A Little Geography Lesson

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the location of the Hawaiian Islands I tend to think of it as smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean due west of California.

However, it is actually a little bit further south than “due west of California.”  Okay, quite a bit south of “due west of California.”

The Hawaiian Islands lie just below of the Tropic of Cancer–so if you want a “due west of” think Southern Mexico. To put it in USA geography terms, Key West (the Southernmost point in the continental United States) lies north of the Tropic of Cancer.  In fact, Hawaii is so remote that it is not even considered part of the North American continent (see the map from World Atlas below)!

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The reason I’m mentioning this is because we decided to split our trip to the Big Island by spending a couple of nights in Kona and then a night in Hilo.  April & I were in charge of selecting the route and finding fun things to do along the way to Hilo.  We opted for the Southern Route, which afforded us options to drive through the mountainous terrain of Kona, the overlook of Kealakekua Bay (where the fate of Captain Cook was decided), the volcano lava fields, the Mauna Loa macadamia nut company, a green sand beach, and the actual southernmost point in the United States.

After we left Greenwell Farms, we headed south down the main “highway.”  Actually, highway was a bit of a stretch–much like our “yacht” in Greece.  Winding, narrow two lane road is a bit more accurate, but it was scenic, so we didn’t care!  Or perhaps Tracy did, since he was the one driving….but we girls didn’t mind one bit!  😉

Our first stop came only a few minutes down the road when we drove by the South Kona Fruit Stand.  We decided that smoothies were the perfect thing for our trip south, along with some very interesting fruit we had never heard of…or heard of but never tried, like lilikoi, star fruit, and dragon fruit!

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With smoothies in hand and fruit in the trunk, we continued south along the Mamalahoa Highway taking in the picturesque coastline views on one side and the lush mountain on the other side.  Our next destination was Nā‘ālehu, home to both a green sand beach (more about that later) and Ka Lae, the southernmost point on the Big Island, which is the southernmost island, thus is the southernmost point in the United States.

Why, yes, I do like saying southernmost–thankyouverymuch!

So we turned off the “highway” onto an even smaller road and wound our way here and there whilst following signs to the green sand beach and Ka Lae.  We actually went to the beach first but it is deserving of its own post.  After our trek to the beach, we stopped at Ka Lae for a glimpse of what seemed to be the edge of the world.

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For those of you who would love the chance to jump off the edge of the world, there was even a platform–and a group of people willing.

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And just in case you didn’t feel like scaling the steep wall back up or drifting out to sea (although I don’t see why not, after all the Kiribati Atolls are only 1200 miles away!), there was even a ladder to help you.

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I peeked over and decided I was perfectly happy not jumping and drifting off to sea and/or climbing the ladder of death back up.

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A few more quick shots and then we were on our way–having crossed off another item on our Hawaiian to-do list!

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MWWC #33 Once Upon A Time

This month’s wine writing challenge (#33 if you’re keeping track or ignored the title of this post) is Once Upon A Time, which was selected by last month’s winner Wining with Mel.

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To most people, Once upon a time probably makes them think of a plethora of Grimm fairy tales or perhaps a certain tv show, but not me.  Once upon a time makes me think of college.  This is because at the time I was living with my BFF and whenever she couldn’t sleep, I would hear her yelling from down the hall: I can’t sleep, tell me a story.

All of my stories (at least that I can remember–it has been few years ago!)–started with: Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a beautiful princess named Christina.  If I were feeling loquacious, my stories would be rather long and involved, often based on my own travels.  If I didn’t, the story would be exceptionally short and sweet, like this*:

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a beautiful princess named Christina, who drank all the wine in her castle. Unfortunately, her sommelier could not get her more wine immediately, so she had him guillotined, and then cried herself to sleep.  The End.

*This story has been changed to fit the parameters of writing about wine.  It is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event (don’t panic people: no castle has been depleted of their wine stores nor any sommelier guillotined!).

Of course, because it is a wine writing challenge, I feel if I just left you with a horror story about a castle with no wine and a guillotined sommelier, I would be banned from further participation in future MWWCs.   Plus, I’m feeling a bit loquacious…so Sissy, this one is for you!

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a beautiful princess named Christina. Princess Christina lived in a big, beautiful castle overlooking a pool small and peaceful lake and sprawling lands.  One beautiful morning, Princess Christina went downstairs to find her cook distraught.  The wine cellar was empty!  The sommelier?  Gone!  Neither of these were through any fault of Princess Christina (despite a previously mentioned horror story).  However, Princess Christina decided that moving forward she would be personally checking all references on job applications.

But hiring a new sommelier was the least of her worries–SHE HAD AN EMPTY WINE CELLAR!  What is a princess to do? Not wanting to wait through the drudgery of finding another sommelier, Princess Christina did the only thing she could think of: she loaded up her carriage and set off immediately in search of great wine.

Her first stop was to find a buttery chardonnay, so she headed west to California.  While chardonnays today aren’t quite as buttery as in the days of yore, she knew she could still find something delicious at the La Crema Winery.

la cremaShe was definitely not disappointed. The 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, while not buttery per se (for definitions, click here!), is still very creamy and complex with oak and melon flavors.  It is hearty enough to pair with a meal, like Thanksgiving dinner, but is smooth enough to enjoy with a cheese course or simply paired with a good book while sitting by the pool small and peaceful lake.

As much as Princess Christina wanted to spend the day at La Crema, her empty cellar kept her on task.  With a few cases of this classic chardonnay loaded in her carriage, Princess Christina set off for Italy (she has a special flying carriage, don’t question–this is a fairy tale!).  Home of Italians, Chianti, Prosecco, Mount Vesuvius, and a delicious little thing called Montepulciano.

 

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The Tralcetto Montepulciano from Catina Zaccagnini is a great addition to the wine cellar as an Italian alternative to the traditional Chianti.  This Montepulciano is quite bold and fruity–although not as much as a zinfandel–but has a dry finish.  It is flavorful without being overbearing and because it is aged in steel then oak it is very balanced.  It drinks well with a wide variety of pastas (as any good Italian wine should!), especially venison ragù.  And in terms of pure novelty/coolness points, each bottle has a small twig of the vine tied around the neck of the bottle.

Princess Christina was very excited to add this to her carriage and as much as it pained her to leave, she still had to make at least one more stop before heading back to her castle.  There was some inner dialogue as to where her final stop would be, but she soon realized that there was only one real choice: Champagne.

IMG_2740Of course within Champagne, the possibilities were endless.  So–being ever the diplomat–Princess Christina decided to randomly pick and ended up at a quaint little house called Perrier-Jouët.  With a plethora of champagnes from which to choose, Princess Christina tried them all several times and perhaps she came home with at least a case of each.  It was hard not to do so, after all it is champagne and one can never have too much champagne on hand!  Like the Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut.  It has floral and citrus notes with a nutty, crisp finish that makes it very easy to drink.

Laden down with a carriage full of wine, Princess Christina decided that she had a very good start to restocking her wine cellar and the best thing for her to do is go back home where she could sit by the pool small and peaceful lake with a glass of wine.  Her only worry now was which wine to drink first.  And as she sat and enjoyed her glass of wine and the tranquility of the pool small and peaceful lake, she reminisced on the fun of her wine buying trip .  While she still wanted to hire a new sommelier, perhaps she needn’t hire one just yet.

THE END.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MWWC #17: Epiphany

This month’s wine writing challenge is Epiphany, as selected by last month’s winner John, The Wine Raconteur.  The first thing that came to mind was The Burgundy.  But I feel quite certain you are sick of hearing about it….so, I thought I’d be bold and try something else.

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The second best thing about working in a wine tasting room is proving people wrong helping people try new things they were sure they hated.

BTW, I’d like to insert that if you didn’t know the best thing about working in a wine tasting room is drinking wine, then get out of my life–I don’t need that kind of negativity.

But back to proving people wrong helping people try new things they were sure they hated.  It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing.  When it comes to wine, this is a rather fun challenge.  I don’t do it to be cantankerous. I do it to prove to everyone I meet that there is a whole big world of wine out there–why limit yourself to just pinot noir or white zin or only true French champagnes [please hear that with all the snobbery it was intended] or only reds or whites or sweet or dry?

We all have a preference but to me there was nothing more satisfying than seeing a look of epiphany on someone’s face who bravely let me lead them out of their comfort zone and realized that they liked it out there.

What led me on this path to wine-enlightenment was that I started working at a wine shop that only sold Texas wine–this was back in the early 90s when nobody was talking about Texas as a wine producer.  During my time there, I had many epiphanies there–but none more so than my first day.

On Day #1, I was told that being able to speak about the wines we offered and make recommendations was the most important part of my job, so my first task was to taste every single bottle on the bar that we had available for sampling. Whaaaaat??  There are 1, 2, 3…33 of them!  Since that moment in time, I have found this to be THE BEST advice I’ve ever gotten in the world of wine (and it easily applies to most things in life):  don’t judge, just try everything.

I’m not going to lie, I was not excited about trying the whites and rosés–I was a red wine drinker.  And by red wine, I mean cabernet sauvignon and tempernillo.  But I hated, hated, hated white and rosés–because my initial introduction to these wines were uber-sweet (of the added sugar variety) or mass produced (aka tasteless) pinot grigio or (shudder) white zinfandel or over-oaked California chardonnay .

Before you hit comment to defend your beloved [insert wine I just insulted here], KEEP READING!

Over the course of several days, I tried every single bottle that was available for sampling.  And I’m not going to lie, I did not like 50% of it, but I did find some unexpected hidden gems, such as dry riesling, gewürztraminer, viognier, and French colombard.  Suddenly my wine palate opened considerably!  With these varietals and styles, I found fruity, but not sweet, flavorful white wines.  Then I discovered dry rosés and French oak and realized that oak could lend itself to creaminess–not just tasting like I was chewing on a bark.  So I revisited my arch-white wine nemesis: chardonnay.  This time, I started with the French stuff, which had more fruit and just enough oak to get me used to the flavor.  Eventually, I even found (gasp!) a few California chardonnays that I like.  Of course, my hate also spilled over (pun intended!) into some of the red wines as well (**cough**merlot, pinot noir**cough**), but I now always try them because I have found some of each that I adore (think Russian River Valley and, hahaha, surely you had to know I was going to find a way to mention The Burgundy).

So it was in this spirit, that I would try to help customers who came into the wine shop with their broad-stroke declarations, like “I don’t drink Texas wine.”  Of course not, because until two seconds ago you weren’t even aware that Texas wine existed….so you tell me what you like to drink and then hold on to your glass because I’m about to show you what’s been missing in your life!

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Cheers, ya’ll!

A Winey Day!

I’m not sure about you, but my picture taking tendencies definitely ebb and flow.  There are some trips where I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures and others where nary a roll of film was used (and yes, I realized I just aged myself!).  Unfortunately, this trip to California was during a lull in photo taking–and with the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge, I really didn’t get many pictures of anything else.  I’d like to think I was trying to be more discerning with my photography or perhaps enjoying myself way too much to even think about stopping to take a picture, but probably the most accurate reason is that I couldn’t be bothered taking out my camera and taking the shot.

While the pictures aren’t so reflective, Napa Valley was amazing.  I will grant you that it’s a bit different than I imagined, in that I imagined rolling hills covered in rows of grape vines with tasting rooms tucked away, like little hidden treasures waiting to be found.  You know, something like this:

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But that was not Napa–that was Sonoma.  Napa was a lot more….in your face.  Go here! Try this! No this! Buy that!  Not that I minded, it was wonderful rambling from winery to winery without much trouble or effort.

At the time, I ran a wine bar which focused on Texas wines but offered a few California selections, so I wanted to be sure to hit some of those wineries.  Our first stop was St. Supery Vineyards & Winery, followed by the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, followed by Cakebread Cellars, followed by Silver Oak Winery.  There may have been a few more thrown in, but those stand out the most because:

  • St. Supery was one of the wines we carried at the wine shop.  Even more impressive is that they had heard of our wine shop located smack dab in the middle of Texas. ImageImage
  • Coppola was stunning.  Absolutely stunning.  It was so picturesque and looked like you stepped into some gorgeous movie set version of Tuscany.  Plus they had memorabilia from all of Coppola’s movies upstairs from the tasting room.ImageImage
  • Cakebread was another wine we sold at the wine shop.  And we got a special tour, complete with a barrel tasting.  Even Matthew was impressed…and slightly annoyed that he was the designated driver and could only take small sips–I graciously and selflessly finished all his wine for him!  No pics because…well…we were barrel tasting!!
  • Silver Oak.  Sigh.  I just adore Silver Oak wines.  Alas, because Cakebread took up most of the afternoon, we got to Silver Oak about 10 minutes AFTER the tasting room closed.  I may have had a slight meltdown in the parking lot.  But I’m sure I was just hungry.  I did manage to get a picture of their iconic white tower.  And honestly, we had such a great time at Cakebread that I couldn’t be toooooo upset.  Just know that Silver Oak will be my first stop on my next visit!Image

Our day in Napa went by way too quickly!  If you want to visit (and you should!), I would plan out your day a little more–at the very least know tasting room times of your favorite wineries because they can vary greatly and you definitely don’t want to miss out and cause a scene in a parking lot!

Go to Napa (or Sonoma).  Drink wine.  Eat amazing food.  And send me a postcard!! 🙂

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Napa Valley, Circa 2004

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since my trip to Napa Valley, CA!

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like a scene from a movie–out front of the Francis Ford Coppola Winery

It definitely serves as a reminder that I need to go back and soon!

Hungover.

Well, Turkey and Greece are, for all intents and purposes of that specific trip, done.  Of course, I could continue to write ad nauseum about the trip, but I need to move on because I have other great things to share and well, I need to leave some hope that I will return to both places someday.

To me, it is always bittersweet writing about a particular place that you’ve only visited once.  When you write about someplace that you live or have lived or visit frequently, there is always a sense of nostalgia for what is familiar and what is comfortable.  And when you write about someplace you haven’t been, it is with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm.  But these in-between places that you just pass through are–for me–the most difficult to write about because once your story is told, it’s done.  It gets put into a box and you may revisit your pictures or your stories about it, but the likelihood you’ll actually return to that place is fleeting.  Or, even worse, that you’ll go back to visit and it won’t be as magical.

As such, wrapping up a big trip (like Turkey & Greece) leaves me feeling a bit lost–a bit hungover, if you will.  Drunk off reminiscing about 3 amazing weeks in such an astonishingly beautiful place and how could I ever find beauty elsewhere in the world?!?!?  Which of course, is ridiculous because beauty is everywhere and sounding like an angsty-emo teen is not going to win friends or influence people…

With some inspiration from Uncle Spike’s Adventures, who has been posting pics of Hawaii in the 80s, I started perusing through some of my older pictures that I have on my computer and came across a few of my first vacation to California to visit my friend Matt.  Since it’s been 10 years, I think it’s definitely time to share!

As I wasn’t there for very long, we hung around in Matt’s ‘hood: the Palo Alto/San Jose area.  If you’re unfamiliar with California geography, it is about an hour-ish drive south of San Francisco.  We did get one day to drive north, but Matt made me pick between Napa Valley and San Francisco–as if that was a choice (no offense, San Fran!).  Of course, since San Francisco is in between Palo Alto and Napa Valley, I still got to see some of the sites 🙂

And with that, off to Cali we go!

dipping my feet in the ocean in Santa Cruz

dipping my feet in the Pacific in Santa Cruz

ooops...didn't see that wave coming!

ooops…didn’t think the wave would be that high!!

Matt on the boardwalk while we were walking around waiting for my shorts to dry!

Matt on the boardwalk while we were walking around waiting for my shorts to dry!