Picture this: You’re at a luxury resort, letting out a deep sigh of contentment as you kick back with a glass of top-shelf wine or beer. Ever wondered how that drink made it, in such pristine condition, to that remote locale? Learn about the people making sure you drink well on your dream vacation.
Garratt Fitts, Kohanaiki, Kailua-Kona, HI
In the labyrinthine basement corridors of a private club on Hawaii’s big island, Fitts turns out an array of craft beer and kombucha created for connoisseurs. The one-man operation recently expanded from small batches made in a closet to a fully licensed, high-tech brew room, allowing Fitts to supply the Kohanaiki club with his own creations.
While he was working as a server at the club, Fitts talked to coworkers about how he brewed beer at home. He brought in samples that wowed members and staff. Excitement around the beer grew so much that Fitts often worked through the night to meet demand. Now, with 120-gallon tanks at his disposal, the former “moonlighting moonshiner” has everything he needs to practice his craft.
The challenge for Fitts has been to coax a club full of wine drinkers, and more than a few winemakers, into the beer world.
“I hear, ‘I don’t drink beer,’ a lot,” he says with a laugh. “So I try to start with the easy, accessible stuff.”
Fitts currently offers a blonde and a lager, which he keeps low alcohol at 4.2% and 4.5%, respectively. “The beers are on the lighter side, given the weather here,” he says.
His past brews include a porter flavored with smoked ki’awe wood and a series of ales inspired by Captain Cook’s travels. He’s currently working on a sour ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels.
Mat Macdonald, Two Rock Wine Company, Paget, Bermuda
Macdonald never expected to help change the wine culture of his native Bermuda. But after a few years in the U.S. and a stint studying viticulture in New Zealand, Macdonald returned home and bought the majority share of importer New World Wines.
Macdonald now imports mainly small, Old World producers, and yearns to expose the locals to new and interesting wines.
“Growing up, the [wine] selection was pretty dire,” says Macdonald. “People who had the cash had cellars. They’d buy wine in the UK and ship it in themselves. There are only a few importers, and without the consumer demand, they have no reason to change. In essence, what happened [was] the consumer suffer[ed], because they have wine lists that are boring.”
Two Rock is doing its part to add variety.
“A lot of people are looking for organic and biodynamic producers, and for smaller, kind of niche products,” he says. “We’re not going into natural. It’s scary, because we have to ship to Bermuda from New York, and we don’t have easy reefer [refrigerated] lines [of transport]. There are too many opportunities for errors.”
Macdonald tries to scratch his customers’ itch for niche with grower Champagnes and small-production bottlings in the $15–30 range, and he’s right on trend with his private-label Raft-Up Rosé. Next up? “I would love to bring in orange wine.”
The Beverage Director
Rod Wyndham, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, the reserve has forged an award-winning, 6,000-bottle list that’s heavily focused on South African selections. But shipping wine into the bush can prove challenging, says Rod Wyndham, the managing director.
“Normal road freight can easily damage wines, as the temperatures soar during summer months,” he says, but “small wineries have begun to collaborate and use courier services that specialize in wine transport.”
His 18-year tenure has seen a dynamic evolution within the country’s wine industry, as young winemakers thrive and experiment with varieties in lesser-known regions. What’s he currently excited about?
“Saronsberg Cellar, in the Western Cape’s Tulbagh region, produces an incredible Shiraz as well as Full Circle, perhaps the best blend I’ve ever had,” he says. It’s a mix of Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. “We’re even starting to see vines cultivated along the Orange River in Plettenberg Bay.”
With so much at his disposal, he often looks to the setting to pick the right bottle.
“An outdoor Boma dinner is a quintessential safari experience, and the smoke and fire from the braai [barbecue] affects how we taste,” he says. “You can’t go wrong with wine from Stellenrust’s cellarmaster, Tertius Boshoff. The old vine Chenin Blanc is absolutely fantastic.”