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
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
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
One of Hawaii’s most progressive, according to Furuya, is
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
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
Kilauea Farmers Market
Kamuela, Big Island
Kona Wine Market
Kailua-Kona, Big Island