A Toast to West Cork

Posted on: 5th May, 2015

Category: The Wine Buff

Contributor: Tony Eklof

When we first moved from Dublin to West Cork just short of three years ago, it did not take us too long to realise all those people waving at us from their cars were doing so out of friendliness not out of recognition!

We chose the area not so much because of its reputation for pretty towns set amongst beautiful seaside country but more from a desire to be closer to our four grandchildren in Inchigeelagh and to play more than a bit part in their lives. We spent six months in Glandore while searching the area and finally choosing Clonakilty, a decision we have many reasons to be happy with.

I find myself asking ‘is this town the friendliest in Ireland?’ To start with the neighbours in our estate, all welcoming and helpful, whether it is Pat who is very ‘handy’ checking out our faulty ballcock in the attic and ‘doing a bit of insulating’ while up there, or John and Elaine bringing back a few bottles of my favourite French wine (Pecharment) from their

Summer holidays, and likewise Sean and Mary with samples from the local winery in the French countryside — there is a sense of community here that I haven’t experienced since leaving my small Cape Cod town to go to university in the city all those years ago. And the sunsets viewed from the Inis Cuain Estate on a summer’s evening are like something from a Turner painting.

We can walk down Desert Hill into Clonakilty where many of the employees of Scally’s and Meadows and Byrne have become friends over the months, and on to one of the two great bookshops. A Dublin friend emailed me recently to say he came across Kerr’s while on holidays and “didn’t realise that good bookshops like that still existed!” And what about O’Neill’s butchers? I wrote to the Food and Wine Magazine about asking about a particular type of sausage not on display at O’Neill’s and being told by Michael “if you have shopping to do you can call back and I will make some for you…” The result was an unexpected case of Macon wine for ‘letter of the month’. I could go on and on, and at the risk of committing the sin of omission, McCarthy’s newsagents, Bluett’s Pharmacy, the iconic Lettercollum Food Project, the toyshop run by the charming young man from France, all are a delight to step into. I love being on first name terms with the postman and traffic warden, these are simple things that have disappeared from city living.

Oh, there are always downsides, the windstorms of two winters ago up on Desert Hill were quite scary and I do wish that those people who let their big dogs out for a run off the lead on the beautiful West Cork beaches would think again. I also wish Cork Airport would get its act together so that we wouldn’t have to drive all the way up the M8 in order to fly to France or Italy.

When my sister and her husband visited from Connecticut in November, we made a few excursions with them to Timoleague, Courtmacsherry, and to the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and had many more planned until they told us “we prefer to stay right around here, walk down to Ring each morning and over to town at noon to stop in at Scannell’s for an excellent lunch and a pint of Beamish.” I think that says it all, Clonakilty and West Cork, I raise a glass (of fine wine of course) to you. Cheers.

Recommendations The best wine I have tasted recently is one of the house wines in Caffe Italiano in Bandon. A lovely scented Chianti, and a steal at €20. Monteguelfo Chianti, 2013.

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