Searching for Wine in Hawaii (April 2, 2003)
They say that wine is made in all fifty of the United States, and I was
determined to see if this was true for Hawaii.
The Hawaiian island of Maui doesn't immediately leap to mind as a wine
destination, but there is more wine activity there than BC Premier Gordon
Campbell can shake a corkscrew at.
There is, in fact, a flourishing winery on the island one of two
commercial wineries producing grape wine in Hawaii.
Tedeschi Vineyards is located some 2,000 feet above sea level on the
grass-covered volcanic slope of Haleakala in east Maui. Twenty-two acres
of grapes, part of a 20,000-acre ranch called 'Ulupalakua, are planted
with Carnelian (a 1936 Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon crossing which
was then crossed with Grenache) and Chenin Blanc. From this combo, winemaker
Ben Mendez, a former drummer from Honolulu, and his consulting oenologist
Californian Dimitri Tchelischeff, produce two sparkling wines and four
still wines as well as a pineapple wine.
In 1974 C. Pardee Erdman, the owner of the property, and Emil Tedeschi
(who had vineyard experience in California) planted 150 different grape
varieties before settling on Carnelian. While they were waiting for the
vines to mature they experimented with making wine from pineapples, Hawaii's
native fruit. In 1977 they released the Maui Blanc Pineapple Wine, which
is still made today.
Produced from concentrate, Maui Blanc is the winery's most popular product,
selling more than 250,000 bottles a year and accounting for more 70 per
cent of its production. The pineapple wine is something of a cash crop,
since it's ready for shipping three months after fermentation. Their biggest
market is Japan and it's a big seller in the local tourist shops on the
Apart from the Tedeschi Vineyards, there are other wine-making
enterprises in Hawaii.
Winemaker Tim Kenny at Volcano
Winery on The Big Island produces honey wines, tropical fruit
blends of local fruits and grapes, and wines made from the Symphony
grape in dry and semi-dry styles. Email: AVvolcanowinery.aol.com
Head Winery, in Honolulu, if you feel moved to make your own
wine while you're on vacation you can select a kit from 50 varietals,
mix the ingredients and return 8 weeks later to bottle your two
cases of wine. Or you can have a wine tasting party on the premises
for US $10 a person. Call (808) 841-WINE.
Such is the microclimate around the vineyards on Maui that Ben Mendez
can get two harvests in, a year the first in September-October,
the second in December, the fruit of which is used for the sparkling wine.
His major problems are humidity, mildew and the birds. "Sometimes
we have to stop bottling," Mendez told me, "because of the humidity.
The labels won't stick to the bottles." The average rainfall here
is 28 inches a year.
The winery itself is located in a large tin shed removed from the main
single-story white wood cottage that houses the tasting room with its
18-foot long bar cut from the trunk of a single mango tree. In adjoining
rooms is an intriguing collection of photos and artefacts depicting the
history of the 'Ulupalakua Ranch and the paniolo (the Hawaiian cowboys)
who worked it. Towering over these buildings and old stone cottage, which
once served as a jail, are huge 100-year-old trees.
In the tasting room I was permitted by the young lady behind the bar
to sample only four wines, mindful no doubt of the tortuous drive up from
our hotel. It took about an hour to reach the winery, although when my
wife Deborah and I arrived we could see our hotel by the ocean below us.
These are my notes:
- Maui Blush (a Chenin Blanc/Carnelian blend)
Deep salmon pink in colour, off-dry raspberry flavour with a crisp finish
- Maui Brut Sparkling (which, I was told, was served at Ronald
Reagan's presidential inauguration in 1985)
Off-dry, similar in style to a Prosecco (US $18.95).
- 'Ulupalakua Red
Pale ruby with a raspberry candy nose, off-dry and syrupy (US $10.25).
- Maui Blanc (pineapple wine)
It tastes like pineapple juice with a kick (US$7.95).
For information on how to visit Tedeschi Vineyards, go to www.mauiwine.com
or email email@example.com.
Winter Wine Escape
From the heights of Tedeschi Vineyards you can look down on the ocean
and see the Maui Prince Hotel at Makena, where we were staying. The sister
hotel on the Big Island, the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, is certainly a
wine destination. For the last ten years they have held a Winter Wine
Escape Weekend in November. Last year's event was a six-course dinner
featuring the wines of Grgich Hills and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars from
the Napa Valley.
Before the meal, our reception wine was Grgich Hills Fume Blanc 2000.
We sat down to Kawamata Tomato Soup with Tomato Poke Purse a deliciously
light essence of tomato drained from the pulp paired with Stag's
Leap Sauvignon Blanc 2000. Then came Lobster Cake with Corn Relish matched
to Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2000, followed by Mustard Seed Crusted Ahi
tuna with Shoyu Butter alongside Stag's Leap Chardonnay 2000.
The first meat course was Colorado Lamb and Lamb Shank with Golden Whipped
Potatoes and Maui Onion partnered with a brace of reds, Stag's Leap Fay
Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 and (the wine of the night) Stag's Leap
Cabernet Sauvignon SLV 1998. The cheese course, a fabulous construction
billed as "Chef Corey's Selected Domestic Cheeses with a Micro Greens
tower, Toasted Shallot Vinaigrette and Pecans," was matched with
Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 and that winery's Zinfandel 1999.
Dessert was a Chestnut Torte on Hazelnut Cake with Valrona Chocolate
Cream in a Vanilla Wafer with Pear Sorbet served with Grgich Hills Late
Harvest Violetta 2000.
Now, if that menu doesn't make you salivate, you must be off your food.
Our host for the evening, who led the assembled wine lovers through the
dishes and the wines, was New York sommelier Steven Olson. His definition
as to what makes a great wine was succinct and very apposite. "To
make great wine," he said, "it takes the four "G's"
the grape, the ground, the guys and God."