POBLACION, which is literally town or settlement in Spanish and used as the administrative center or the downtown, is also a district in the Philippines. In Manila, Poblacion in Makati City is now a burgeoning place of streets with fresh new concepts of restaurants and bars, where one can do a pub crawl or a food trip. The streets are small, the residential area becomes alive when the sun sets, as revelers and foodies come to the area to satisfy their cravings. It is also home to a wine shop turned watering hole called Project Vino. As the name implies, this shop is all about vino, or wines, and they do have a lot of it.

We were at the Christmas party at Project Vino, so I got to see that this store is not to be treated as your normal wine store because this vino store is packed to the brim with popular brands, and its own list of exclusive wines only available from their shop. The night was a gathering of Project Vino's owners Steven Ticzon and his partner Rob Martin and their special circle of friends. They welcomed their guests with wines that they exclusively sell. Guests were given a choice to either have white, red or rose wines.

White wine served was Chateau Haut Grelot Blanc, which is made of 90 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 percent Semillon grapes. This is a wine with a straw yellow color, with notes of citrus fruits and plums. A sip starts with a citrusy taste followed by exotic fruits. Floral, with some exotic fruit aromas with a generous weight, roundness and perfect balance, it was to be enjoyed by the guests that evening. It has a round finish and well-integrated acidity. This wine is from the north of the town of Bordeaux, near the Gironde Estuaire. This vineyard has been making wines since 1920.

Some guests chose to have the Rose, which was Chateau La Grave made up of 50 percent Syrah and 50 percent Grenache grape varieties. This brilliant dark salmon color wine is fresh and clean on the nose, with enchanting aromas of currants, raspberries, and blackberries. It is refreshing in the mouth with a very light acidity with splendid ripeness and intensity. Well-structured with a taste of blackberry and raspberry candy, this wine can be enjoyed on its own but is also dry enough to pair with some savory food.

Red wine served was Vina Promesa Reserva made up of 100 percent Tempranillo grape. It is a wine with high intensity with violet reflections, elegantly complex with notes of subtle oak, wood, and tobacco. It has notes of Blackberry and liqueur plum, followed by a hint of caramel candy. It has a very long smooth finish. This wine comes from the Rioja wine region of Spain, deliciously velvety and sophisticated with hints of rich berry fruits.

These three exclusive wines were the perfect accompaniments to some of Project Vino's bites. The shop cum bar serves a sausage duo for P420, a plate of Hungarian and Schublig sausages. The Crochettta Formaggio for P320 is a dish of cheese bites crispy with mozzarella, cheddar oozing out with every bite. The chicharon bulaklak appetizer is another classic alcohol pairing. For something more filling, their homemade mom's spaghetti with beef, tomatoes and special herbs, which is a comfort food from Steven's home kitchen. Their sourdough pizzas come in two flavours – Margherita with fresh basil, and all Meat with sausage, pepperoni, ham and bacon.

Guests took a break from dining and wining, while other guests came out from the secretly hidden dungeon with a door disguised as a plain wall of wine shelves to watch the group Teatro Tao Sa Tao who serenaded the group with their superb rendition of Filipino Christmas Carols, with an encore of Rent the Musical's Seasons of Love, a timely reminder as another year came to a close to make every minute of the 525,600 minutes we have in a year count. As the wall mural inside Project Vino says, wine means liquid happiness. As we approach another year, this is a gentle reminder to be kind, drink and be merry.

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