I had the good fortune recently to be able to vacation on the beautiful island of Kauai. Given the fairly cold Bozeman winters, it is nice to try to sneak away for a bit to enjoy some warmth and sunshine, so we packed up our little 5 month old daughter and headed for the ocean. We stayed in Princeville with views of Hanalei Bay on the north end of the island and it was quite lovely. The weather was great for us considering that Kauai is the “rainy island”. Temps were nice in the high 70s and considering it was 5 degrees when we left Bozeman! It was quite a different trip from our last trip to Hawaii given the little one in tow, but with any trip involving me, one of my requirements is the ability to find some nice wine to enjoy. Since we would mostly be eating in given the difficulty of dining out with an infant, I perused possibilities available. The Princeville Wine Market proved to be stellar and if you are a wine aficionado traveling to the area I’d highly recommend a trip as their buyer has put together a pretty killer selection. Since we are landlocked we were looking forward to the fresh fish and sushi available and my selections leaned more to the sparkling/white/rosé spectrum. I did manage to grab a couple of killer reds as well though. I’ll just give you some of the highlights:
We started with a Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rosé from Provence. I’ve had this wine several times now and overall I think it is good, but I’ve never been overly impressed. It has nice depth and lovely melon, orange peel, and some garrigue, but it lacks a little bit of energy and freshness to really make it great. It paired fairly well with seared tuna steaks.
Subsequently we moved on to a nice sauvignon blanc; Jean-Max Roger Sancerre Caillottes 2016. This was really enjoyable. I’ve never had this producer before and it was solid and reasonably priced. Classic Sancerre nose with fresh hay, grass, lemon peel, rock dust, pea pods, and a hint of grapefruit. Worth a try if you see it.
Next on tap was new rosé from Chateau Leoube, Les Secret de Leoube. This was a very nice rosé with cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberry, and herbs. The palate had a little more energy and vibrancy than the Tibouren, but still did not have the depth of the best rosés available. It did pair well with a pre-dinner cheese plate.
Our next meal was poke and sushi (which was stellar) and of course for this we went with bubbly. The Jean Lallement Brut Grand Cru was classic and excellent. Lovely brioche, pear, peach, and lemon curd. The palate was vinous and tasty, but still felt light and fresh. Next was Egly-Ouriet “Les Vignes des Vrigny” 1er cru. I really enjoy the Egly-Ouriet wines and this was no exception. A pinot meunier cuvee, this showed the classic depth and richness that comes from the long aging on the lees. Yeast, rising bread, orchard fruit, and mineral notes linger and provide a beautiful finish. Really quite excellent.
We then decided to take a break from fish and had some prime rib steaks. A wine I’ve wanted to try for a while, the Descendientes de Jose Palacios Bierzo Villa de Corullon did not disappoint. This was the 2015 so it was without a doubt quite young, but it was stellar. I have enjoyed the entry level Petalos from Palacios for several years and this is the first of the single vineyard cuvees. Deep and brooding, the wine is powerful and yet still has elegance. The nose has loads of dark berry fruits, orange peel, lots of spice, violet, and black tea. The palate delivers with excellent concentration and balance and
while the structure is quite present today, the underlying material keeps them from being overwhelming. This would be an excellent candidate for 5-10 years of aging. The next wine sadly did not live up to my high expectations. Bernard Dugat-Py is an iconic producer in Burgundy and I was very excited to find a 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes for a good price. Previously I have been very impressed with the few wines from Dugat-Py I’ve had, but I found this to be lacking. The nose was initially a bit dominated by wood, then slowly developed some more classic Gevrey notes of dark fruits, sauvage notes, and forest floor. The palate did not have the balance or depth that I was expecting and seemed clunky and out of balance. Hopefully this was simply in an awkward stage and will improve with more time in the bottle.
One of my wines of the trip followed paired with a grilled pork loin and sweet potatoes. The Jean Foillard Fleurie 2012 was simply stellar. I’ve mentioned before that cru Beaujolais can often be an excellent value given the quality. This was no exception. The nose was beautiful with bright red berry fruits, lilac, loads of stony mineral notes, a hint of savory smoke, and just a bit of green tea. The palate is fabulous with perfect balance, energy, and depth. Blind I think I might have guessed this as a village Chambolle or Volnay. I’ve had a couple vintages of this wine now and it has never disappointed and in fact always seems better than I remember. Definitely worth buying if you see it.
Subsequently we moved back into the island fish fare and had a saffron risotto with ono and shrimp. This was delicious with an Albaniño and rosé. The rosé was none other than a magnum of Tempier Bandol rosé which is my favorite pink wine year after year. I keep trying others and thinking I’ll find the equivalent, but I’ve yet to do it. Simply excellent with great concentration and depth and a beautiful vibrancy and piquancy in the flavors. The Bodegas del Palacios Fefiñanes Rìas Baixas was also delicious. Crushed oyster shell, lemon peel, almond, and iodine are delivered on a palate that is bristling with energy and life. There is plenty of delicious flavor to balance the acidity and this is simply a perfect seafood wine.
The final night we went back to sushi and paired an Italian bubbly from Francicorta. I don’t see a lot of Franciacorta so I like to try them when I can. This was Barone Pizzini Franciacora Satén. Franciacorta is made in Lombardia and the “satén” note means it is bottled with less pressure than a normal sparkling wine (about 4.5 atm instead of 6 atm) which gives it a silkier feel. This was quite silky and quite tasty. The nose showed ripe apple, pear, and lemon pie, with a few hints of lees and honeysuckle. The palate had nice richness with a very elegant mouthfeel. Quite enjoyable and if you’ve never tried a Franciacorta they are worth checking out.
So all in all, it was quite a nice trip to a beautiful island paradise. While the trip would have been great on its own, having some lovely vinous treasures to sample made it even better!