A Taste of Tedeschi

Discovering Maui’s Upcountry vineyard

By: Mimi Kmet

Chardonnay, methode champenoise, syrah not words one would expect to hear in a destination where hula, aloha and mai tai are the norm. But the 180,000 or so people who visit Maui’s Winery each year discover that the island’s Upcountry region has a small but significant vineyard that produces a variety of wines, several of which appear on a daily tasting menu.

It’s significant because it’s Maui’s only commercial winery, located on the 20,000-acre Ulapalakua Ranch, and because it put the ranch on the map as a visitor destination.

Also known as Tedeschi Vineyards (after California vintner Emil Tedeschi, who leased 23 acres of the ranch in 1974 to grow grapes for the purpose of making wine), Maui’s Winery grows grape varietals such as syrah, chenin blanc, pinot gris and two types of chardonnay.

In its tasting room, visitors can sample wines such as Ulupalakua Red, Plantation Red and Maui Brut, a sparkling wine.

Released in 1984, Maui Brut received national recognition when it was served at President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration. Maui’s Winery also has received national media attention, having been featured on TV by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and wine connoisseur Andrea Immer.

But the most popular wines here aren’t made with grapes. Of the 360,000 or so bottles the winery produces and sells each year, more than half are filled with Maui Blanc, a semi-dry pineapple wine the result of an experiment by Tedeschi while he was waiting for the first vines to mature.

Since Maui Blanc was first produced, the winery has introduced two other pineapple wines: Maui Splash, a desert wine with the essence of passion fruit; and Hula O Maui sparkling wine, using the traditional methode champenoise.

Visitors taste wines listed on a daily tasting menu while standing at an 18-foot-long bar cut from the trunk of a single mango tree. The wines are available for purchase, starting at approximately $9 a bottle. Maui’s Winery will package them as either carry-on or checked luggage.

The winery’s products are also available in nearly all major retail outlets in Hawaii and are exported to the U.S. mainland and abroad. In fact, mainland sales jumped 40 percent two years ago due to increased availability and Internet sales.

Around the perimeter of the tasting room are shelves stocked with Hawaiian-made products such as passion fruit tea and Maui onion jelly, as well as gifts such as wine carafes, corkscrews, logo clothing and cookbooks featuring Hawaii regional cuisine.

The adjoining room is a mini-museum chronicling Ulapalakua Ranch’s history from its beginnings as a sugar plantation and cattle ranch in the mid-1800s. There, visitors learn about the families who have owned the ranch, the paniolo (cowboys) who worked there (and still do), and the visits from King David Kalakaua, known as Hawaii’s Merrie Monarch, who often stayed at the ranch with his wife, Queen Kapiolani. In fact, the cottage that houses the tasting room and museum, which dates to 1874, is known as the King’s Cottage, because it was built specifically as a guesthouse for Kalakaua.

Not far from the tasting room is the actual winery operation, where the grapes are pressed and the wines are fermented and aged.

Maui’s Winery is approximately 45 minutes to an hour by car from the island’s leeward coast, depending on the departure point, leaving plenty of time for guests of the popular beach resorts to visit Upcountry attractions such as Kula Botanical Gardens, Enchanting Floral Gardens and Sunrise Protea Farm along the way.

Visitors also drive through an idyllic countryside dotted with farms producing crops such as coffee, strawberries and avocados, as well as quaint Upcountry towns such as Makawao, Pukalani, Kokomo and Keokea, where they can stop for lunch, shopping and local ambience.

Another option for lunch is Ulupalakua General Store and Deli. Located on the ranch, the deli offers sandwiches, homemade chili and other fare in a tranquil setting. Food items also are available for take-out, in case visitors would rather picnic on Maui Winery’s grounds among 150-year-old trees where hula dancers performed for King Kalakaua.

Those staying at any of Upcountry Maui’s charming properties, such as Kula Lodge, with its chalet accommodations, or Silver Cloud Ranch, which was recently sold and was undergoing a renovation at press time, are already immersed in the area and have a shorter drive to the winery.


Location: Maui’s Winery is located on the slopes of Mount Haleakala. To visit the winery from the Leeward Coast resorts, take Hana Highway (36) to Haleakala Highway (37). Pass the town of Keokea and bear right at the fork in the road. Go 5.1 miles. The winery is just past the Ulupalakua General Store and Deli.
Hours: The tasting room is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except major holidays. Tours depart at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and last approximately half an hour. The winery is also available to groups for private tastings.
Cost: Visitors can taste up to four wines on the menu at no charge. Additional tastings are not allowed by law. Tours are free.