The 29th Annual Kapalua Food & Wine Festival was held on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Kapalua.
Held in Maui every year, the Kapalua Food & Wine Festival is touted to be Hawaii’s longest-running and most prestigious culinary event. And this year, the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Kapalua, played host to the 29th edition from June 24-27.
Around 900 people were in attendance at the food and wine extravaganza. Beautiful summer gowns, high heels, short skirts and strapless seemed to be the order of the day—it was certainly a younger crowd this year.
Even with so many people, there was hardly any hint of chaos on the Ritz-Carlton grounds. I sat under an umbrella on the lawn with my glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a plate of food samples and watched the elegant crowd enjoying themselves.
Having attended the festival several times, I can vouch for the perfect location, ideal weather of 75 to 85 degrees and no humidity, and a laidback crowd of fashionable wine and food lovers. Apart from the Ritz-Carlton, other fine places to stay in the area include the Kapalua Villas, or the Kapalua Luxury Homes, four- and five-star estate homes in a gated community.
Kapalua is surrounded by soaring mountains, lush pineapple fields, championship golf courses and the majestic Pacific Ocean. You have a choice of 13 different restaurants in the area. My favorite is the Banyan Tree at the Ritz-Carlton—one Mai Tai and the Aloha spirit sinks down to my toes. The old, historical whaling town of Lahaina is 9 miles from Kapalua, and 36 miles from the Kahului Airport.
The Ritz-Carlton at Kapalua, known to be one of Hawaii’s top resorts, recently completed a $180 million renovation. Where else can you find such luxury spread over 23,000 acres! The walking trails on the property are second to none and its Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Program suits children of all ages. It offers snorkeling tours, hiking, canoeing, tide pool exploration, underwater photography, rainforest adventures, cultural arts and crafts and lots more. With all this and an outstanding spa, the property has something for all members of the family.
The festival host was Frederick Dame, president of The Court of Master Sommeliers and vice president, luxury sales, Foster’s Group, Americas. The team of master sommeliers included Shayn Bjornholm, Washington Wine Commission; Jay Fletcher, Southern Wine of Colorado; Greg Harrington, Gramercy Cellars, WA; Geoff Kruth, wine director, Farmhouse Inn, Russian River Valley, CA; Michael Jordan, president, Beachcomber Restaurant Group, CA; and Emily Wines, wine director, Kimpton Hotels—one of the two women among the 96 master sommeliers in the U.S. Each of these master sommeliers picked five wines to lecture on.
This was a busy festival; several events were held each day. On Friday, June 25, there was a golf tournament, a lecture on Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc by a panel of nine distinguished experts followed by a champagne reception at 5:15 p.m. A fitting finale to the day was a grand tasting of select wines from 250 wineries around the world.
Live entertainment was outstanding, and the food-tasting was overseen by a Ritz-Carlton culinary team, who always do a remarkable job. They were a great team of chefs.
On Saturday, the morning lecture was Heal the World with Pinot Noir. Eleven panelists featured their favorites. The afternoon was Gin and Cheese, which had a panel of seven experts speaking on what cheese to serve with the gins. They gave out outstanding literature with all the wineries, cheese shops, and the island restaurants taking part in the tastings.
Kapalua has an amazing golf academy, which organized a clinic on Sunday morning. If only one half of a couple played golf, then the other went off to the spa. The tennis and adventure centers were always in demand. Also, that morning there was a lecture called the Wine Idol, delivered by the festival master sommeliers who talked about their favorite wines. This discussion was opened to the floor and connoisseur insight was shared on why and how to love the wines.
One of my favorite restaurants is Sansei, next door to the Ritz-Carlton. Owner/Chef D.K. Kodama gave a two-hour demonstration of his cuisine, which is one part Japanese, one part Pacific Rim, and one part Hawaiian. Four panelists discussed the food, and the wine to go with each dish.
On Sunday evening, they had a Seafood Festival on the Beach House lawn with 13 top Maui restaurants preparing their favorite dishes for the crowd. I enjoyed this event most. Big-name chefs from Hawaii’s top restaurants such as Wolfgang Puck, Roy’s, Merriman’s and Pineapple Grill, to name a few, had so many samples on offer, it was impossible to go around and try them all. It was scrumptious food and delicious wine in a great location; we ate and watched the waves lapping the beach just a few feet away.
I would highly recommend this festival. You can buy passes that come with access to either all or select events. Be prepared to experience a weekend full of world-class culinary offerings paired with an array of wines from vineyards around the world. You will return home satiated, with an appreciation for new wines and most importantly, a sense of peace and relaxation that only Kapalua can provide.
During the seafood festival, chefs from 13 Maui restaurants prepared their top dishes.