The beginning of Day 4 started with an early call for departure from the Hale by 7:00am. These early starts to avoid the intensity of the sun serve as another consideration for wine selections, believe it or not. Alcohol sets in fast and hard when you're hot and dehydrated. It doesn't feel really good when you have to wake up at the crack of dawn to fuel and get geared up and land your feet in the van shortly after the sun rises.
Today the plan is to board a beautiful day board and cruise to the Captain Cook monument where the swimmers and their amazing swim guard, Ryan McGuckin, will be dropped in the water for an early morning three mile swim. After being picked up and fed lunch, the boat will move to the Place of Refuge at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park for a bit of a lolly gag swim and aqua portraits by one of the SwimVacation bosses whose photography is seen in nearly every publication dedicated to exploring natural beauty and adventure. The place of refuge was a home base of a sort, where natives who broke one of the ancient laws (kapu) of Hawaiian society could find safety from certain punishment by death. It's just that getting there was a bit of a challenge.
It was in this sacred place that I donned a snorkel and mask and dove into the refreshing waters to take a peak at the treasures down below. The sun was shining and the waters are crystal clear--you literally can see forever. Is it weird that it was in this moment that I affirmed my love of the land? Don't get me wrong, I had no fear. I'm not afraid of the water (just the sharks that potentially lurk below). I love splashing in it and being refreshed by its salty tingle. But what I love most about the ocean is how it interacts with the land. The crashing waves. The color shifting near rocky shores--the rockier the better. The way it shears off the soil to reveal what hides below. For many people, time spent in the deep, cool water is a refuge of its own. A place to feel comfortable and free from the outside world...to separate from the things that divide us and feel uniquely at one with something larger. For me, that's exactly how I feel standing in the middle of a vineyard pulling petioles or clicking secateurs. Refuge.
So its no surprise that I was anxious to get back to the Hale and make preparations for dinner service. I had been looking forward to this meal for a long time. Clare & Dan planned a traditional Hawaiian Luau dinner for tonight: Kalua Pork and Cabbage, Lomi Lomi salmon, Kaui Poi, and curried purple sweet potatoes. The evening began with pupus of Marlin Poke and Ahi Tuna Tartare with Shrimp Chips on the Lanai with a zippy cocktail made with fresh honeydew agua fresca that Clare brought along. Dubbed the "Green Flash" after the sunset phenomenon I have yet to see here, the fluted drink featured vodka and a splash of freshly squeezed lime juice.
I was excuted about the wines for the night. I had hunted down a bottle of the Birichino Malvasia Bianca while in Manhattan a month before and lugged it home to taste it with dinner. I first saw the wine on Kona Wine Market's website but, let's face it, a domestic Malvasia? It had to be tasted before adding it to the short list. And it keeping with my desire to have a red on hand for each meal, I selected the Masi Passo Doble. Everyone is drinking malbec now (still) and I hadn't featured one yet. I liked the Masi because of their use of the ripasso method, utilizing corvina grapes for the second ferment. This should concentrate the fruit and add some depth while softening the tannins through a bit of polymeriation.
Since the Luau dinner ws served family-style, I served the two wines at the same time, side by side. That way everyone could play around with both as they enjoyed all the flavors of this truly Hawaiian meal. After a great introduction to Chef Dan's food by the ebullient Clare who teared up while explaning the significance of poi in Hawaiian culture, I did my little presentation on wines. the Birichino is exciting because firsts and foremost, it smells like Hawaii to me, filled with plumeria blossoms, ripe lychee and those amazing rambutan! It's also intriguing since it comes from own-rooted vines in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, cooled by fog that forms from the upswelling of frigid waters of the Blue Grand Canyon right off the coast. A place where land and sea meet to produce amazing wines! While the incredibly aromatic Malvasia Bianca doesn't necessary make a great sipping wine without the context of food, in the presence of the right textures and flavors it virtually soars. Enjoying this wine with the tender, slow-cooked pork was delicious. It happily stood toe-to-toe with the zing of the lomi lomi salmon. But when it met the rich texture of the purple sweet potatoes and the delicate coconut milk-based curry sauce enveloping each slice...well. It was palate utopia. Both bottles were emptied with the very defined personality of this wine being preferred to the tasty but more user-friendly profile of the Masi. Just goes to show you, when paired with the right food, people can definitely appreciate something outside the box.
Dessert for the evening as well as an anniversary among the group provided the perfect time and place for the Hula o Maui Pineapple Sparkling. I felt it was important to showcase a local product particulary as it was produced in the traditional (champagne) method, right down to six months of lees contact. Wild. With just 12 grams of residual sugar, this wasn't even a sweet sparkler. I turned the traditional six twists of the metal cage and popped the cork with the required near-silent hisssssss. Pineapple. A delicate yet intense aromas of golden pineapple. The growers at Tedeschi Winery harvest these pineapples just before they are fully ripe, to maintain the acidity required to provide that sparkling balance a brut requires. I poured the wine itno each flute and smiled at the tiny and persistent bead that flowed from the bottom of each glass. A toast to the anniversary couple and that first sip. Pineapple flavor much less persistent than the aroma with flavors of white grapefruit pith and lime. A bite of the decadent Macadamia Nut & Caramel Tart and I sat back. This that home for me...that place of refuge. Inside the zen that can happen when land and sea provide the perfect conditions for producing something that can make people happy.
Sleep well. Curried purple potatoes for breakfast.