one point but (far more important is) understanding wine, and the process of winemaking. I did a lot of research—with the Internet it’s easy now—and got more and more intrigued with wine. How to taste it, how to describe it.

I blend my wines for the Trini palate. Trinis like a sweet beverage and spicy food. So I developed my wine to have a sweet nature to complement spicy food. I pair my white wine with my wife’s roast-fish.

My wife makes a roast fish stuffed with green fig and ochro. We have a name for it. You know Tobago has “blue food”? We call it “glue food”! It sticky. The only side effect is long life and hard muscles in the right places. Sparrow sing a song called, “Salt Fish” but, if he had sing, “Roast Fish,” he wouldn’t be suffering with pressure now!

I work with a four-month production schedule, to have wine right through the year.  It’s a long process, especially the ageing part, and I don’t want to run out of wine!

I blend the imported grapes 80/20 with our local sea grapes, which grow close to the ocean. My wines normally retail at $120. Wholesale price is negotiable.

The best thing about being a Mayaro vintner is sitting down in the background while my wine is served.  And looking at how people react to something I created. That, to me, is priceless. The bad thing is it is time-consuming and a lot, a lot, a lot of work.

Town people say Guaya people living in our own world down there. We have everything we need and, whatever happening outside, to Hell with that! We only come out of Guaya to put some licks on other football teams.

The kind of things I see people getting away with in Guaya, the only way to describe a Trini is to call him a smartman.

Calmapass Village, Guayaguayare, and, by extension, Trinidad and Tobago means everything to me. Hence the reason the name of my wine is Calmapass Finest.

• Read a longer version of this feature on BC Pires’ Facebook page.


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