Wine Tasting in Hawaii

Photo: paulaloe

Hawaii. Sun, sand, and…wine tasting? The islands may not be your first thought when you think of wine tasting, but oenophiles visiting Hawaii will be happy to note that the beach isn’t the only place to check for great legs. The state of Hawaii boasts two wineries with unique vintages, as well as an assortment of shops that offer wine tasting and special events.

OAHU

The Wine Stop – This shop offers complimentary wine tasting a couple times a week, along with a variety of special events and seminars.

HASR Wine Co. – Featuring an assortment of premiere Napa Valley auction wines, HASR Wine Co is the place to go if you’re looking for something unique. They represent a number of boutique wineries whose wines are normally available only at the source. Located in Honolulu’s arts district.

The Wine Stop and HASR Wine Co. are just a short drive from hotels like the Hawaii Prince Oahu or the Aqua Palms and Spa Oahu.

SWAM – Shiroma’s Wine and More offers free wine tasting every Thursday from 5-8 pm. You’ll find an assortment of wines, spirits, and gifts at this shop run by a petite Gen Xer. They offer 10% off on Mondays and Tuesdays. Located in Aiea.

MAUI

Tedeschi Vineyards – Located in upcountry Maui, the tasting room at Maui’s Winery is situated in the King’s Cottage, dating to 1874. Built specifically for the visit of Hawaii’s monarch David Kalakaua and Queen Kapi’olani, the historic cottage is now graced with an 18 foot long bar cut from a single mango tree. The winery at Tedeschi Vineyards produces Ulupalakua Red, as well as wines with a distinct island flavor. Hula O Maui is a crisp, sparkling pineapple wine. Maui Splash is imbued with the distinct flavor of lilikoi, or passion fruit.

HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND

Volcano Winery – Situated near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Winery crafts wines from Symphony grapes grown on site and tropical fruits like guava and jaboticaba. For a one-of-a-kind treat, try the Macadamia Nut Honey Wine. You won’t find that in Napa Valley!

Kahumoku Ohana Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop

Imagine that you’re a musician (or maybe you really are!) and you’re given the opportunity to spend a week hanging out and learning from your musical heroes. While icons like Santana, Stevie Wonder, and Eric Clapton may not ever make themselves so available to their fans, here in the islands we have our own Hawaiian music icons and they are an ever-present part of the culture here.

Amateur musicians intent on learning to play the ‘ukulele or traditional Hawaiian ki ho‘alu, or slack-key guitar, have the opportunity to do so from the best of the best every year at the Kahumoku Ohana Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. The workshop is organized by Keoki Kahumoku, a five-time Grammy Award winner in the Hawaiian music category. Keoki shares his music and knowledge of the Hawaiian culture from the heart, warmly welcoming students to the workshop. His wish is to ho‘omau – or share the tradition – of Hawaiian slack-key guitar and ‘ukulele.

“If each student takes what he learns and shares it with one other person, the music is perpetuated,” he says earnestly.

Flanked by two huge plumeria trees, the walkway to the historic Pahala Plantation House leads visitors and participants straight to an impressive pile of rubber slippers and the joyful noise of slack-key tunes and ‘ukulele music wafting from the lanai, the stairwell, the library. Returning participants enthusiastically greet old friends, sharing stories and eventually, trading licks on their favored instrument. New attendees stand, awed by the energy in this place.

“Where do I check in?” one woman asked me, overwhelmed by the bustling activity of new arrivals and a multitude of songs being plucked out by those more familiar with the system. It wasn’t long before she, too, had her ‘ukulele out, adding to the musical mix. This event is a casual one, one that encourages folks to embrace the relaxed attitude that embodies the islands.

‘Ukulele and guitar cases are scattered about the foyer of the Plantation House in anticipation of a whole lot of musical education squeezed into a single week. This year’s instructors include John Keawe, Ledward Kaapana, Herb Ohta, Jr, the amazing James Hill straight from Canada, George Kahumoku, Brittni Paiva, Dennis and David Kamakahi, and so many more. Attendees choose from several workshops daily, and have the chance to sign up for one on one lessons with the instructors.

But it’s not all about the music. Consider it a week-long immersion lesson in Hawaiian culture. Participants come together every morning for ho‘oponopono, a circle gathering to discuss and share ideas and also to practice the chant written specifically for this event. There are lessons in hula, lauhala weaving, lei making, and other cultural crafts. One evening meal is prepared in a traditional imu, or pit oven and all of the meals feature Hawaiian fare like lau lau, poke, poi, and of course, sticky rice. Instructors and students gather every evening for kani ka pila, or a jam session. And there is talk story. Lots and lots of talk story.

Keoki strives to offer his guests a chance to experience the casual, comfortable Hawaiian lifestyle while they are here. But he’s also intent on bringing these values – and the music – to local students who may not have such an opportunity at home. This year, the workshop hosted 25 scholarship students.

An amazing thing happens when youth and adults come together over a shared passion. They find themselves on equal footing, no longer separated by a span of years. Here, they are all musicians, all striving to learn and share. The instructors teach, but so do the attendees, and it’s not uncommon to find a tattooed local boy sharing an island tune with a gray haired visitor.

It’s no surprise, really, that attendees come back for more each year. This is an event that touches heartstrings just as much as the strings on those beloved  guitars and ‘ukuleles.

Interested in owning an ‘ukulele of your own? Please go read this post from Pam at Nerd’s Eye View and consider spending $10 for a chance to win an ‘ukulele from Flea Market Music. Your donation will help to build a village in India. The bidding closes December 13, 2010, so hurry!

Tasty Treats Made in Hawaii

Leaving the Hawaiian Islands behind after a beautiful vacation can be bittersweet. While your bright blue umbrella drink isn’t going to pass customs, you can take the flavor of the islands home with you in the form of some locally sourced, locally made sweet treats. Neatly packaged and ready to go, these cookies, candies, and snacks are the perfect foil to your back to work blues.

Honolulu Cookie Company – That box of pineapple shaped, chocolate dipped macadamia nut shortbread you bought for Auntie Grace? It’s going to be so tempting, right there in your carry on. Better get one for yourself, too. It’s a good thing there are a dozen different locations in Hawaii where you can pick up sweet treats from the Honolulu Cookie Company. On Maui, look for them in Whaler’s Village. On Oahu, you’ll find retail stores inside the Waikiki Beach Marriott and the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.

Island Princess – While the Macadamia Popcorn Crunch from Island Princess is the go-to snack for many visitors, I’m a hardcore Mele Mac girl, myself. Chocolate, toffee, and mac nuts. What’s not to love? Island Princess products are well distributed throughout the islands, available at retail outlets like the ever-present ABC Stores and Costco. If you really want to delve into all things Island Princess, consider a stop at their factory store located near the Honolulu Airport.

Photo: istolethetv

Big Island Candies – Greet me at the door with coffee and chocolate and I’m yours. That’s just what they do at Big Island Candies on Hawai‘i Island. And if munching on free samples isn’t enough, you can watch through glass windows as workers hand dip the shortbread that’s made on site. Want to take a real island inspired treat back home? Consider the chocolate dipped iki, or chewy cuttlefish.

Here’s perhaps the best news of all. Even if your trip to the islands is still at the pie-in-the-sky dream stage right now, every one of these sweet spots offers online shopping. Aloha, delivered right to your door!

Hiking Kalopa State Recreation Area

About an hour’s drive from the famed Kohala Coast resort area and beaches, Kalopa State Recreation Area and Forest Reserve offers visitors a different view of the island. Situated three miles inland from Mamalahoa Highway at the 2,000-foot elevation, visitors to the park enjoy the kind of quiet and solitude that’s rare on busy beaches. Expansive lawns and picnic tables make this a perfect place to hang out with good friends (or a book). But perhaps a bigger attraction are the hiking trails.

The Kalopa Gulch Trail System borders (no big surprise) the Kalopa Gulch, offering views down into the 150 to 200-foot deep gulch an occasional glimpses of pools of water. What you might not expect to hear is this: Kalopa Gulch (and nearby Hanaipo Gulch) were “formed largely by meltwater from the Pleistocene glacial icecap of Mauna Kea.” Glaciers! In Hawai‘i!

What a gorgeous hike this is. We made our way up and down fern-lined trails through stands of eucalyptus, silk oak, paperbark, ironwood, and tropical ash – and saw only one other hiker.

The trail is moderate in difficulty, mostly due to a few steep (but short) climbs. We hiked along a portion of the Perimeter Rim Trail and then cut back to the cabins via a trail that bisects the reserve. That section of the trail is about four miles long and took us two hours to complete. I was hiking with teenagers who maneuvered the trail’s ups and downs easily, but if that sounds like too much of a hike for your family, there is also an easy family nature hike (0.7-mile loop trail) that takes you through a native ‘ohi’a forest, perfect for introducing younger kids to the plants of the area and the fun of hiking.

The park offers a couple of camping options, too. Tent camping is allowed on a large grassy area of the park, or there are group cabins:

These accommodations consist of 8-person units provided with bunk beds, toilet facilities, and hot shower. A centrally located recreational dining hall is equipped for cooking and serving the entire group. Furnishings include a gas range, water heater, refrigerator, freezer, limited dishes, cooking and eating utensils, tables and chairs, as well as restrooms.  NOTE: As of October 1, 2009, linen, bedding and towels are no longer provided in the Kalopa cabins.

Rates: $55 per night for 8-person cabins, special rates for large groups.

Entrance to the park is free, however there is a requested donation (get out your purse…) of twenty-five cents for each person who uses the trail.

Hawaii Brew Pubs Serve Up Island Flavor

If you’re one of those people who seek out microbreweries wherever you go, you’ll be happy to know that even way out here in the Pacific you can find a good brew. Whether your trip brings you to Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, or Kauai, seek out locally flavored ales, IPAs, and porters at these island brew pubs.

Kona Brewing Co. – With locations on the Big Island and Oahu, you’ve got two chances to try the fine brews from the folks at Kona Brewing Co while you’re in Hawaii. The brewery is located at the Kona facility where free tours are available. The pub on Oahu is outside of the bustling Waikiki area in the Koko Marina Center. The Pipeline Porter is a must-try if dark beer is your thing: brewed with 100% Kona coffee grown on the Big Island, the distinct coffee flavor might tempt you to switch up your morning routine.

Big Aloha Brewery – Famed island restaurateur Sam Choy brings plenty of aloha to his dining establishments, but you might be surprised to learn that he does beer, too. Big Aloha Brewery situated within Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch and Crab location, features a variety of beers from brewmaster David Campbell. Of note is the Kiawe Honey Porter, brewed with locally harvested kiawe honey. Monthly brewer’s dinners feature a five-course meal and a chance to try six different brews.

Maui Brewing Co. – How can you go wrong with a Bikini Blonde? That’s just one of the brews on tap at the Maui Brewing Co. pub. Their award-winning Black Pearl is a coconut porter aged in rum barrels, with notes of dark rum, toasted coconut, and molasses. Sounds like the perfect beer for Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew, doesn’t it?

Waimea Brewing Company – Located on the island of Kauai at the historic Waimea Plantation Cottages, the Waimea Brewing Company has about eight different beers on tap at any time. Choose from Waialalale Ale, named for Kauai’s famously wet mountain where average rainfalls top 425 inches each year. Enjoy your ice cold beverage with creative multi-ethnic pub fare, including fish dishes and island style pupus (hors d’oeuvres).  Sixty-four ounce growlers are available if you’d like to take your beer to go.

(photo credit: flickr user hawaii o58)