As January cruises by I’m noticing things are getting serious. Every year I feel like January sets the tone for what’s to come so as of today I’m making a concerted effort to turn my internal bass beat dowwwwn. Between tax season deadlines and planning events and marketing for the year and thinking about Lila’s kindergarten registration (just kidding, I’m in denial!) and this teeny tiny insanely gargantuous tradeshow in Vegas we’re exhibiting at in six weeks (more on that down the road) and the always-exciting commitment levels happening with clients at the studio, I’m taking a deep breath and thinking about wine and the ocean. Specifically: Our visit to Maui Winery last November.
So there. This shall be the tone I set for the year.
At about the precise moment we learned we would be going to Maui I started thinking about write offs the local wine scene. Did they even have one? Can you grow decent winemaking grapes on the island? And so my winemaker and I discovered mauiwine.com. From the looks of what we read they are best known for pineapple wine. Well yes, that makes sense in the Pacific Ocean market. But wait, hang on to your perfectly poised wine glass: They grow Syrah, Malbec, Grenache, Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer grapes too. All I needed was a willing winemaker hubby and my partner-in-wine-drinking mother to venture up that windy Hawaiian mountain road with me. I kept reminding them both for about ten months that we had to make a point to visit the winery once we set foot on the island. I’m sure they grew tired of me dropping not-so-subtle hints. You had me at wine, their faces countered back. I was simply doing what I do best and making sure no one forgets about wine for a week.
Fast-forward to our week in Kihei when we set a date. We began our ascent up the windy, lush mountain (which is actually a volcano and the locals made sure we understood that) full of shockingly gorgeous vistas overlooking the sandy beaches we’d just come from. It was like a completely different island at 1800 feet above sea level. Forty-five minutes earlier it had been palm trees and sand and humid 80-degree weather. That landscape quickly morphed into green-covered hillsides and houses and misty rain and refreshing mountain air. This was our sixth day on Maui and the first I could say I didn’t need sunscreen.
To say I was surprised by this place would be entirely accurate. It was adorable/charming/gorgeous/historical/welcoming/perfect.
And the trees! I spent a long minute trying to mentally coordinate how I would move one of these guys into my future back yard. Curse the cost of shipping!
Turns out there’s a lot of history behind this place. The estate grounds are known as Rose Ranch, which was established over 150 years ago. The main building where the tasting room is housed is the King’s Cottage where, according to the website, “King Kalakaua – the last reigning king of Hawai’i – and Queen Kapi’olani would come to relax and be entertained.” And so were we as we stepped up to the bar, which was made from a mango tree. I mean, isn’t everyone’s?
Heather greeted us with wine glasses and answers to all our questions. I felt like maybe she’d done this before. She explained how the vineyards sit beneath a blanket of cool mountain air yet are bathed in steady high temperatures year-round, which makes for a very long growing season. The vines actually have to go into a forced dormancy, meaning there is an even greater degree of labor and amount of time spent in the vineyards than is typical for most grape growers.
Very interesting indeed. Now let’s see the wine list.
We each were given three complimentary tastings so we tried to divide and conquer most of the list and pass our glasses around. Out of the pineapple wines selection, we each liked the semi-dry Maui Blanc best. Perhaps we should have brought a sweet wine lover with us, as none of us are big on dessert wines. However both the Hula O Maui and the Maui Blanc were refreshing and would be perfect on a hot sultry day lying on the beach.
We moved on to the Rose Ranch selections where of the four I believe we enjoyed Upcountry Gold and Ulupalakua Red most.
Again, given the sweetness factor of the remaining two I think we may have been a bit biased. The Upcountry Gold was easy to drink and the red blend was subtle and simple. This may be the time to plug in a fun fact to insinuate my own hunch about the winemaker’s style: He is from and was once a winemaker in Oregon. Noted.
The unanimous winner however was the 2012 Estate Syrah. This was the meatiest wine on the list so of course it was bound to be our pick. We purchased a few bottles and when we opened one a month later at home it was surprisingly dry, something I don’t remember noticing at the winery probably because I was sopping wet from island rain showers at the time. It was nice, enjoyable, and reminded me of the ocean which felt light years away from the 17 degree temps at home. Thank goodness for photos and wine, or I may have dreamt the whole vacation.
After tasting and walking around the grounds and letting the kiddos emit some energy we were ready for some local fare. Heather had recommended the place just a hop/skip/jump across the street which was perfect considering it was the only place within about 30 miles to eat.
The Cowboy’s Place was eclectic, charismatic and full of fun gifts, convenience goodies and a little café in the back where I ordered up the curry salmon salad-stuffed avocado. I mean, the avocadoes on this island are ridiculously superior to any others. Don’t talk about how many calories are on this plate. I don’t give two shakes of a Hawaiian pig’s tail.
We ended the day on the beach drinking a glass of wine while the kids splashed around in the salty waves.
Hana hou! (Let’s do it again!)