Well, who does, really? I certainly go for the surf, sand and sun, but on my recent trip to this island paradise, me being me, I had to suss out the wine scenario…
There are two things you are not going to get when visiting Maui: wineries and good-valued wine.
I didn’t expect to find any vineyards, given the soil is a giant lava rock in the middle of the Pacific, sitting on top of the equator. It’s no surprise grapes don’t grow here. Or so I thought. There is actually one winery in Maui and it’s surprisingly very well advertised and promoted, front and centre in the grocery stores and plastered across most tourism brochures. The hard sell.
Ulupalakua Ranch is coined as “Maui’s Winery” – notice the singular. “Step right up and get your crisp, well-balanced pineapple wine!”. That’s their “Maui Blanc” (the top-seller). They also have “Maui Splash”: pineapple and passion fruit, they sell a red wine, “smooth and creamy”, a sparkling pineapple (of course) and a sparkling dry rose. Last but not least, they produce “Framboise de Maui”, a raspberry specialty wine with 20% alcohol, ready to poor over ice cream. This one is interesting as it is totally organic: no chemical additives, stabilizers, fining agents, or sulfites. Bless them. “A” for effort, and though I didn’t make it to the winery, I bet it’s a cool slab of ancient rock on the side of a volcano.
The wine experience I was anxious for was the vast and excellent selection of well-priced, good-valued wine at the grocery store. In Vancouver, we are forced to purchase at the wine shops or liquor stores. What a treat it is to go to the States and stroll the grocery aisles for milk and eggs while also filling your bin with booze!
On our first day we hit the local Safeway to stock up on supplies for the week’s menu and headed straight to the FOUR aisles of alcohol, mostly wine. I couldn’t wait to fill my cart with inexpensive excellent wines. Boy, was I disappointed.
Firstly, any wine worth drinking was nowhere near economically priced. If anything, the wines were way over priced. Ah, right, an island. I’m on an island. I had not considered the cost of importing food and wine to this remote location. Or maybe this was another case of the Maui “stickin’ it to the tourist” fees which we gradually learned about over the course of our stay.
Secondly, the selection was so disappointing. Quite literally there was an entire wall of Kendall-Jackson. About ¾ of the whole wine section was Californian. That’s not a complaint, there’s plenty to love, but given the locale, you can imagine the markups. Aussie wines made up about 80% of the remaining ¼ of the overall selection, with enough Yellow Tail to set you straight for a year, and there was a measly 3 shelves dedicated to every other wine region: some decent French, zero Riesling to be found, and Argentinean Malbecs mixed in with the Chilean. Rough go. Redeeming feature: the sake section was out of this world!
The laugh-out-loud wine moment was the very large display of “Matthew Fox Vineyards” wine. Being in Hawaii with the whole “Lost” tv thing, this was funny. Turns out it’s not the same guy, is it? My research (if you can call it that) tells me it’s some priest in California, but nobody really knows. Either way, reds and whites for 3 bucks? Sold! I had to try it. The shiraz knocked me in the side of the face but it was pretty drinkable. Perfect for a Hawaiian beach grilled-meat dinner. Let it also be known: there are some fantastic restaurants with some amazing wine lists. Search ‘top restaurants Maui’ for user reviews.
We did enjoy plenty of French Rosé, had our fair share of classic Kiwi Sauvy B.’s and some easy drinkin’ Cali Cabs – all with glorious food as we filled our boots with fresh fish every day and local fruits and veg from the Farmer’s market just steps from our abode. Given the wine circumstance and the fact that it was pleasantly sweltering hot, there was more gin, ceasars and good ol’ 6-packs of Bud consumed!
My top tip for travelers and wine drinkers heading to Maui: don’t rent a Jeep for a week (a classic rip-off, but that’s another post for some other blog). Save your money and spend it on over-priced, marked-up fantastic wines at the grocery store. Or, just drink Bud.