Island Address Book 4-15-2005

Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya On Where to Find Good Wine

By: Karla Aronson

When Chuck Furuya started out in the wine field some 20 years ago, good bottles of wine were hard to come by in Hawaii.

“I couldn’t find quality product,” said Furuya, an accredited wine consultant and one of only two Master Sommeliers in the state. “For a long time people were drinking mostly beers.”

Since then, Hawaii has seen a surge in wine drinkers, and Furuya’s longstanding efforts and passion has helped put Hawaii on the map in the wine world.

Today, Furuya imports wine vintages from several premiere winemakers in California, Germany and Australia and blends the wines in Hawaii. He has his own label CF Wines which is sold only in Hawaii.

Furuya is also a managing partner of seven restaurants in Maui and Oahu, including Sansei, Vino, D.K. Steakhouse and Hiroshi. He said Hawaiian foods and Hawaii’s warm climate can present some challenges for choosing suitable wines. The region’s predominantly spicy, Asian foods go against heavy, alcohol-driven and oak wood flavors. Rather, the cuisine favors wines that are “more elegant, fruity, refreshing and exuberant,” Furuya said.

One wine served at Furuya’s Vino restaurant hails from Maui’s own Tedeschi Vineyards and Winery, located on the slopes of Haleakala volcano in Ulupalakua.

“It is a worthwhile stop to any visitor to Hawaii,” Furuya said.

Furuya admired the fact that the winery has been around since the 1970s and has struggled to plant grapes amid the challenges of a hot climate, birds, tropical diseases and pests.

“And yet they continue to try to make fine wines,” he said. “These people have a passion for wine.”

The winery offers wine tastings and tours during the week.

One trend Furuya is pleased to note is the opening of a number of wine bars across the state.

“We are starting to experience a renaissance in wine bars,” he said.

One of Hawaii’s most progressive, according to Furuya, is Honolulu’s Formaggio.

Opened by Lyle Fujioka, Formaggio serves more than 20 wines by the glass alongside gourmet food selections.

“Now we are seeing the emergence of very progressive wine shops,” Furuya noted of another step the industry has taken. “We have specialists now.”

He points to Kilauea Farmers Market and the Wine Garden in Kauai for their diverse selections.
“We have some stores trying to do a few interesting things,” he said.

The shops have succeeded in presenting innovative wine selections at appealing price ranges. On the Big Island he raved about Kamuela Liquor and Kona Wine Market.


Tedeschi Vineyards and Winery
Ulupalakua, Maui

Kilauea Farmers Market
Kilauea, Kauai

Honolulu, Oahu

Wine Garden
Lihue, Kauai

Kamuela Liquor
Kamuela, Big Island

Kona Wine Market
Kailua-Kona, Big Island

Kapalua, Maui