Pineapple wine from Hawaii
November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:12 PM
We were sitting around the kitchen table, planning our trip to Maui. My husband was eagerly listing the things he wanted to do: snorkeling, sailing in the America’s Cup, eating at a selection of restaurants.
“What do you want to do?” he asked me.
“I want to go to Tedeschi,” I answered. As he sat, perplexed with his pencil poised, I clarified, “The winery that makes pineapple wine.” He dutifully added it to the list, but was rather half-hearted about it, I thought.
Midway through our vacation, we headed from Napili Bay, where we were staying, to Tedeschi, which is “up-country.” Up-country is on the slopes of Maui’s dormant volcano, Haleakala. You could possibly visit Haleakala Crater and the winery in the same day if you don’t mind getting up early! Makawao, the old cowboy town, is also in the same area.
Our directions stated that it was about an hour from the resort areas of Ka’anapali and Wailea. But I think their writer had a few too many glasses of pineapple wine! I would allow at least an hour and a half. We barely made it in time for the 3 p.m. guided tour, which was canceled because of rain.
The journey was as interesting as the destination. The winery is at an elevation of 2,000 feet. While it was raining heavily (everyone was happy since Maui has had a drought for the past few years), we could see the sun shining brightly on the beaches below. The road climbed and dipped amid rolling hills and lush pastures of the region known as Ulupalakua, where paniolos — Hawaiian cowboys — still herd cattle on horseback. Incidentally, the term “paniolo” is thought to be the Hawaiianized pronunciation of “espanol.” Both mainland and Hawaiian cowboys learned from Spanish cowboys.
“Ulupalakua” translates to “breadfruit ripened on the back.” Legend is that a Hawaiian chief would send his messengers on foot to Hana, on the east side of Maui, for breadfruit. By the time they arrived, the breadfruit would have ripened. The tasting room is called the King’s Cottage because it was built for the frequent visits of King David Kalakaua, the Hawaiian king nicknamed the “merrie monarch,” and Queen Kapi’olani. The royalty visited often to escape the heat and humidity. The bar is an 18-foot piece of wood from a single mango tree. The surrounding grounds are shaded by trees more than 100 years old. Until 1883, the ranch was a prosperous sugar plantation. The tasting room staff was hospitable and inviting. Unlike any other winery, however, they were guarded and secretive about the process used to make pineapple wine. Did they think we were going to go home and whip up a batch? Go into competition?
While people go to Ulupalakua Ranch to visit the winery, the main business of the 20,000-acre-farm is raising cattle. The winery itself was established in 1974; Maui Blanc pineapple wine was released in 1977.
While in France, we have stayed overnight in Champagne houses and chateaus in Bordeaux. We have slept in a Port house on the Duro River in Portugal and at an agriturisimo in Italy. We have attended harvest parties along the Rhine in Germany. But our visit to Tedeschi in Hawaii was unique. The Kalakaua Cottage Tasting Room is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for major holidays. The tastings and tours are free. Tours are at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Tedeschi wines can be ordered online or from the Washington State Liquor Store. Prices below are winery and online prices before shipping charges.
Update: Long Shadows, the wine project of seven wineries which I wrote about in last month’s column, was just selected as Winery of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine.
Dee Hitch can be reached at email@example.com.