On the Wine Trail

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Currently showing posts tagged pineapple wine

  • There's More to this place than Pineapple

    There's More to this place than Pineapple

    This side trip to Maui was fueled by a desire to really explore a place far from home to which I had journeyed for work. It was also driven by curiosity. Why would a winery producing fruity pineapple wine take the time and make the financial investment to use traditional method to produce their sparkling pineapple elixir? I was also wondering if what I poured at the Luau several nights earlier represented the true character of the "wine". After chatting with retailers on Hawai'i', I learned many distributors used the big island as a final resting place for old, tired vintages. Or perhaps bottles that had been poorly handled. I, myself, had found three bottles that I had to retire and use for cooking rather than toasting during my tenure as the Wahine of Wine. 

    Thus the big, long drive all around Maui, over the slow, bumpy road that car rental houses refused to insure (not entirely true but definitely the urban myth they choose to perpetuate), and through a side of the volcano that revealed long, wide expanses of waving arid land grasses and crooked trees that were reminiscent of Japanaese woodblock prints. It was, simply, breathtaking. I tend to prefer marginal lands--the land of wine. The rough and tumble beauty and comes in areas with not quite enough rain, with soil that lacks in depth and fertility and maybe has more than its fair share of boulders, rocks and craggy ranges. I was at home here, and I didn't want to leave. But a pedal to the metal was needed in order to make it to the town of Ulupalakua, the home of Tedeschi Vineyards/Maui Wine Company. We pulled up to a quaint white, clapboard house with large deep wood-colored totem-like poles scattered throughout the front yard. Large trees and green grasses also signaled that we had rounded the coast to an area sees a bit more rain. Not quite the tropical rainforest of the east coast portion of the adventure this morning, but certainly less arid that the south coast we just left behind. Ulupalakula lies in a cut through north between the western (Mauna Kahalawai) and eastern (Haleakala) volcanoes which together make up the island of Maui. As I walked up, I saw a sign advertising a free tasting of up to three wines. I wasn't really sure I wanted to taste three version of pineapple but I definitely wanted to taste the current release of this methode champenoise pineapple sparkling (I kinda still can't believe this is a real thing). What I found on the "Wine Menu" before me was a bit of a shock. There were two estate wines that I could taste. Wait. Estate? Are you using that term in the same way? Indeed they were. So it seems that actual and real grapes are grown on the island of Maui -- in Kihei just down the road, in fact -- and are vinified for bottling right here. Chenin blanc, viognier and syrah to be precise. I was confused. I know we were at about 2,000 feet but I didn't think it ever became cold enough at that altitude for the grapes to become dormant. So apparently they force the vines into dormancy. Hmm....something new to research. The white was a blend of chenin and viognier and surprisingly, not of the high alcohol, flabby variety found in some west coast locations. Honestly, it wasn't bad. The floral aromas definitely dominated the aroma profile for me--smelled like the lei that decorated my neck my first night on the island. But the distinctly ashy quality in the mid-palate kind of obscured the fruit for me. Very sense of place though and I wouldn't turn it down. The syrah, on the other hand, was downright impressive. Filled with rich ripe berries, a hint of camphor and fresh ground white pepper this wine was fruity and savory all at the same time, balanced with minerality from the basalt dominated soils (hello Mt. Etna!). The woman in charge of the bottles in the tasting room was extremely generous when she sense my enthusiasm and poured me one extra wine in my flight--the Lokelani Hawaiian Sparkling Rosé. This wine was a blend but used some grape juice from off the island so couldn't be estate. It was delicate with a lovely floral aroma and fruity palate with citrus and black cherry, hints of almonds and really nice perlage and mouthfeel. Even at $28 per bottle, I'd definitely drink that one again. And again. My little Hula o'Maui Pineapple Sparkling? Well, in fact, I had indeed sampled and served an older vintage. The label was completely different on the bottle before me. But despite a change of winemaker since my bottle was produced and extended time on the lees (eight months), it didn't make too much difference. It was still as I described it before. A great pour for a Luau or Hawaiian-themed evening--not sweet and such a curiosity with its traditional method. But for $24.00 bottle, I think I'd opt for a bottle of Prosecco DOCG instead. Sorry little Hula girl...but thanks just the same! You inspired me to get here and explore the island in 360. And who knew.....wine-worthy grapes growing in Maui?! I wonder how much land here costs?

  • Take Refuge

    Take Refuge

    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.