Monday, October 6, 2008

Wine Tasting with Captain Andy: The Vog Blog

Princeville, Kauai – June 2008
While sea cruises around the Hawaiian Islands are not something I do every year, and I’m there every year, it seemed like a good idea this time. Since the island of Kauai is our usual destination and the Captain Andy cruises our favorites, a sunset cruise looked to be made to order. For once I could let someone else do the driving.

If you’re not familiar with Kauai, the Garden Isle, you’ve seen parts of it in countless movies, including Fantasy Island on TV. It lies at the top of the Hawaiian chain of islands, with only little Niihau, the Forbidden Isle above it. It’s been my favorite island for close to forty years. I’ve hiked it, flown over it in helicopter, sailed around it in all manner of craft, swum most of its beaches, and biked all the accessible parts including climbing up Waimea canyon, a peak experience. Well, the downhill part, anyway.

Most sunset cruises involve punch-less Mai Tai punches and typical island fast food -and not tasty, fast-disappearing fare at that. Nonetheless, the Captain Andy cruises include good crews, reasonable fare, and boating under sail. It always seemed odd to me, boarding a 50 foot sailboat to motor around the island.

This time, however, we had the problem of vog. I’m not sure if this is a new term, but it means a fog-like haze created by wind-sown particulates from a volcano. The volcano in this case is Kilauea on the Big Island (Hawaii), which has been active since January of 1983, making it the longest continually active volcano in recorded history. It is also the youngest volcano in the chain that comprises the Hawaiian Islands. Just like a troublesome youth to call attention to himself, don’t you think?

The Hawaiian name "Kilauea" means "spewing" or "much spreading," apparently in reference to the lava flows that travel almost 7 miles before reaching the sea, creating a huge steam cloud. During our cruise in mid-June of 2008, Kilauea Volcano’s noxious outpouring, hastened by a Kona wind, were moving all the way up the Hawaiian chain to our little island at the top. Hardly fair, I thought. That did not stop Captain Dave from expounding on points of historic interest on our southern excursion of Kauai, nor descriptions of which movie was shot at which place, and what key scene of the movie the shot came from. As an occasional screenwriter, I appreciated this a lot.

It also took our minds off the vog, and when the sun appeared as a hazy brownish red globe, low in a washed out sky we were still in the thrall of our sailing and wine tasting journey. The quality wines were a surprise to me. In the past, I often opted for a watered-down Mai Tai, which should tell you something about the quality of the wine on most cruises.

Not so this time. I later learned that Capt. Andy has connections with a local wine distributor, and obtains good wines at a reasonable enough savings to offer them to us on his cruises. Lucky us. Besides enjoying being on the ocean, I also got to savor a Chilean Merlot Reserva while I glimpse the entourage of Dolphins we’d attracted. The white wines were also good quality, and if the food was not as inspired as the wine, at least they complimented them.

Since I’m also the Wine Maestro, orchestrating food and wine for multi-course dinners, the thought occurred to me that pairing food and wine, ala tapas, or little tastes as the Spanish define it, might be a great way, to cruise Kauai’s fabled coast. Vog or no vog. Salut!

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