Story by Charles Fredy
This year, Kapalua Resort will host both the oldest wine festival in Hawaii—and the newest, as Maui Land & Pineapple Company yields ownership of this stellar event to the resort’s individual entities.
What will that mean for the festival’s many fans? For one thing, a greater emphasis on homegrown products, and increased participation by local chefs and wine personalities. One of them, I’m happy to say, is Oahu’s Patrick Okubo, the youngest master sommelier in the United States, and one of only three master sommeliers in Hawaii.
Patrick and I have been working together and with many other passionate sommeliers to build wine awareness in Hawaii. One important area is how wines pair with local menus. These islands have a unique cuisine, a fusion of international influences. Many of our chefs have trained outside of Hawaii; once here, they begin to incorporate the subtle flavors of Asia. Being well versed in our chefs’ ideas, in the natural affinities of island foods and preparations, enables local wine experts to make great pairings.
Don’t be surprised if those pairings are nontraditional. Around the world, regionality is an important factor in selecting the right wine. There’s a reason Tuscan wines go best with Tuscan food; they’ve evolved together. Hawaii isn’t a wine-growing region, but with our fusion cuisine, the world is our wine spice rack.
Understanding our climate is equally important. Hawaii’s warm, humid weather invites a lot of outdoor dining, and calls for lighter wines that are easier to consume; pinot noir is a good example. Full-bodied wines, and ones with higher alcohol percentages, are better enjoyed in that air-conditioned hotel restaurant.
Much of the training I have been doing is with industry professionals. When restaurant staff are more knowledgeable and excited about wine, you’re more likely to be adventurous as a customer. And then, perhaps, you’ll expand your own wine-pairing explorations. The Kapalua Wine & Food Festival is the perfect venue to do so, since it offers fare from some of Maui’s finest restaurants, and literally hundreds of wines to sip and savor in the course of a single weekend.
And then there are the seminars. I will be showcasing Spanish wines, from value to iconic to luxury–a phenomenal selection influenced by Master Sommelier Sara Floyd, who manages our Jorge Ordonez wine portfolio. Patrick plans to showcase some Spanish wines as well. We’ll talk about why Spain is so important a wine region, its diversity from traditional to progressive winemaking styles, and why the wines of Spain have become so popular in Hawaii and the U.S. in general.
I look forward to seeing you at the festival, and sharing the adventure with you.