As usual, lovers of the good life will want to partake in the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, which will be uncorked this evening through Sunday.
This year's theme is "Lucky Live Hawaii," and lucky we are, indeed, to have an event of this caliber.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua will be puttin' on a beautiful backdrop for scores of world-class winemakers to show their stuff. Presented by Visa, it will feature popular al fresco events such as the Grand Tasting on Friday, the Seafood Festival on Sunday, and a slew of seminars, lunches and wine tastings in between.
A perennial favorite at the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, Gary Pisoni of Pisoni Vineyards will return this year to appear in the Superstars of Pinot Noir seminar from 2 to 3:30 p.m., Friday with other heavy hitters in the field. He’ll also be on hand to chat with guests at Merriman’s winemaker dinner starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"This year, we're honored to present a block-buster roster of world-renowned winemakers and cult favorites," says Tom Donovan, vice president and general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
"From Heidi Peterson Barrett showcasing a selection of her La Sirena wines to Bob Cabral (winemaker of the year in 2011) at William Selyem to Gary Pisoni of his namesake vineyard and many more of that caliber -the 31st anniversary of this connoisseur's event promises to wow the most discriminating of palates."
Host and Master Sommelier Michael A. Jordon will lead panels and journey guests through world-class varietals and fine cuisine over the weekend.
Here are some highlights from the dinners opening up at the different restaurants. This evening at 7, Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar near the Ritz in Kapalua will offer a formal kaiseki dinner by Master Sushi Chef Masamichi. The seven-course feast includes specialty sashimi, Hawaiian catch, amuse bouche, kaiseki bento, beef sukiyaki, risotto with New Zealand salmon and more. Cost is $70, plus tax and tip. As any good attendee with stamina knows, Sansei is also THE PLACE to hang out after hours during the festival. Saturday, winemaker Fred Scherrer and master sommelier and event host Michael Jordan and their friends will play Unplugged and Uncorked starting at 10 p.m. A late-night menu and interesting wines by the glass will be offered. Call 669-6286.
In addition to hosting the entire festival in its ballrooms and oceanfront Beach House Lawn area, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua will set the stage for two winemaker dinners. This evening will be Plumpjack Winery with a four-course feast for $150, plus tax and tip.
Saturday, the Banyan Tree will uncork La Sirena wines with winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett in attendance. Chef de Cuisine Jojo Vasquez will wow guests with a four-course meal. The highlights are ahi tuna Nicoise with Meyer lemon gremolata; squid stuffed with house-made pork sausage with sauce Romesco; prime beef short rib on parsnip fondant and totsoi and dessert of foie-gras malasada with peanut butter and jelly. Cost is $175, plus tax and tip. For reservations at the Ritz dinners, call 669-6200.
Pineapple Grill at Kapalua will host a winemaker dinner with David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars at 6 p.m. Friday, but we hear it may already be sold out. The big news is, however, that Isaac Bancaco has been named executive chef at Pineapple Grill. He and Ming Tsai were the team that beat Iron Chef Bobby Flay in "Kitchen Stadium America." To check and see if any seats will be available for the dinner, call 669-9600.
Merriman's Restaurant will present a dinner with Gary Pisoni of Pisoni Vineyards at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Courses include Uluwehi farm beet, bacon, blue cheese, black quinoa, raddichio, compressed pineapple salad; ulu-crusted Kona kampachi in ginger-lemongrass butter; cinnamon smoked quail ; USDA prime filet mignon of beef and Maui cattle beef heart with Waimea town asparagus; and vanilla crepes with chocolate sauce and ice cream. Cost is $115 plus tax and gratuity. Call 669-6400.
Last, but not least, Plantation House at Kapalua will host its "Come Join Our Table" dinner with winemaker Fred Scherrer of Scherrer Winery at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"Fred Scherrer is so passionate about wines that he ages them past when many winemakers release their own," says Plantation House's executive chef/partner Alex Stanislaw. "His wife handles the money and tries to get him to change this - and he won't."
The menu includes Calabrian sausage-stuffed crimini mushrooms and manchego croquettes at the reception, that will be followed by garlic prawns with eggplant puree; peppered rare seared ahi salad; braised pork cheeks, potato cream and micro parsley salad; and dessert of flourless chocolate cake with smoked chili salt caramel drizzle. Cost is $90 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call the Plantation House at 669-6299.
Other festival highlights are the welcome reception this evening for those who purchase four-day festival passes; and the Pinot Superstars wine seminar and the Grand Tasting with Henry Kapono as headliner on Friday. You may buy a la carte tickets to all events.
Saturday's lineup includes Organic Vines Make Better Wines seminar, Cooking Demo with Celebrity "Iron Chef" Ron Siegel; tasting by Heidi Peterson Barrett; and Sparkling at the Spa Tour.
Sunday will kick off with Viva Espana! The Tasting of Premium Spanish Wines; Ritz Wine Tour at various fun areas at the resort; Kings of Cab panel; and the culmination of the weekend, the Seafood Festival.
"The grand finale event showcases 15 of Maui's top chefs and the bounty of the Pacific," says the Ritz's Executive Chef John Zaner. "We've moved it down by the ocean to the Beach House Lawn, where it belongs. We'll have music by Nuff Sedd, wine, beer and spirits all while you mingle with the winemakers."
Food highlights include clams on the beach by Pacific'o, crab enchiladas by Hali'imaile General Store, Kona kampachi misoyaki by Japengo, ginger-dusted shrimp by Hula Grill, and banana cream pies by Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop. Other participants include Gerard's, Star Noodle, David Paul's Island Grill, 100 Wines, Capische? Makena Resort restaurants, Roy's, Monkeypod Kitchen, Honu and Ritz restaurants.
For tickets, visit kapaluawineandfoodfestival.com.