Coconut curry lamb chops from Fairmont Kea Lani’s Ko Restaurant // © 2012 Fairmont Kea Lani
When the hotel, retail and golf partners of Wailea Resort talked about creating a new signature event for their destination, their goal was to create something that shined a spotlight on the many amenities of the tony south Maui getaway.
“We have a wealth of incredible culinary talent in Wailea,” said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wailea Resort Association. “We decided that this wonderful variety of restaurants combined with the resort’s fine reputation lends itself to creating a very upscale and fun event that pairs great food with wines of the world.”
Thus was born the all-new Wailea Wine and Food Festival, a four-day culinary extravaganza that matches international wines with cuisine crafted by Wailea Resort chefs. Dates for the first annual festival are Dec. 6-9. The resort’s hotel partners have created special packages to encourage people to visit Wailea for the weekend.
Mike McCartney, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) which is sponsoring the new event, sees food festivals as an ideal way to lure visitors to Hawaii during the slower fall shoulder period.
“HTA sponsors more than 100 festivals and events that showcase distinctive and diverse experiences in Hawaii,” said McCartney. “These types of events highlight our people, places and culture and create opportunities to bring residents and visitors together to experience what makes the islands so special.”
Wailea’s resort partners scheduled the new wine and food festival so it would fall during what Pikrone called “a time for celebration.”
“The festival takes place when the annual wine harvest is completed,” Pikrone said. “It’s a time when Wailea residents are returning and the new year is approaching. It’s a great time of year to welcome travelers to the resort. Our expectation is that this will become Wailea’s new signature annual event, something the resort will continue for years to come.”
Hosted by world-renowned master sommelier Fred Dame, the festival’s various gatherings take place at the Four Seasons Resort Maui, Fairmont Kea Lani, Grand Wailea and Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
The food focus of the festival falls on Maui’s rich bounty of ranch, ocean and farm products. Contributing their culinary talents to the festivities are 13 chefs from restaurants in Wailea Resort including four of the founders of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement: Alan Wong, Peter Merriman, Bev Gannon and Marc Ellman. Among the represented restaurants are Spago, Mala, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, Capische, Nick’s Fishmarket Maui, Gannon’s-A Pacific View Restaurant, Joe’s at the Wailea Tennis Club, Longhi’s Wailea and Amasia.
For the inaugural event, Pikrone said he wants to keep attendance at a level “that assures quality and provides an intimate experience.”
On opening night, guests gather for a convivial reception at Fairmont Kea Lani Maui’s Palm Court, where clients can meet and mingle with high-profiles winemakers, sommeliers and chefs while sipping and supping.
Saturday evening’s DaVine Experience Under The Stars, held on a seaside lawn by Grand Wailea’s reflection pools, aims to present a memorable evening of cutting-edge cuisine paired with more than 75 wineries from around the globe.
A laid-back Sunday afternoon barbecue dubbed Grillin’ and Chillin’ (Where There’s Smoke, There’s Wine!) features picnic tables and live musical entertainment. Set oceanfront at the Wailea Beach Marriott, it lures the resort’s chefs to the grills and promises yet another impressive selection of fine varietals.
Each day of the festival brings wine encounters at different resort hotels, with topics such as Pinot Passion; What’s New, Next and Trendy in California Wine; Escape to Italy in Eight Glasses; Three Decades of Cabernet Vertical; and Wine and Cheese — The Perfect Pairing.
In addition, four winemakers’ dinners are taking place throughout the weekend at Wailea Resort restaurants with participating wineries such as Justin Vineyards, Palmina Wines and Wind Gap. And, as part of the Wailea Wine and Food Festival, clients can participate in a silent auction for local artwork and other items, with benefits going to the Maui Culinary Academy.
The ultimate goal of the festival is to establish Wailea Resort as a mouthwatering mecca for foodies, said Pikrone.
“We want people to realize that you can come to our resort for luxurious accommodations and amenities, gorgeous beaches and weather, spectacular golf and water sports, and while you’re here you can also experience a fabulous array of culinary artistry,” Pikrone said. “This festival will bring that to light for many clients who may not readily be aware of the many epicurean opportunities Wailea has to offer.”