As Maui wine lovers know, it's "dinner time" with famous winemakers.
Yes, the 32nd annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival will be uncorked June 6 to 9 at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and besides the Grand Tasting, the Seafood Festival, the fun seminars, and the celebrity chef luncheons, the dinners are a big draw.
So those who prefer more intimate feasts with visiting winemakers will want to make reservations at the Ritz, Merriman's, Sansei, Pineapple Grill and Plantation House for Saturday, June 8. Here's a rundown. Maui Scene will have more details on the actual festival next week.
Winemaker Mia Klein of Selene Wines has raided her cellar so diners at Merriman’s Kapalua may taste her vintage wines side by side with current releases. The food pairings will include prime rib, seafood and unusual garlicky braised cocks comb and Jidori chicken livers with morel mushrooms.
Photo courtesy Merriman’s Kapalua
Chad Melville of Melville Vineyards
Photo courtesy Plantation House
Geoff Labitzke MW of Kistler
Photo courtesy The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
"I'm very excited to launch our new brand and our first winemaker dinner with Chad Melville of Melville Vineyards," says Norm Schuhardt, managing partner of Plantation House. "The collaboration of these award winning wines paired with foods by our new award winner Executive Chef Jojo Vasquez certainly brings a new sense of place here at the newly renovated Plantation House. I know that in the 21 years of doing business here, a lot of loyal guests are familiar with our iconic location, but I would like to invite everyone back to check out for yourselves all of the new things we've done. We're better than ever."
Course highlights are Molokai shrimp and compressed watermelon with feta, Hawaiian snapper with Hoopono Farms English peas, wagyu flat iron steak, and spiced dark chocolate cake. Cost is $95 per person, plus tax and tip. Call 669-6299.
"Merriman's was lucky enough to get Mia Klein, one of Napa's most influential winemakers of the last 30 years, who is bringing wines to share that cover the last 20 years of her career," says Merriman's Director of Wine Jeff Groh.
"This wine dinner is about more than just food or wine or pairings or getting to meet Klein," Groh continues. "Taste seven wines spread across 17 vintages as you get to look into the soul of a one of the best winemakers of her generation."
Five food courses will be served, such as tomato-ginger-beet consomme, fresh Kona kampachi and prawns in asparagus cream, and Waialua chocolate brioche created by chefs Neil Murphy and Ricky Sakoda. Cost is $135 per person. Call 669-6400.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
"We are going to be hosting a wine dinner with Sarah and Sparky Marquis of Molly Dooker," says Sansei's General Manager Aaron Trujillo. "Molly Dooker is an Aussie word for left-handed boxer and it's a also highly regarded Australian winery. In fact, they have more wines over 94 points than any winemaker in the world!"
Their laid-back, Down Under ways will pair perfectly with supper on the new patio prepared by Sansei's Executive Chef Micah Honma and Maui Fish & Pasta's executive chef sensation Ivan Pahk.
The four courses include beef carpaccio, steamed Manila clams, kiawe-grilled New York strip steak, and Lahaina mangos with Buzz's cinnamon and brown sugar mango bread. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. Cost is $76, plus tax and tip.
Starting at 10 p.m., Sansei will present Master Sommelier & Festival Host Michael Jordan and Winemaker Fred Scherrer for "un-corked and un-plugged II."
The duo's soulful rock, and light hearted lyrics are fun and entertaining, as are many festival characters who come out to play with them. No cover charge. It's first come, first seated; 21 and older. For reservations at Sansei, call 669-OCTO.
Kapalua Wine & Food Festival's guest chefs Gary Danko and Nancy Oakes of San Francisco will also cook at Pineapple Grill's dinner June 8.
"This celebrity chefs dinner is one not to be missed," says managing partner Chris Kaiwi. "Two of San Francisco's top chefs, and Chef Deborah Scott from San Diego's Cohn Restaurant Group, will showcase their award-winning California cuisine. Wines will flow from Wind Gap and Sandhi Wines and winemakers Pax Mahle and Rajat Parr will be on hand to chat up guests.
"This event is to support Maui Preparatory Scholarship Program helping the financial needs of children attending this school," says Kaiwi.
Reservations will start at 5:30 p.m. and will be taken throughout the night. Cost is $165, including tax and tip. Call Pineapple Grill at 669-9600.
The Banyan Tree at the Ritz
Last, but certainly not least, the Banyan Tree restaurant at the Ritz will pair the food of acclaimed San Francisco chef Mourad Lahlou of Aziza.
Born and raised in the ancient Medina area of Marrakesh, he moved to the U.S. and opened his first restaurant, Kasbah, in San Raphael, and eventually got a Michelin Star for Aziza, the first Moroccan restaurant to ever receive such recognition.
His menu, still in the making, will be paired with the wines of Kistler Vineyards. Its director of sales and marketing, Geoff Libitzke MW, is one of only 30 in the U.S. to earn a Master of Wine degree, will be there chatting up guests.
Kistler is a small, family-owned winery producing world-class chardonnay and pinot noir using old-world Burgundian techniques. Cost is $150 per person. Seating starts at 6:30 p.m. Call the Ritz at 665-7230.