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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
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
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
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
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
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.