Saturday, August 6, 2011

Key West Wine Cruises

A wine cruise, particularly a sunset wine cruise is a great way to enjoy wine, make new friends and watch the sun paint the clouds red, yellow and orange. I recently took such a cruise with Danger Charters on a 65 foot two-masted schooner out of Key West. The choice of wines looked interesting and we boarded the vessel only steps from our timeshare; the Hyatt Sunset Harbor. How can you not do a sunset cruise from there?

The winds were light that evening so the cruising part consisted of moving a few leagues, while gently rolling on the waves. The wines were all excellent as was the crew, which is highly rated and deservedly so. We sat on the forward cabin overhead with people from both of our home states on either side of us. What are the odds of that? Camaraderie is easier after a few tastes of wine, but a sense of sharing a common adventure began with the first white, a sparkling cava from Spain. This was a Marcel Martin Brut, a crisp wine with citrus and melon expanding on the palate.

The Hess 2009 Sauvignon Blanc following it was also excellent. I’m more familiar with their Cabs, which are uniformly good. This grape came from the same Allomi vineyard, which sits at the base of Howell Mountain in Napa. The tropical flavors of passion fruit and citrus notes added to the lemongrass evident in the nose. I had to have a second taste of this one, and will add it to my must-have Sauvignon Blanc list.

The hors d’oeuvres were standard fare but with a few interesting twists, fresh and plentiful. Best of all, they complimented the wines. The Bianchi Chardonnay was lightly oaked and fruit-forward, not the heavy California style. The Chateau Grande Cassagne Rose was dry which is typical of most European Rose, with a delicate nose, bright fruit flavors and none of the heaviness of typical blush wines.

By now I was already impressed with the choices, which were inspired and selected as though they had me in mind. They really didn’t know the Southwestern Wine Guy was aboard, did they? Nah! The first red was a light-bodied French red, La Font du Vent Cotes du Rhone.

I became a fan of this wine back in the early 90s when my then fiancĂ© and I toured much of France. It was always inexpensive, plentiful and consistently delightful on the palate. Nowadays they are not as consistent and certainly not as inexpensive so finding a good one requires more effort. But then, we’re not in France either.

This wine and its more well-known neighbor Chateauneuf du Pape come from the southern Rhone region; both feature Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre grapes. This one is mostly Grenache and has a good spread of red fruits; red currants, muted raspberry and nice peppery accents. The tannins are fine and the finish velvety.

The remaining reds included a Peter Lehmann Australian Shiraz that was well balanced and not over-extracted as some of these wines tend to be. The Shiraz showed black fruits, plum and blackberry with restrained oak and fine tannins. Ba

The Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Aconcagua Valley in Chile, where Pacific breezes and cool rainy winters and hot dry summers help shape the wonderful fruit of this wine. The bite of tart cherry is moderated by the black currant, fine tannins and good acidity.

The Ergo Tempranillo is from the Rioja region of Spain, where this grape shines like few other areas. The rich berry and dark fruit came with earthy notes and spice. If only they had Spanish paella to go with it. I apologize for not having all the vintage years. I guess I was just enjoying myself too much.

All the wines were ably presented by Sunshine – I’m not making that up – and the name is appropriate because she sure brightened our cruise. She did admit to a bit of nervousness since I was on board, but she had nothing to worry about. When sunset finally arrived we were toasting a wonderful time with the last of our wine. This is a must cruise if you love sailing, sunsets and creative wine choices.