A pineapple-kiwi convergence may sound like the commencement of a smoothie expedition. In this post, however, it is a far more delightful (and a touch inebriating) sojourn to the shores of Maui with one of New Zealand’s great wineries. A tropical vinous adventure packed with sunshine, wine and, most assuredly, a modicum of frivolity.
Okay, I admit, this post isn’t entirely new. I would characterize it more as an amended and restated post -- new and improved! -- from an earlier bargain Pinot Noir featuring Mt. Beautiful Winery. That post is no longer active so I was patiently perusing other opportunities to revisit this tremendous winery and recommend a few tasty food pairings for its wines that are available locally in Honolulu. I discovered the perfect occasion in the Winery’s event travel itinerary...
The Kiwis are coming, the Kiwis are coming! The Island of Maui plays host to Mt. Beautiful Winery, among other notable vineyards, at the Kapalua Food and Wine Festival on June 7-10. A chance to highlight one of my favorite New Zealand wineries and a Maui food and wine festival all in one post? I will cheerfully take that deal.
Kapalua Food and Wine Festival
The Kapalua Food and Wine Festival, entering its 37th year (!), is a paradisaical epicurean destination event definitely worth [inebriated] exploration. Master chefs and prestigious vineyards collide in an accord of flavor and vibrancy that is certain to impress any palate. Hosted by the Kapalua Resort, luxury and style meet for the ultimate food and wine experience.
From grand tastings to more intimate cooking demonstrations, a diverse and talented array of chefs are on hand to ensure that the senses are mystified and satiated. But dazzlement with the event's culinary curiosities is only half the fun. The winemakers journeying to Maui are eager to share their wine and stories, and spread a little wisdom concerning viticultural lessons they have learned along the way.
Regional and varietal-specific seminars are specially designed to satisfy the very wonkish of tendencies. Wine geeks rejoice! All of the seminars provide extraordinarily useful information that is made pertinent through the tasting experience. Inebriated sensory analysis: the best method of education. This year the seminars are exciting and diverse, ranging from the sand and fog of Santa Maria Valley in a regional spotlight, to an examination of Cabernet Franc, undoubtedly one of my favorite red grape varietals. In Hawaii, these experiences are rarely available, so be sure to mark your calendars and take advantage of the oenophile convergence in Kapalua.
For locals, there are few events in Hawaii that showcase world-class wines and epicurean talent on this scale, and we should ardently take advantage when they are presented. For tourists, this is most certainly a destination event around which you should plan your next vacation. Incredible food and tasty vinous beverages in a tropical setting? Sounds like a festival made in paradise that is not to be missed. Will I be seeing you in June?
Mt. Beautiful Winery
One of the preeminent factors favoring a Maui pilgrimage to the food and wine festival is intimate access to world-class wineries. This year, amongst the numerous prodigious vineyards, Mt. Beautiful Winery takes a well-deserved rotation in the spotlight.
Mt. Beautiful Winery is wonkish heaven. It’s founder, David Teece, is [obviously] an oenophile, but he doubles as a professor of Global Business and Economics at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and has authored over 30 books. For me, trained in global business law and economics, I have discovered a new vinous exemplar. Hail to the geeks.
Mt. Beautiful also makes it easy to feel good about yourself while sipping your refreshing inebriating beverage. Committed to sustainable farming methods, holistic vineyard management and alternative bottle closure methods (which bottle closure lore I explored in this post), Mt. Beautiful ensures that its practices assist in safeguarding the picturesque landscape famous to New Zealand. The world needs more wineries like Mt. Beautiful (and regions like New Zealand) that wholeheartedly embrace and emphasize the importance of sustainable viticultural practices. Well, since we are on the topic of New Zealand ...
Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud
Bibles and grapevines were traveling companions to New Zealand, brought in the suitcases of Anglican missionaries in the early Nineteenth Century. Where there are missionaries, there is wine. Early local wines were a cheap proletarian drink that possessed few ardent admirers. Inebriation sufficient; craft not necessary. The fledgling industry was later disrupted by the Prohibition movement at the end of World War I, when temperance advocates denounced the inexpensive intoxicant as “vile Australian wine” and “Dally plonk,” pejoratively referring to the winemakers’ Croatian descent. Racism, patriotism, and temperance bundled into a short, succinct phrase. Well played, temperance movement.
Fortunately, the industry survived its early challenges, and has matured to become, in my opinion, one of the preeminent value wine regions in the world. With a re-focused strategy on quality rather than quantity, it is no longer difficult to procure well-crafted, high-quality vino in the Southern Hemisphere.
New Zealand, home to the southernmost vineyards in the world, is breathtaking in its natural beauty. Dense tropical and temperate forests, majestic mountain ranges, imposing volcanoes, and a craggy coastline constantly battered by the Pacific Ocean produce endless picturesque landscapes. It is naturally divided into two regions, the North and South Islands, each unique in culture, climate, and winemaking.
The North Island is warmer and more humid than its southern counterpart, with the Long White Cloud blanketing the land and moderating otherwise excessive sunshine. Premiere wine regions on the North Island, such as Auckland and Hawke’s Bay, excel in red wine blends showcasing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varietals.
The South Island is a cool, maritime climate that benefits from extended, sunny summer days due to cloud dissipation and the earth’s axial tilt. Obliquity lends a helping hand. Regions on the South Island, such as Marlborough, Central Otago and Canterbury, specialize in fast-ripening grape varietals, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The South Island is where Mt. Beautiful finds its home. Midway along the eastern coast of the South Island is the capital city of Christchurch and the rolling, breezy plains of Canterbury, the home of Mt. Beautiful Winery. Canterbury’s vineyards are planted primarily in shallow, stony alluvial topsoil consisting of sand, limestone, schist and loam, overlaying deep free-draining glacial gravels from Jurassic periods long ago. These soils possess low-to-moderate fertility and absorb heat during the day that is slowly released throughout the chilly nights. Vine roots’ rocky heat regulators. Here the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive alongside elegant and expressive Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Beautiful Food and Wine Pairings
Mt. Beautiful showcases an impressive lineup of vinous offerings that exemplify the wonderful terroir of North Canterbury. Two of those offerings are available locally at Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors: Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
A varietal that is notoriously difficult to cultivate, Pinot Noir has thrived in New Zealand’s climate and terroir to become the most widely-grown red grape varietal in the country. With similar gravel terroir to its New World comrades (particularly North America), the Pinot Noir from New Zealand is fruit forward, exhibiting bright red fruit characteristics with subtle earth tones.
This wine was a beautiful, luminous ruby red color and possessed fruit aromas of cherry, cranberry and blackberry with orange blossom, subtle earth and baking spice. On the palate, the wine wonderfully balanced fruit, earth and mineral elements, with soft tannins that provided structure and a long, lingering finish. An absolutely stunning and tremendously enjoyable wine.
Pairings are plenty with this versatile wine. One of my favorite combinations is a simple appetizer certain to impress at any party: Toasted crostinis with a Japanese mushroom medley.
Combine 3-5 of your favorite mushrooms (e.g., shiitake, buna-shimeji, enoki, portobello, cremini) in a wok with mirin, sake, shoyu and pepper, all to taste. It is difficult to give specific quantities because much depends on the mushrooms that are selected. Mushrooms do not cook at the same rate of speed, and some absorb the sake and mirin more than others. In essence, this dish is more art than science. Scoop the medley overtop toasted crostinis and top with grated cheese (hard, salty cheeses work best) and parsley.
As a bonus, the medley leftovers marinate wonderfully in the refrigerator and become better the following day. Don’t be afraid to make a double portion, just be sure to have an extra bottle of Pinot Noir ready for the occasion.
The flagship varietal of New Zealand, this Sauvignon Blanc possessed wonderfully generaous aromas and flavors of grass, bell pepper, grapefruit and tropical fruit. Bright and expressive, with zesty acidity, this wine was an absolute delight from start to finish.
My pairing objective was to highlight two particular aspects of the wine: the grassy, herbaceous characteristics and expressive tropical fruit notes. My solution? Grilled Opah laid over a bed of leafy greens and topped with a pineapple salsa. The Opah (i.e., moonfish) was lightly marinated in coconut oil, lilikoi white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. The fish is tasty on its own; no need to go overboard on the marinade. Ensure the grill is extremely hot and sear for a few minutes on each side. When in doubt, slightly undercooked is always preferred for fish. Lay the Opah overtop some leafy greens (such as Manoa lettuce) and top with pineapple salsa. Want the recipe? Leave a comment and I may be inclined to put together a link.
In a country where sheep residents outnumber their human counterparts 10 to 1, there is plenty of open range for farming and viniculture. Kiwis have made the most of it. Their wines are brilliant, expressive and unique. At every opportunity, I would unequivocally recommend exploring these wine regions and varietals. You will not be disappointed! And you can confidently commence exploration with Mt. Beautiful Winery right here in the islands at the Kapalua Food and Wine Festival! A dynamic duo that is certain to please.