MWWC 36: Environment

Life is funny.   Recently, I went back home to Texas for a visit, which conveniently coincided with Jeff (having won last month’s challenge) setting this month’s challenge as Environment.  Hailing from the Texas Hill Country Appellation, I mentally began creating bullet points about the environment of the Texas Hill Country Appellation and which wineries I was going to feature–debating if I should focus on one or several.  While I was at home, I did quite a bit of tasting in preparation for this wine writing challenge (I’m thorough like that).  Although ironically most of what I was tasting were Hill Country wineries using grapes from the Texas High Plains vineyards, but I digress.

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Then it happened.  After departing Texas, I went back to NYC via an extended stopover in Minnesota.  On Day 2, April took me to a little town on the St. Croix river called Stillwater.  We were there for the tacos (that’s a story for another time)–but after lunch we wandered down the main street of the town, poking around the boutique shops in search of a brewery/winery/distillery (Stillwater has some of each and long ago, April learned long ago that a happy Shez is a Shez plied with alcohol and coffee and food).  We saw the Northern Vineyards Winery and headed inside.

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They offered tastings and, well, why not?!?  I figured it would be great feature for a future-topic-not-yet-determined MWWC and then the tasting began.  I was introduced to 3 new grape varietals, which I had never heard of before and upon asking about them I was told that they were developed by the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!).

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Well shit.  Of course, after hearing that I realized that what better way to incorporate ENVIRONMENT into my wine writing like discussing grapes developed specifically for growing in a particular region.  Since I was only on my second taste, I knew it had to be fate rather than the alcohol talking.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the following grapes developed by and/or with the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!):

  • Frontenac (red/rosé)
  • Frontenac Gris (white)
  • Marquette (red)
  • Edelweiss (white)

Northern Vineyards uses all of these grapes and other varietals, like Le Crosse and St. Croix, which were developed to withstand the hearty Minnesota (read: cold) environment, basically “varieties adapted to severe winters and short growing season are chosen.”  For all the grape varietals suited for growing in Minnesota, visit the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) Fruit Research website.

And now on to some tasting notes.

The first thing I sampled was the Prairie Smoke, made with La Crosse grapes.  I’m not a big fan of fumés in general, however, this one was light and fairly crisp for a fumé. In addition to the smokey nose, there were also ginger and hints of grapefruit.

Probably one of my favorites that I tasted was the Main Street Rosé.  A dry, crisp blend of La Crosse and Frontenac grapes.  This wine is very fruit forward with lingering strawberry both in the finish and on the nose.

They also have a semi-sweet blush, Lady Slipper, made with Frontenac Gris grapes.  Before tasting I was worried I had just been poured something akin to Strawberry Hill, however, the Lady Slipper was medium bodied and not overly sweet which I think would pair nicely with a cheese & fruit plate.

Of the reds I tried, I think the Downtown Red was my favorite.  A blend of Frontenac and Marquette, it was smooth.  It had a hint of blackberry and white pepper on the finish and reminded me of a light cabernet sauvignon.

I have to confess I was surprised not to find a dessert wine offered–I would think that the early frosts would lend itself to naturally sweeter wines, alas Northern Vineyards did not offer any.

It was a fun tasting–our hostess seemed to have a good handle on the wine grapes of Minnesota, I got to taste some varietals I had never even heard of before, and learn more about wine!

So much emphasis is placed on the environment in which grapes grow–and for good reason, terroir is one of the most important factors in the world of wine. We often talk about how this region or that region is perfect for growing grapes, but what about the areas that are not?  Hybrid and indigenious varietals catering to the less than perfect environment–be it Frontenac in Minnesota, Black Spanish in Texas, or even Roobernet in South Africa– seem to be the solution for sustainable grape growth and wine production.

Now if only one could be developed for the environs of a New York City window sill…

Cheers!

Thirsty Thursday Luau Edition

In trying to find pictures for Throwback Thursday, I realized I have a lot of pictures of adult beverages (that is said with pride, by the way!). As such, I’ve decided that rather than share pictures of me with bad 80s hair and glasses that legitimately covered half my face, I could easily share glasses of a much tastier kind. So without further ado, I present to you: Thirsty Thursday!

You cannot go to Hawaii and not go to a Luau.  Even if you don’t like pork or BBQ or don’t eat [insert random item here]. YOU’RE IN HAWAII–GO TO A LUAU!

We went to the Smith’s Garden Luau on Kauai–I can’t remember exactly why we picked that one, other than the fact that the Smith Family also conveniently ran the boat tours to the Fern Grotto.

It was very much a touristy place and the luau accommodated a large number of people, but it was such a fun evening: the after dinner show was entertaining, the pork was AMAZING!, and the drinks were flowing–especially the mai tais!

Plus we got big chunks of pineapple in our Mai Tais….how can you go wrong with that?!?!

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We laughed. A lot. We got lei’d.  We saw hula dancing.  We learned how to hula dance (much easier after a few Mai Tais, btw!).  And there was a plethora of food items from which to choose (I mean, you know how I am about food!).  Also, if I didn’t already mention it–the Kalua pig was divine!  I may have gone back for thirds.  We were good little tourists and tried the poi–it was interesting, I’m so glad we tried it…but THE PORK! I’m drooling just thinking about it!

Yes, it was touristy and there were a lot of people–but it was such a great way to spend an evening.  Here are a just few more pictures:

Aloha!

Around-ish The Island

As previously mentioned, our last day we decided to put some miles on the rental car and see where the open road would take us.

Not this open road.

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But the one that follows this map (courtesy of Lonely Planet!):

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We started in Poipu (southern most tip)–as that’s where we stayed.  We drove to Lihue and then took the 56 (Kuhio Hwy) along the eastern and northern coasts as far as the road would take us.  Also since I have the map here, if you were wanting a visual for our snorkeling/boat trip: we departed from Hanapepe westward bound for the Nā Pali Coast–so I wasn’t exaggerating when I said we pretty much circumnavigated the island!

Cartography aside, if you find yourself in Kauai (highly recommended)–then you should carve out a good chuck of time to make this scenic drive along the Kuhio Hwy.  Estimated drive time from Poipu was about 3 hours roundtrip–more if you want to stop and take a shit-ton of pictures…which we did.

And of course, you need to allow yourself even more time if you want to tour the Kilauea lighthouse or snorkel along the way….which we did not.

Not that we didn’t want to but we were flying to the mainland that evening, so our first priority was to make sure that we had given ourselves enough driving/ogling/eating/drinking time to get all the way to the end of the road and back to the airport before our flight departed without us!

For the majority of our trip, the view on our east side was essentially something like this:

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Meanwhile, our western view was almost a 180°:

We soon found ourselves literally at the end of the road and had to make a u-turn (as demonstrated by the red truck below!).

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Okay, so “soon” is a relative term–the scenic views and frequent photo stops made the trip seem a lot shorter than it was (although, I wasn’t driving so perhaps Tracy has a different opinion about “soon”).

Of course, I know the real reason you’re here–the photos!  Obligingly, I have a small sampling of a mere 197 photos from our drive.  Kidding…just…kidding… 😉

Aloha!

 

Thirsty Thursday To A Tea…

In trying to find pictures for Throwback Thursday, I realized I have a lot of pictures of adult beverages (that is said with pride, by the way!). As such, I’ve decided that rather than share pictures of me with bad 80s hair and glasses that legitimately covered half my face, I could easily share glasses of a much tastier kind. So without further ado, I present to you: Thirsty Thursday!

On our last day in Kauai, we decided to take a drive–all the way around the island.  Well, as far as the road would let us go (although–we did see the parts we couldn’t drive to by boat, so technically I’d say we made it completely around the island!).

As usually happens in a road trip, we reached a point where we were eager to stretch our legs.  Conveniently, we found a roadside drink truck advertising pineapple tea.  How does one say no to pineapple tea in Hawaii? One does not. 


It was definitely a refreshing & tasty reason to get out of the car!

Aloha!

Third Time’s A Charm!

Despite my first two ill fated attempts at snorkeling, I was willing to try again.  I figured if there was anywhere in the world where I might have a good snorkeling experience, it was Hawaii.

Just FYI:  if you’re searching for snorkeling in Hawaii, there are a plethora of options.  We chose one that included more than just a boat ride to the snorkeling spot and back.  Instead, it included a boat trip up to the Nā Pali Coast.  April wasn’t interested in the snorkeling–just the boat ride, but promised to take lots of pictures of any shark attacks us snorkeling.

This extended tour was definitely the right decision!

The snorkeling was fun.  I saw lots of fish, I didn’t have a panic attack, and I missed seeing the shark Christi saw.  YAY me!

After snorkeling, we continued north up along the western coast. Along the way, we were joined by a curious tortoise and later by a pod of dolphins, who swam along with and played around the boat for quite awhile.

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As the boat sped along, we were treated with some of the most spectacular coastline views of the famed Nā Pali Coast.  As I mentioned before, some of the cliffs are over 2500ft high!


All too soon, it was time to turn around and head back–giving us one last good look at the coast on one side and the expanse of nothingness on the other.

 


It was a great excursion and I highly recommend that if you’re going to take a snorkeling tour, opt for one that includes a bit of sightseeing around the island–it does take up a bigger chunk of your day, but trust me, you won’t regret it.

Aloha!

Watch Me Whip…

…just don’t feed the nēnēs!


Yeah, I know it’s corny–but I have approximately 12 minutes to post something, I’m not even home yet, and my brain is a bit fried. Plus, every time I see this sign that song gets stuck in my head….

But since I’m also feeling the need to be educational: the nēnē is the state bird of Hawaii and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, is found exclusively on the islands Oahu, Maui, Kauaʻi, Molokai, and Hawaiʻi. In case you’re wondering, we discovered these on Kauai:


Aloha!

Shipwreck…

It wouldn’t be a Hawaiian vacation if you didn’t spend at least a little time at the beach.  We debated about when/where we wanted our beach day to be (aside from our quick trips to the Black and Green sand beaches).  Ultimately, we decided that it might be a nice break towards the end of the trip to have a few less packed, more relaxing days–so we opted for Kauai and we found a beach not far from where we were staying.

Shipwreck Beach.

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It is in Poipu and (according to the Poipu Beach Resort Association) “during most of the year, the waters here are best for advanced surfers due to a short shore-break.”

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I have to admit waves were a little rough.  Being neither surfers nor advanced surfers, Tracy and I instead tried a little bodyboarding.  The results varied, but mostly ended up in laughter (well, on my part–Tracy was far more adept at it!)

Picturesque and not crowded, it was a great place to kick back and relax for awhile. While it may not look like it, it’s pretty steep from the back of the beach to the water–so our legs got quite the workout walking from our lounging spot to get into the water (not that we were complaining…much!).

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With the somewhat choppy waves and the rocky juts in the shoreline, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how Shipwreck Beach got its name.  But when the waves are right, apparently it’s one of the locals’ favorite spots for surfing.

Aloha!

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