It's the kind of experience that becomes a highlight of a visitor's trip to Grand Cayman, one they excitedly tell tale of to friends and family when they get back home.
Red Sail Sports and West Indies Wine Company have collaborated to offer a unique experience that combines sailing in the North Sound with wine, food and the splendour of a Cayman sunset.
On 20 February, Sunset Wine Down set sail from the dock at Camana Bay at 5:30 p.m., just in time to enjoy the soft glow of the early evening sun. As Captain Chris Torrie motored the "Spirit of the Islands" catamaran down the canal, crew member Charlie Reaney gave a humorous informational address about the boat's features, adding in safety measures and procedures.
Then West Indies Wine Company manager William Lyod, a certified sommelier, told passengers what to expect during the sail: three wines paired with three hors d'oeuvres on the boat, followed by a dessert paired with a dessert wine at West Indies Wine Company after the catamaran returns to the dock.
Once out in the North Sound, the crew shuts off the engine, hoists the sails and for the next hour and a half, powers along with nothing but wind.
The once-a-month Sunset Wine Down sails started last September and promotion has been mostly through the Red Sail Sports social media sites. Although previous sails hosted about 20 passengers, the cruise on 20 February had 36 guests — several who had been on the trip before.
"It's been a lot of word-of-mouth," said crew member Dave Steemson.
The wines served on the boat were good quality, chosen for their value and the ability to pair with food.
First served and paired with shrimp and cocktail sauce, was Fantinel Cuvée Prestige Brut — excellent, dry sparkling wine from northeastern Italy made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and the Prosecco grape, Glera. For the second hors d'oeuvre — a grilled chicken skewer — Lyod served Saint M Riesling from Pfalz in southwest Germany. Unlike other wine regions in Germany where sweet and off-dry Rieslings dominate, Pfalz is known for dry Rieslings and the Saint M was not only bone dry, it had mouth-watering citrus flavours as well.
Lyod went from table to table pouring the wines and talking about them. This particular sail occurred with fresh northerly winds, which meant Loyd had to practise new skills.
"I'm a somm, not a sailor," he said with a laugh, referring to his lack of sea legs and unsteady pouring. However, he didn't spill a drop.
For the final pairing, Loyd served Michele Chiarlo "Le Orme" Barbera from the Piemonte region in the shadow of the Alps of northwestern Italy. This food-friendly, medium-bodied-yet-robust red wine would pair with many meat dishes, pastas and pizzas, and worked perfectly well with the meatballs.
Back on shore at West Indies Wine Company, Fonseco Port was served with a chocolate-filled mini-cupcake. Many of the guests continued to enjoy the delightful breezes of the starlit evening, getting more wines from pouring machines inside West Indies Wine Company and taking them out on the soft-cushioned patio furniture outside.
Although just sailing out for a sunset sail in the North Sound, perhaps with wines or other beverages, is a great experience in itself, the Sunset Wine Down trips also have an added educational benefit for those interested in learning about different wines from an extremely knowledgeable sommelier in Lyod.
However, the Sunset Wine Down trips are also about having fun while enjoying the experience. The personable crew, accustomed in normal times to ensuring boatloads of visitors have a good time, knows how to work the crowd and keep it lively. The wine helps, too.
Add in the tasty hors d'oeuvres paired with the wines and you have sailing, a sunset, food, wines and knowledge all rolled into a value-priced experience.
There's a reason why the Sunset Wine Down trip in February attracted twice as many people as the previous month, mainly through word-of-mouth. It's the same reason visitors, whenever they return in numbers, will go home talking about this unique wine pairing and sailing experience.
The next Sunset Wine Down trip takes place 27 March, followed by one in April on the 24th. To buy tickets, call 623-5965.
About the author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for four years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 17 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for the Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. Alan is passionate about food and wine and he loves to write about both those subjects. He is also the leader of Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Chapter. One of Alan’s favourite ways to relax is to catch a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!