This afternoon we attended an “Old World vs. New World Wine Tasting” seminar conducted by Noordam’s brilliant 29-year-old Hungarian sommelier/cellar master Csaba Toth. Knowledgeable way beyond his years about the wines of the world, Toth helped us understand how the noble wines of Europe spread by way of root grafting to the “new world” – the Americas, Australia and New Zealand in particular – and were adapted to different soils and climatic conditions to produce wines that are as fine as their European predecessors.
ABOARD NOORDAM-Sorry to report that thick clouds and showers pretty much spoiled our day of cruising in Glacier Bay. It was so nasty that I didn’t even attempt any photos. I can, however, tell you a bit about Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve – looking to convince you to come see it – hopefully on a nice sunny day — if you haven’t already done so.
Without question Glacier Bay is one of America’ s most magnificent national parks. It stands out even in a land famous for its glaciers (Alaska is home to more than 5,000 of them!) and that’s because nowhere else in the world can you so closely approach such a number and variety of these massive rivers of ice. As the world’s largest protected marine sanctuary, 3.3-million-acre Glacier Bay National Park features 16 major tidewater glaciers and more than 30 valley or alpine glaciers (those that don’t extend all the way to the water). A visit here is akin to stepping back to the last Ice Age.
The park’s biggest attraction is watching the retreating tidewater glaciers calving building-sized icebergs that crash into the bay, sounding like the blast of a cannon and propelling mini-tidal waves capable of rocking even the largest cruise ship.
During the late 1700s Captains James Cook and George Vancouver sailed right by Glacier Bay – so ice-choked at the time that they didn’t even realize it was there. A 20-mile-long ice face blocking the bay’s entrance gradually melted to the point that in 1879 naturalist John Muir became the first non-native to enter and explore the Bay. Today the ice has ebbed sufficiently to expose nearly 65 miles of fjords, inlets and islands – and of course a cast of entertaining glaciers.
Toth also addressed matching food and wines – a subject that can be perplexing to most of us who enjoy wine with our meals but lack the in-depth knowledge of how any given wine affects our palate, especially in combination with different kinds of food. I won’t attempt to get into the complexities of it all here, but I would urge any wine enthusiast who joins a Noordam cruise to take in one of Toth’s presentations.
I’ll adjourn for now as we’ve arrived in Ketchikan – followed by the overcast and rainy conditions that dogged us yesterday in Glacier Bay – but Mel and I are game for our “Wilderness Cruise and Crab Feast” excursion, which will take us by catamaran to remote George Inlet Lodge where we plan to stuff ourselves with king crab. More on that experience in tomorrow’s blog.