Kapalua WINE & FOOD Festival

Evening galas, celeb chefs and winemakers to uncork another stellar year on Maui

The Seafood Festival will be fluid fun Sunday night at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua • KAPALUA WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL photo

Want to schmooze famous winemakers such as Karl Wicka of Turley and Scott Shirley of Justin? How about guest culinarians such as the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” Cat Cora?

More than 40 top wine producers will be on hand today through Sunday to showcase their vintages at the 36th Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, the “granddaddy of them all.” So will celeb chefs at the oldest event of its kind in the country.

Evolving nicely like a fine Bordeaux, the event this year will flow from the Montage Kapalua Bay to The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and other resort venues such as Merriman’s Kapalua, which will host the Sunset Social dinner Saturday on its oceanfront deck.

“Kapalua is truly a ‘jewel box’ boutique festival held under coconut trees on Maui, and has attendance from all over the U.S. and state of Hawaii with guests from other countries, such as Mexico,” says repeat event host Michael Jordan, much-beloved and an icon educator in the Master Court of Sommelier, to boot.

“The winemakers and chefs are of the very highest quality and style, and the event is really a very warm and friendly, engaging chance to meet and get to know these rock stars of wine and food!” says Jordan.

Gourmet food will be plentiful • KAPALUA WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL photo

Festivities start today for four-day pass holders. Friday tees off with a golf tourney that includes an awards banquet and lunch with plenty to drink, of course.

All of the above is the good news for those who have already bought their four-day festival passes and individual tickets to the various daytime events. The bad news is that most are sold out, except for Baja Mexican Magic on Sunday (see related story on Page 16). However, the evening galas still have some openings and so this story will focus on those.

As the sun begins its descent over the Pacific, the Grand Tasting Kapalua style will kick up its heels from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday on the oceanfront lawn at the Montage Kapalua Bay resort.

“Premium wines from around the globe are showcased by geographic region alongside the fabulous gastronomic indulgences from Kapalua Resort restaurants and special friends,” says Karin Sagar, event director of the prestigious festival.

“After years of participating in the Aspen Food & Wine Festival, I will say that the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival boasts just as impressive a lineup in a more intimate setting,” says David Viviano, executive chef of Montage Kapalua Bay.

An attendee sips from a world-class selection of wines at the Grand Tasting • KAPALUA WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL photo

“The Grand Tasting is an event with sweeping views of the Pacific and the tastiest grindz in Maui. It is always special to come together with the island’s finest chefs to host guests from near and far. This year visitors can indulge on decadent bites of our foie gras PBJ. It is an expertly crafted foie gras torchon paired with mac-nut butter, Kula strawberry jam and Molokai sweet potato bread. In addition, we are highlighting prized Kusshi oysters that are lightly chargrilled topped with bonito soy butter, fresh squeezed calamansi lime and bread crumbs with scallions,” Viviano continues. “Guests will be intoxicated by the aroma of the sea as we cook oysters to order.”

Besides the Grand Tasting, the Seafood Festival from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday in Ritz’s Aloha Pavilion is always a hit.

“The Seafood Festival is the grand finale of this incredible weekend of wine and food,” says Ritz Executive Chef Daniel Schmidt.

“You have Maui’s top chefs coming together to compete for the Best of the Fest award. I know my team wants to win and we will be pulling out all the stops. We have a few culinary tricks up our sleeve that you won’t want to miss.”

Sip your favorite wine and savor Ritz’s temptations from its Banyan Tree restaurant such as cured kampachi crudo with shaved truffled yolk, creme fraiche, nitro grapefruit and citrus oil; and charred hee, or octopus, with squid-ink pasta, backyard-style chorizo, chicharron and uni emulsion by Chef Alvin Savella.

Socializing is a big part of the fun at the Grand Tasting, situated oceanfront at the Montage Kapalua Bay on Friday. • KAPALUA WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL photo

“There will be 14 top Maui restaurants showcasing a seafood specialty and culinary creation in all,” says Sagar. “And we’ll have premium wines, Kona Brewing Company beer and Bombay Sapphire specialty craft cocktails. The perennial favorite Nuff Sedd band will provide rocking tunes to dance the night away.”

Walk around the expansive pavilion and munch scallop congee with kakuni, and toro tartare with Maui onion and dashi soy by Morimoto Maui Chef Chris Hochman. Napili Kai Beach Resort Sea House Chef Alex Stanislaw will wow with Niihau lamb with sundried tomato tapenade and Hawaii Island kampachi with minted freekeh and salsa verde.

Japengo Sushi Chef Jin Hosono will do drunken shrimp in a coconut porter sauce and marinated seared tuna with crispy smoked tuna skin.

Chefs from various resort areas on Maui will all bring their best. Pacific’o Chef Greg Harrison will make Kona abalone over rice gnocchi; and tako-ink kiawe hummus with rice chicharron and a dusting of hemp seed and nori (seaweed) on sausage.

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a Chef Mike Lofaro will impress with fish and poi, a dish of smoked marlin, bacalao, grilled bread and mint; and kampachi crudo with avocado, smoked ponzu and mustard oil. Chef Viviano of Montage will tempt with lobster corn dogs and hamachi-poke tacos; Fleetwood’s on Front St. Chef Eric Morrissette will serve Spanish octopus on yellow hibiscus risotto and Maine lobster ceviche with a Chelsea Gem raw oyster.

The band Nuff Sedd will get the crowd going at the Seafood Festival. • KAPALUA WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL photo

Mmm. . . lobster and oysters, oh my. But it doesn’t stop there.

Gannon’s chef Bret Pafford will entice with tandoori king salmon and Kona Coffee- rubbed Molokai venison loin for the meat lovers among us.

Hula Grill Chef Charlie Owen will do a taste of Thailand with coconut calamari and offer smoked ono rillettes with Kula fennel and micro basil.

Wine stations will be scattered about and do ask the experts what pairings will work with each dish.

Pulehu Chef Jesse Pita (what a great name for someone in the food industry) will do arancini with spring peas and Kona kampachi prepared with a smattering of Fresco chiles, olives, capers and anchovies.

Regina Martinelli of a famed California wine family will be in attendance. • KAPALUA WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL photo

Roy’s Kaanapali Chef Ryan Ferguson will do hamachi yuzu aquachiles, and Kauai shrimp with truffle-miso risotto; Tommy Bahama Chef Jason LaMotte will toss hee in a ceviche with escobedo tomatoes, local feta and persillade; and last but not least, the University of Hawaii Maui College Culinary Arts students will do chermoula smoked fish pate on brioche, and day boat scallops and shrimp with foie-unagi sauce with Japanese mayo.

Events are for those 21 and older. Do get a taxi, uber or a designated driver or call the Kapalua Villas about rates if you drink. Here’s to another good year!


• Grand Tasting: From 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Montage Kapalua Bay with world-class wines, cuisine by Kapalua restaurants, live music by Bravada and fashions by OluKai

• Seafood Festival: From 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s Aloha Pavilion. Listen to music by Nuff Sedd, dine on seafood by 15 top Maui restaurants, sip wines and vote for Best of the Fest.

• Other highlights: Daytime wine seminars/tastings, celeb chef cooking demos/lunches (sold out), golf tourney, resort dinners, gin tasting and more.

• For tickets and schedule: Visit www.kapaluawineandfoodfestival.com.