Red, White & Bubbly

The granddaddy of all wine and food events in the country will be pouring for every taste this year – including red, white and bubbly.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is ready, too. As host property, its wine glasses are polished and its key players are now on island for the 32nd annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival today through Sunday.

“It’s going to be a thrilling year,” says Master Sommelier Michael A. Jordan, who will return as emcee and host, this time teaming with Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya. “The event promises to be the most delectable ever. And, I say this without reservation.”

That’s because the creme de la creme of award-winning winemakers and celebrity chefs will join the lineup over the next four days and nights.

“We’ve got two of the best chefs on the planet, heroes and icons in our industry, who are going to bolster our culinary side,” he continues.

Jordan is talking about James Beard Award-winning chefs Gary Danko and Nancy Oakes of San Francisco restaurant fame. Both were “Best Chef in California” in recent years, and remain on top of their games.

“And we’ve got the Pritchard Hill Gang, who produce cult wines, coming. Never have they all been in one place. It’s like herding cats. But we did it. Good luck trying to get on their mailing lists. There’s a looong wait.”

The festival kicks off today with a trade tasting for those in the industry and a reception for four-day pass holders and winemakers this evening.

“Kapalua Wine & Food Festival brings together some of the best chef and wine talents from the Mainland to Maui, a destination of unmatched beauty,” says Tom Donovan, vice president and general manager of the Ritz. “Kapalua Resort is once again proud to offer a stunning backdrop for such a high-caliber connoisseur’s event.”

Friday will tee off at 7 a.m. with the annual Festival Golf Tournament at the Kapalua Bay Course, followed by the ever-popular Sparkling Wine & Cheese seminar. Tickets are going, going, gone on this one as Kent Torrey of the Cheese Shop in Carmel, Calif., is a popular repeat guest and the sparkling wines are off the map.

Of course, one event you may still snag tickets for is the Grand Tasting, and it’s going to be situated outdoors under the stars at the Ritz’s Beach House Lawn, with music by Kahulanui, a Hawaiian swing band, and food by Kapalua’s top talents. Hundreds of wines will flow from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday.

“This year’s unique collaboration of a Kapalua-centric chef showcase on Friday night is going to be an outstanding demonstration of innovative talent within Kapalua Resort,” says Donovan.

Featuring Maui’s impressive farm-to-table movement and globe-trotting gastronomy, this year’s theme is the Grand Tasting – “Kapalua Style.”

“Let your palate explore premium and rare celebrated wines from regions around the world and savor the cuisine of Kapalua’s culinary stars and locally grown produce,” says the Ritz’s Executive Chef John Zaner.

Wines will flow from Mollydooker, Mia Klein, Kosta Browne, ‘Olela, Sandhi, Continuum, Ovid Napa Valley and David Arthur. Many more are listed on the website if you would like more of an insider’s edge.

Featured restaurants at the Grand Tasting will include the Ritz’s Banyan Tree and Kai Sushi with ground lamb sliders served with tempura Maui onion, local goat cheese and roasted red pepper on pretzel rolls; seared scallops on gnocchi with brown butter; house-smoked hamachi with lilikoi creme fraiche, and pancetta-stuffed filet mignon with Hamakua mushrooms.

Plantation House will serve goat-cheese dumplings and grilled shrimp with compressed watermelon and basil caviar; Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar will do petit ahi carpaccio, and tempura-shrimp hand rolls with garlic-masago aioli.

Merriman’s will present Malama Farms pork and white shrimp adobo with Kona clams, and Kumu Farms beet-and-vodka-cured kampachi with Kahuku sea asparagus.

“The restaurant chefs will pull out all the stops to showcase Kapalua’s premier culinary venues,” says Zaner, stoked with the lineup.

On Friday and Sunday nights, Maui Brewing Co. beers and specialty cocktails will also be available for your sipping pleasure.

The party continues Saturday with Celebrity Chef Nancy Oakes of Boulevard in San Francisco creating a three-course luncheon. Six winemaker dinners will be held that evening at various Kapalua restaurants, and tickets are available.

Sunday heats up with Que Sera Syrah Sera wine tasting, followed by a cooking demo lunch with the above-mentioned San Francisco great Gary Danko, who has garnered five, 6-star ratings from Mobile Travel Guide. This one’s not to be missed.

“Some people come here to surf -I’ve come to ride the spectacular local ingredients plucked from the sea and the abundant Kula growing fields,” he said when contacted about this story.

Sunday’s popular finale, the Seafood Festival, will feature 14 of Maui’s top chefs, wine, spirits, beer and live music by Nuff Sedd.

Each chef will do one hot and one cold dish such as Japengo’s hot poached Kona-abalone croquettes and cold cured salmon wrapped in shiso leaf; and Honu Seafood & Pizza’s hot Molokai shrimp aguachile and chilled mahimahi ceviche.

Other participanting establishments are Fleetwood’s on Front St., Kahana Grill, Makena Beach & Golf Resort, Star Noodle, Hali’imaile General Store, Roy’s Kaanapali, Maui Culinary Academy, Hula Grill, I’o, Pacific’o, Kai Sushi and The Terrace.

Cheers! To another great year!