Aloha, as I prepare to return to Maui finally after years of delay thanks to Covid, I want to share my January 2020 Article on Maui Wine. This was published right before the pandemic and was one of my most well received pieces in the magazine, who knew then that the pandemic would halt travel! Anyhow enjoy & Aloha!
Escaping the cold winter months in Seattle is must in my book. Hawaii is a household favorite for a quick, reenergizing, warm escape. I decided to make a recent trip a ‘working holiday’ and took a day touring the Maui Winery Estate. Expecting a tourist trap, I was amazed at the quality and history the Maui Winery showcases.
Driving to the upcountry takes you through small towns full of aloha spirit and decreasing numbers of tourists. When you arrive at the winery there are no vines to be seen, but I learned they own about 25,000 acres; the vines thrive on Mount Haleakala’s south facing slopes at 1,750-1,900 feet elevation.
If you make the trip, plan to take one of the two daily complementary tours. The tour highlights history back to 1840s, highlighting both the trees Captain James Makee planted and the flowers his wife loved. There is also a historic, royal connection to the property. The main tasting room occupies the cottage Hawaiian King Kalākaua (the last King of Hawaii) would inhabit a few weeks every year.
The last stop on the tour is the crush pad and winemaking building. Originally, pineapple wine was made to train employees on the equipment. Pineapple wine became a customer favorite and multiple “varieties” are still produced. They crush pineapples twice a month to keep up with demand. I had the opportunity to try the 3 styles of pineapple wine and I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t overly sweet. The sparkling pineapple would be perfect to accompany a summer barbeque or a light winter dessert.
A favorite wine I tasted was the 2017 Syrah. Malina, our engaging guide, noted that the Syrah grape produces quite well on the island. Syrah prefers very shallow soil like those found on the island. Almost all the Maui Wines are aged in stainless steel and not oak, solely because they are not set up to have climate controlled space for barrels. They do add aged oak staves (pieces of barrels) into the stainless steel vats to impart a touch of oak. This creates a smooth, light Syrah with hints of cherry and sandalwood.
I found it intriguing that the winery has been in operation since 1974 and continues to evolve. They have replanted over the years focusing only on grapes that grow and produce high quality fruit. In 2017 they produced just 96 cases of a select Syrah from the best block in the vineyard. The wine aged in both French and American oak barrels experimenting with the process. This small lot of wine went to club members, they did share a taste with us and had it been a blind tasting I would have thought it was from Washington.
If you, like me, are hoping to escape dreary Seattle this winter and you make it to Maui, I highly recommend visiting Maui Wines. Make a day of it and stop in Kula for lunch at the Kula Bistro (amazing Kalua Pork Panini), then continue onto the winery. On your way back, stop at the Surfing Goat Dairy for samples of fresh goat cheese and goat milk ice cream! Be sure to ship a few bottles home so you can bring some of the Aloha home to Seattle!
This article was featured in Laurelhurst & Windermere Living Magazine in January 2020.