Upcountry Vineyards & Wine Tasting at MauiWine

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
Photo:  MauiWine.

Photo: MauiWine.

The Napa Valley of Hawaii is 1,600 to 1,900 feet above sea level on the southern slopes of Maui’s Haleakala Volcano. There, 1½ miles from its visitor center and production facility, MauiWine is growing Syrah, Viognier, Malbec, Grenache, Chenin Blanc and Gewürztraminer grapes on 16 acres of its 23-acre vineyard at Ulupalakua Ranch. Spectacular views encompass the ocean, Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai and the upper slopes of Haleakala.

Photo:  Frank Hamm.

Photo: Frank Hamm.

During the mid-to-late 1800s, the ranch was known as Rose Ranch. Its owner, James Makee, was a retired whaling captain and a close friend of King Kalakaua. The king visited the ranch so often, Makee built a cottage for his use (it now houses MauiWine’s tasting room).

Photo:  Alan Yeh.

Photo: Alan Yeh.

Rose Ranch was known for its lavish parties, and Makee’s office, with its three-foot-thick lava rock walls and shackles in the basement, likely housed rowdy guests until they sobered up. Today, the restored “Old Jail” provides a unique venue for private functions and the King’s Visit, which includes a tour of the winery, an in-depth look at how MauiWine grows its six varietals, and tastings of small-production and estate-grown wines paired with tidbits such as herbed kalamata olives and coriander-seasoned croutons to show how wine and food can influence each other.

Stroll around the grounds at your leisure or, if time permits, take the complimentary tour; among its highlights are the production facility (Rose Ranch’s former creamery) and the Pa Hula (Hula Circle), where dancers once performed for Kalakaua.

MauiWine has three collections: Ulupalakua Vineyards (estate wines made entirely from MauiWine grapes), Rose Ranch (blends of raspberries and some grape varieties, such as Pinot and Chardonnay, from Mainland sources) and Pineapple (made from fresh Maui Gold pineapples). The winery introduced its first product, Maui Blanc, in 1977, three years after it was founded. That pineapple wine was initially intended as an experimental offering to fill the gap until the first grapes matured. It proved to be so popular, however, it has remained a top seller.

MauiWine is at 14815 Piilani Highway in Kula, Maui. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, and admission is free. Visitors 21 and older can enjoy complimentary wine tastings. Complimentary tours open to everyone are at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Reservations are required only for groups of 10 or more. For more information, call (808) 878-6058 or peruse www.mauiwine.com.

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