Special Edition: A Royal Hawaiian Mother’s Day

In a special Mother’s Day edition, we pay tribute to the love, support, and generosity unconditionally poured out by mothers everywhere. It's just what moms do, naturally and gracefully. Although we benefit on a regular basis, these gestures and sacrifices are too often met with little appreciation. But not today! On this day, we celebrate and honor you, mom, for all the ways in which you love, care and provide for us. Cheers to you!

For Men, The Mother’s Day Conundrum

So, let’s be honest, men are not fantastic at celebrating Mother’s Day. When young, we are eager but lacking in any discernible talent; we’re terrible as adolescents, and (unlike fine wine) we only marginally improve with age. For those mothers who are not fortunate enough to have daughters, Mother’s Day may not necessarily be met with an abundance of creativity and craft. Some flowers still in the grocery-store sleeve, burnt pancakes served to a still-sleeping mom, followed by going out for brunch to compensate for the burnt pancakes, is the best a male mind and skill can manufacture. We care, but sometimes struggle with execution.

Mitigating Male Deficiencies

This year, we arranged a Mother's Day luncheon for a few moms who have not been able to enjoy a daughter’s feminine touch. [For the record, I am not the daughter in this scenario; that privilege belongs to my wife, who is much more daughterly than me].

In honor of our queens-of-the-day, we chose a sophisticated and elegant theme worthy of our modern Hawaiian royalty: soft pinks and clean whites with hints of gold. Beautiful, locally-grown king proteas made for simple yet striking centerpieces, accented by brightly colored pincushions.

King Protea, the national flower of South Africa, also thrives on the Big Island of Hawaii.

We began with a light and refreshing Cucumber Mint Salad tossed with passion fruit white balsamic vinegar. For the entrée, fresh locally-caught Opah (moonfish) topped with pineapple-ginger-mint salsa served on a bed of Shanghai baby bok choy. On the side, Okinawan sweet potatoes whipped with coconut milk, and hapa rice (brown and white) with black sesame seed garnish.

We ran out of time for a dedicated food photo shoot, but on this day, serving our mothers (and a party of 7) was more important than the perfect photo.

By now you are certainly wondering about the wine - this is a wine blog, after all. And such fine dining (well, our meagre attempt, at least) must be accompanied by exquisite wine. It was.

Buckley Cellars paired our fresh catch with two white varietals from classic Old World regions: an Alexandre Monmousseau 2015 Clos Le Vigneau Vouvray and a 2014 Attilio Contini Pariglia Vermentino. With all that mothers do for us, they should at least be given a choice between two elegant, fine wines. Let’s take a closer look at the options.

Alexandre Monmousseau 2015 Clos Le Vigneau Vouvray, Loire Valley, France.

Vouvray, the appellation d'origine contrôlée that neighbors Montlouis in the Touraine District of Loire Valley, lies along the northern bank of the Loire River. Although a relatively small town, Vouvray is immense in prestige as one of the best locations in the world to produce Chenin Blanc. Local monks and monasteries are credited for saving more than just lost souls; in the Middle Ages their skills in winemaking helped to refine local rudimentary viticultural practices, setting Vouvray on its famed vinous path. The right bank of the river, the prime location for vineyards, allows grapes to be planted in clay and gravel topsoil that lies over a bedrock of chalky marine limestone known as “tuffeau.” Tuffeau is an ancient remnant forged over millions of years of marine sedimentation slowly accumulated from small shells and plankton that had once built up in an ancient basin covering the region (to find out more, see my inaugural post, Rocky Beginnings …). The climate contains a mixture of maritime and continental influences, which can bring out the best of both climate zones, but also the worst. For this reason, quality in Vouvray can vary substantially from year to year.

The French selection from Vouvray, available at Fujioka's Wine Times

This wine is off-dry with high acidity, a typical expression of its native appellation, and wonderful flower and honeyed aromatics accented by lemon zest, honeysuckle, and green apple. On the palate, the apples continued to dominate the fruit profile, with honey, minerals, and subtle apricot. At around $21, this is a tremendous wine with great value.

2014 Attilio Contini Pariglia, Vermentino di Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy.

Most likely originating in Spain, the Vermentino varietal prefers low fertility, dry soils and a LOT of sunshine.  Favoring a salty and windy coastal setting, Vermentino found its home in Southern Italy, and Sardinia in particular, where few varietals have been able to thrive along the island's rugged coast. This particular wine was grown in Denominazione di Origine Controllata Vermentino di Sardegna, the largest producer of Vermentino in Sardinia (though not the most famous; that distinction belongs to Vermentino di Gallura, the only Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita in Sardinia).

The Italian selection from Sardinia, available for $14 at Fukioka's Wine Times

The Italian selection from Sardinia, available for $14 at Fukioka's Wine Times

The wine contains lighter aromas of citrus blossom, lemon zest, mineral and herbs. The palate offers peach, pear, fresh herb, and minerals with bright acidity. Salinity, a hallmark of South Italian Vermentino, brightens the flavors and harmoniously fills out the palate. Although it could be consumed on its own (I suppose that phrase can apply to any wine), it really shines when enjoyed with food, particularly fish and shellfish. Overall, it’s a good value wine that encapsulates the sandy beaches and azure blue waters of the Mediterranean - but be ready for sea salt on the palate that may just leave you thirsty for more.

The Final Verdict

Both wines are fine expressions of their native appellations and offer extraordinary value. The Chenin Blanc, with its balanced acidity, sweet honey tones, and fruity palate, won best overall pairing with the catch of the day.  It also picked up the prize of being the unanimous favorite amongst mothers. This is invariably attributed to the common characteristic of a gentle sweetness shared by both. For the men, on the other hand, the mineral-driven wine from Sardinia was a hit. Fitting, one might conclude; men are, after all, a bit on the salty side.

A Grand Hawaiian Finale

Such sweet beginnings must, naturally, also have sweet endings. The meal culminated with Toasted Coconut Ice Cream topped with vanilla bean-infused toasted coconut and paired with Fresh Mango Sorbet. All homemade, of course - because what could be more endearing than a three-course meal made with our own hands?

Oh wait, I know. A musical performance by a dutiful young son who has practiced for hours for this special occasion. Or perhaps it was because his National Piano Guild Auditions are next week. Either way, it’s a fast track to melting mom’s heart on Mother’s Day. How’s Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu for a little afternoon indulgence? Sigh. Can’t compete with that.

Unfortunately, we failed to record this impromptu performance, so we’ll just have to ask our young maestro for an encore.

A happy Mother’s Day to all mothers everywhere. Your enduring love and steadfast support is a unique and truly wonderful blessing. We are all better for it. Cheers to you, mom!