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Windstar’s Winning Wine Approach with New Sommelier

Windstar Cruises is serious when it comes to wine. In fact, the line recently hired its first official sommelier—Justin D. McAuliffe—for the Star Legend and more will soon be joining Star Breeze, Star Pride and Wind Surf later this year. McAuliffe’s duties encompass managing the wine program including giving educational seminars, as well as selling…

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Windstar Cruises is serious when it comes to wine. In fact, the line recently hired its first official sommelier—Justin D. McAuliffe—for the Star Legend and more will soon be joining Star Breeze, Star Pride and Wind Surf later this year.

McAuliffe’s duties encompass managing the wine program including giving educational seminars, as well as selling and servicing the vintages onboard. That also extends to local sourcing to reflect the regions the ship sails to. While still in progress, Windstar is expanding its distributor list for greater diversity as it partners with local purveyors and international wineries familiar to the talented culinary team.

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In celebration of wine, the line is currently promoting the following four special voyages as part of its James Beard Foundation Culinary Cruise Collection with featured participants:

—June 20, 2018: Hidden Harbors of the Côte d’Azur on Wind Surf

Chef Maxime Bilet, Seattle

Sommelier Belinda Chang

—June 27, 2018: Spanish Symphony on Wind Surf

Chef Anthony Sasso of La Sirena in New York, N.Y.

Beverage Expert Ashley Santoro of The Standard, The Standard Café, and Narcissa, New York, N.Y.

—August 17, 2018: Norwegian Splendors on Star Breeze

Chef Evan Hanczor of Egg in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sommelier Katie Bell, formerly of the wine team at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Agern Restaurant, NYC

—November 26, 2018: Tahiti & the Tuamotu Islands on Wind Spirit

Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti of Marlowe, Park Tavern, and The Cavalier, San Francisco, CA

Beverage Expert Shelley Lindgren of A16 and SPQR in San Francisco, CA

Also checking in with Sommelier McAuliffe himself, he shared with TravelPulse his top bottles by destination and region. Below, in his words, are port shopping tips for wines to bring back home or to partake ashore at a local lunch:

Croatia

Croatia’s wine appellations lie coastal to the Mediterranean and inland over the Dinaric Alps, so the two regions produce dramatically different styles of wine. Look for crisp and refreshing whites in Malvasia and Riesling from the inland appellations, while the southern coastal islands offer the darkly concentrated red grape Plavac Mali, which is, in fact, the exact same varietal as Zinfandel and Primitivo.

The winery Dingac Pz Potomje produces exceptional and age-worthy wines in both red and white examples, as does Roxanich and Korta Katerina.

Spain

With so many excellent appellations to choose from, Spanish wine shopping can be an intimidating yet rewarding task. There are over 50 recognized wine regions that truly reflect distinct individuality through their permitted grape varieties and terroir.

I recommend starting in the northwest and moving eastward, from the white Albarinos of Riax Biaxas and Godellos from Valdeorras, across to the massively structured red Tempranillos of Toro, Ribera del Duero and Rioja. In Catalunya outside Barcelona lies the top-rated appellation of Priorat, whose Carinyena and Garnacha form ultra-concentrated and incredibly long-lived reds. Look to southeastern La Mancha, particularly Jumilla and Yecla, for excellent value and flavor concentration in the reds.

France

To be frank, France is far too complex and variable in producing every style of wine imaginable to summarize recommendations with any great reverence. However, when guests ask the immensely difficult question of what my favorite wine is, I typically sardonically answer with, “it depends on the time of day.”

Although truth be told, one wine for the rest of my life, would, in fact, be white Burgundy made entirely from Chardonnay in central France. It had better be a Grand Cru if it’s the only one I get though!

Greece

Greece is definitely one of the hardest wine producing countries to learn about! There are hundreds of local varieties that are very difficult to pronounce—let alone read on the label—throughout the plethora of tiny islands and inland appellations.

The most celebrated reds come from Naoussa in the form of Xinomavro, and incredible whites of many varieties hail from Santorini, namely Assyritiko. Eat the local food and request the local wine at the many ports of call, and you will not be disappointed, as the wines have adapted over the centuries to reflect the regional culinary traditions and will often be the best pairing option. When in Greece!

Italy

If Greece is challenging to study, then Italy is downright torture. Each of the 20 provinces produce[s] excellent wine in more than 500 individual appellations with more than two thousand indigenous grape varieties. It depends on the time of day, but I’ll always go for a firm and structured Nebbiolo from Valtellina Superiore in Lombardia, or a dark black Aglianico from Taurasi in Campania.

Portugal

Portugal is as varied as Spain, with a high number of appellations and vast latitudinal expanse. Aside from the obvious Port, the Douro Valley is producing red and white table wine of exceptional quality and longevity. Silky reds from Estremadura and Dão are affordable and delicious, crisp and just barely effervescent. Whites from Vinho Verde can be bought for a few Euros, and it’s hard to stop at just one bottle.

As a lifelong lover of Port, perusing the wine shops of Lisbon and Porto has cost me a paycheck or two, but the single vintage cask aged Tawny Ports known as Colheitas and the near-immortal bottle aged Vintage Ports are well within reach in certain vintages. Madeira and White Port are not to be overlooked either!

British Columbia

I’m from BC and proudly Canadian through and through! Producing such small scale, rarely exported yet exceptionally high-quality wine, it’s often surprising for people to learn that there are more than 200 well-established and world-class wineries in the only classified desert environment in Canada.

The Okanagan Valley is the northernmost extension of the Sonoran Desert, and we have the rattlers and scorpions to prove it. The Okanagan is located roughly 5 driving hours east of Vancouver, it is a long and thin region, 100 miles top to bottom, nestled in between the Cascades and the Kootenay mountain ranges.

From the south, at the American border the temperatures are the highest, and heavy red varietals such as Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot are produced with amazing concentration. Slightly further north and at higher elevation the twin townships of Naramata and Penticton produce some of the finest Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays (along with many other varietals) in Canada.

Further north still lies Kelowna, whose high elevation and cool climate only permits the growth of white varieties where stunning examples of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Viognier can be found. Aptly dubbed the ‘Napa of the North,’ the Okanagan Valley possesses some of the finest wineries, resorts and restaurants in Canada, and should absolutely not be missed.

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