Kapalua Wine & Food Festival

The 37th annual affair to be uncorked at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, Montage Kapalua Bay and top resort restaurants

The Grand Tasting will lead off evening galas June 8 at Montage Kapalua Bay. TONY NOVAK-CLIFFORD photo

Year after year, Kapalua Wine & Food Festival attracts an eclectic array of “cork dorks,” aka “sommeliers,” “beverage managers” and countless other “experts of the grape.”

Yet the 37-year-old iconic event, the oldest of its kind in the country, also attracts hundreds of those who simply like to sip fabulous wine and savor gourmet food. Others just want to meet famous winemakers and celebrity chefs and enjoy evening galas that boast sunset views and then starry nights over the Pacific.

Speaking of views, the opening Grand Tasting party will be uncorked June 8 at the Montage Kapalua Bay resort. It’s set near near the classic cove whose glistening sands were named “Best Beach in the U.S.” last week by coastal sciences professor Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman. The grand-finale Kapalua Seafood Festival event on June 10 will return to The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua’s iconic Beach House Lawn overlooking historic Fleming’s Beach.

Adding to festivities Wednesday and through June 10 is a big beefy sandwich of winemaker dinners at resort restaurants; educational winemaker panels; celebrity-chef luncheon demos by superstars Nancy Silverton and Nancy Oakes, aka “The Two Nancys,” and French legend Hubert Keller; a golf tourney; after-parties and more.

“The upcoming 37th annual festival promises to be one of the best ever!” says Host and Master Sommelier Michael Jordan, also director of Global Key Accounts for the Jackson Family of Wines. “We will feature some amazing celebrity chefs along with the most famous and friendly winemakers that we could find … and some of the highest quality wines on the planet!”

Kaena Wines was among dozens of top wineries featured at evening galas and daytime panels. TONY NOVAK-CLIFFORD photo

This year’s Grand Tasting will flow from 6 to 9 p.m., elegant as the “White Party.”

“Come dressed in your best ‘White Party’ attire this year,” says Event Director Karin Sagar. “Premium wines will be showcased with fabulous gastronomic indulgences from Kapalua Resort restaurants and friends. It’s a walk-around tasting and evening under the stars — all on the oceanfront grounds of Montage Kapalua Bay.”

Maui Visitors Bureau will fly in guest chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Euclid Hall, Stoic & Genuine and Ultreia — all of Denver, Colo., to cook braised pork belly in coconut-pork broth and sear ahi served with lemon vinaigrette asparagus puree.

Chef Aaron Palone of the new ‘ai ‘ono at the Ritz will do tako and tamales and Tuk Tuk tacos with Thai-grilled skirt steak. Robert Barrera of Montage’s Cane & Canoe will have you sipping a nice syrah with warm-duck confit salad, and swirling a sauvignon blanc with Big Island abalone on green papaya salad.

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar Kapalua Chef Kaipo Nakata will entice with Wagyu beef carpaccio and shrimp and grits; Plantation House Chef Maggie King will get you going with pupusa of Salvadoran tortillas and five-spice duck breast. (On Wednesday, Plantation House will present a Patz & Hall winemaker dinner and Sansei’s sister Kihei restaurant will do a J. Wilkes Winery dinner.)

A toast being made by event Host and Master Sommelier Michael Jordan. TONY NOVAK-CLIFFORD photo

Other Grand Tasting chef participants include Maribel Rumbaoa of Honolua Store; Roger Stettler of Taverna; Justin Pardo of Merriman’s Kapalua; and Derlin Gijal of Pineapple Grill — all Kapalua chefs. Lee Anderson of Sugar Beach Events in Kihei will join the action.

Besides coveted selections from visiting wineries such as Kosta Browne, Williams Selyem, Stag’s Leap, Cambria Estate and too many to list here, you may sample the winning cocktail from the “Kapalua’s Best Banks Rum” contest and enjoy Kona Brew’s handcrafted beers, according to Sagar.

Other highlights are the Petrossian Caviar station with spoonfuls of some of the world’s finest caviar; a 1,000-pound cheese display featuring exquisite bites by Kent Torrey of The Cheese Shop in Carmel, Calif.; Maui Artisan Sourdough Breads; and a preview of the latest luxury models by Lexus, named official Festival Vehicle Sponsor. As icing on the cake, Maui Cookie Lady will sweeten the Grand Tasting with varieties Grown-Up Samoa, Pineapple Lychee Passion with Hibiscus Flowers, Maui Monkey and Wine Cookies. Sweet Aloha Baking Co. will do No Ka Oi cinnamon rolls; and Montage resort pastry chefs will bake chocolate-mango frangipani tarts.

While the Grand Tasting concludes festivities June 8, that date tees off with the Festival Golf Tourney for interested parties and features “Let’s Be Franc” New World cabernet franc wine tasting and seminar.

On June 9, you may still buy tickets to “Regional Focus: Digging into Unique Terrior” of France, Italy and Hungary, an international wine tasting and seminar. The cooking demo with “The Two Nancys” is a hot ticket item that will sell out fast at the Ritz. “The Two Jeffs,” Jeff Stewart of Hartford Court and Jeff Mangahas of Williams Selyem, will pair their wines with pheasant and porcini mushroom meatballs with roasted hearts of palm, burrata and braised leeks, lilikoi aqua chile with kampachi, and coconut-nib caramel tart with whipped creme fraiche. 


Also on June 9, the “Historical Focus Family Tree — The Scions of Family Wineries” will highlight David and Laura Long of David Arthur Vineyards and Doug and Ryan Hill of Hill Family Vineyards.

Sunday, June 10, begins with a bang. The “Champagne & Caviar Pairing” kicks things off, followed by the cooking demo luncheon with acclaimed French Chef Keller; the “Varietal Focus: World Famous Pinot Noir” wine tasting seminar; and the day concludes with the Kapalua Seafood Festival — all at the Ritz.

Fourteen of Maui’s top restaurant chefs will showcase a seafood specialty and another creation in competition for the Best of the Fest Award. Hawaiian entertainment by Nuff Sedd will get you in the groove.

“The seafood festival returns to Beach House Lawn by popular demand,” says Sagar. “Participating restaurants are Fleetwood’s on Front St., Gannon’s, Hula Grill Ka’anapali, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Japengo, Joey’s Kitchen, Mauka Makai, Pacific’o Restaurant and O’o Farm, Roy’s Ka’anapali, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, The Banyan Tree, The Mill House, Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar and the University of Hawaii Maui College Culinary Arts Program. Then head to the After Hours Party at ‘ai ‘ono pool cafe at the Ritz featuring Grey Goose and Bank’s Rum specials.” Sagar once said, “Oh, if those wine glasses could talk, what a story they’d tell.” It’s certain those stories will continue this year.

“I am delighted to be working with the brightest and best sommeliers and chefs on Maui to create a magical, memorable weekend of fun for our guests,” says Jordan. “This year the festival team has designated the Maui Food Bank and the University of Hawaii Maui College Culinary Arts Program as their benefitting charities.”

Merriman’s Kapalua will present the “Sand & Fog” Santa Maria Valley wine-tasting seminar from 12:30 to 2 p.m. June 8.

Additional activities include Champagne & Chakras from 7 to 8 a.m. June 7 at Spa Montage Kapalua Bay for yoga and champagne lovers. Located on the Point Lawn, the class will pour Veuve Cliquot Champagne.

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 7, Sippin’ With the Somms “Cellar Pass” may be purchased. The rare and intimate tasting with Master Sommelier Rob Bigelow features wines from Castello Banfi to Ram’s Gate. Cane & Canoe Chef Barrera and celeb chef Mark Tarbell of Phoenix will do light bites to pair with the wines. Tickets are available for the Cellar Pass on www.Evenbrite.com only.

Throughout the festival, The Ritz’s new Kai Cafe lobby level will let you Sip & Shop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on some featured wines as you look for trendy trinkets. The Kapalua Plantation Golf Shop will offer 60 percent off all gift items and golf apparel. And Kapalua Tennis Garden will present the Volley ‘n’ Vino clinics.

“There will also be an incredible ‘Ultimate Wine Dinner’ to honor Shep Gordon on Saturday, June 9, featuring the most rare and highly sought-after wines — including a wine that recently sold for $350,000 for one bottle at ‘Carnival du Vin’ in New Orleans!” adds Jordan.

There really is something for everyone — from sippers to shoppers to sommeliers. Enjoy!

* For tickets, prices and complete schedule: Visit www.kapaluawineandfoodfestival.com.