Wine in Hawaii?

What does a fledgling wine writer do when he’s on vacation?  Look for wineries, of course! My family recently went to Kauai, HI, for a quick get away.  In preparation for the trip I did some research and learned that there is one winery on Kauai.  It is a meadery; they make honey wine.

Kauai, HI, home of Nani Moon Meadery

A Kauai vista. Yes, there is a winery on Kauai: a meadery, Nani Moon.

My exposure to mead is limited.  It was the first wine my father tried making.  I was eight years old and he made about 5 gallons of mead in a stoneware crock.  I remember the cloudy, slightly fizzy liquid being the palest of yellows with dark, plump raisins bobbing around at the bottom of the glass.  He never made it again, and I hadn’t encountered mead since.

I insisted that we make a stop at the Nani Moon Meadery tasting room when we were on Kauai.  The tasting room is not easy to find, hidden way in the back of a small shopping center on the Kuhio Highway.  We ended up asking random strangers if they new of a local wine tasting room at what we thought was the right shopping center.  Only one person, a customer at a local natural foods grocery, knew where it was and gave us clear directions.

The Nani Moon Meadery is owned and operated by the “Queen Bee” (that’s what her business card says), Sephanie Krieger, who was presiding over the tasting room when we arrived.  A friendly young woman, she is engaging and interesting to talk to.  All of her meads are made from locally sourced organic honey and fruit.  She makes meads in a couple of styles and offers a 5 wine tasting menu for only $5/person.  Her wines bore no resemblance to the mead I remember.  They were clear and elegant ranging from bone dry to slightly sweet with no fruit floating at the bottom of the glass.

We tasted the wines and I most liked Laka’s Nector, a light, dry wine made from honey and Ohia’ai, also known as “mountain apple”, a Polynesian fruit.  Had I not been in a meadery and been served this wine, I would have thought it was a very good Sauvignon Blanc.  It was crisp and fresh with hints of tropical fruit.

I also liked the Cacao Moon, a more traditional, sweet mead which is made from macadamia nut blossom honey, cacao and vanilla beans.  This smooth wine is not overly sweet and the flavors of the chocolate and vanilla come through lightly, making this quite an elegant dessert wine.

The most unusual of the wines, for me, was the Ginger Spice wine, which Stephanie describes as the most traditional of her meads.  It is infused with winter spices: think ginger, clove, nutmeg and the like.  She served it chilled, but said it can be served room temperature during cool weather.  The spices came through very strongly.  We bought a couple of bottles to serve this Thanksgiving.

The other two wines we tasted, Pineapple Guava Sunset and Winter Sun, are both dry meads, more like medium and full bodied white wines made from grapes.  The Pineapple Guava Sunset has a very slight effervescence, a natural result of the fermentation process.

Nani Moon is unable to ship directly to other states.  They offer boxes and packaging and are close to FedEx office so that you can self-ship.  Their distributor can ship wines, but the prices are higher through the distributor.  We just packed our purchases into our suitcases and hoped the TSA didn’t have a taste for mead.  All the bottles arrived home unscathed.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself on Kauai, I highly recommend searching out Nani Moon Meadery, located at 4-939 D Kuhio Highway, Kapa’a, HI 96746, in the Yasuda Center which is adjacent to a Taco Bell.  They can be found on FaceBook and Stephanie also Tweets.

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About dslocicero

David is an author and architect living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes about wine, food and travel. His first book is Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, now one of the highest rated books about California Wines.