mauiwine’s king’s visit & the wooden crate at lumeria maui: an impeccable upcountry pairing

BLOG_AM_Lumeria-789No trip to Maui is complete without visiting Upcountry, where the air is cooler, the views more expansive, and acres of lush farmland abound. It’s the perfect setting for the proverbial “afternoon drive.” In particular, the stretch of highway past Kula and Keokea, leading to ‘Ulupalakua, is undeniably one of the most scenic on the entire island.

MauiWine at ‘Ulupalakua Ranch, the only winery on the island, recently debuted its “King’s Visit,” an intimate, late-afternoon experience in the newly renovated “Old Jail, which includes a tour of the winery, an inside look at the growing and harvesting process, and tastings of small production and estate-grown wines.

For a complete evening, after retracing one’s “steps” back towards sea level, a right turn onto Makawao Avenue leads to Maui’s historic paniolo (cowboy) town, which is definitely worth a quick stop to check out the plethora of shops and galleries, before heading a few miles down Baldwin Avenue to Lumeria Maui, where Chef Ben Diamond puts out a nightly feast for the eyes and taste buds at The Wooden Crate.

 
The King’s Visit at MauiWine

After a year-long renovation by MauiWine, the “Old Jail” is the historic venue for the King’s Visit—an exclusive tour and tasting experience of ‘Ulupalakua Vineyards’ small production and estate-grown wines. The Old Jail, the former office of Captain James Makee, received its nickname through stories of the past in the plantation and ranching eras when it was used as a holding place for wrongdoers awaiting transport to the county jail.

“We call it the King’s Visit to give a nod to this property’s history of hospitality,” says Joe Hegele, MauiWine’s director of sales and marketing. Ex-whaling captain James Makee, who farmed sugar cane and other crops here for three decades, was known for his numerous parties and celebrations. “If you got invited up here, it was a big deal. As stewards of this estate, we’re making a product that continues that agricultural heritage, and is also connected with hospitality and celebration.”

MauiWine is no longer just about pineapple wines. “The King’s Visit is all about our estate wines,” says Joe. “We have incredible respect for the pineapple wines, because they make it possible for us to pursue these ‘passion pieces.’” Like the Lokelani sparkling wine, our first tasting before we take a tour of the winery’s cellar and bottling line. Lokelani is an energetic sparkling wine, with an ideal balance of flavor and acidity, with fruity, nutty, and citrusy notes. “Lokelani is about as food-friendly as you can get in a sparkling wine.” says Joe, “You’ll find it on the wine list at several Maui restaurants.”

We head over to the cellar, where shiny stainless-steel tanks contrast sharply with the historic building. “We still use the old buildings here on the property,” Joe says. “We could have knocked everything down and rebuilt, but we wanted to preserve the history. It’s all open air; we don’t need air conditioning because we get the cool breezes in the afternoon.”

A couple of doors down from the cellar is the sleek new bottling line. “This is our brand-new toy,” Joe says. “We actually custom designed it ourselves. We’re changing the pineapple wines to screw caps; the estate wines are bottled with natural corks; and the sparkling wines requires soda caps due to the secondary fermentation that occurs in the bottle. We can do everything with this machine.”

Joe takes a moment to heighten our appreciation for just how unique MauiWine is. “It’s rare for a winery to do everything from start to finish like we do,” he explains. “Some wineries don’t actually grow the grapes; some growers don’t make wine. The grapes for our sparkling wines are grown in California at Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley, but all the other wines, except of course the pineapple wines, use grapes grown right here on the ranch.”

Back inside the Old Jail, we sample one white and three red wines. The Chenin Blanc Viognier, which Joe describes as “voluptuous, and often called the red wine drinker’s white wine,” is tropical and fragrant. Moving on to the reds, the Syrah’s notes of eucalyptus, white pepper, and ripe red berries build a sophisticated aromatic profile. The Grenache is earthy, pinot-esque, yet light. Our final tasting, the Malbec, is vibrant, yet light, with a smooth texture. “The red wines we produce make sense for where we are located,” Joe says. “They’re lighter, and fit well with our climate.”

Known by various names in the past, the winery rebranded last year as MauiWine. “It’s very straightforward,” says Joe. “We’re on Maui, and we make wine.”

–heidi pool

WHAT

The King’s Visit, an intimate tour, followed by a tasting experience in the property’s recently renovated “Old Jail.” Cost is $50 per person.

WHERE

MauiWine, Pi‘ilani Highway, in ‘Ulupalakua.

WHEN

Wednesday & Thursday, 4 to 5pm.

HOW

Reservations are required: 878-6058; mauiwine.com.

 
The Wooden Crate at Lumeria Maui

Nestled between Makawao and Pa‘ia is Lumeria Maui, a 20-acre wellness retreat and educational center, open to both visitors and locals. The property has 25 individually designed guest rooms which feature Hawai‘i inspired, organic interiors. Daily classes include yoga, meditation, horticulture, sound therapy, and aromatherapy.

Lumeria’s Wooden Crate restaurant is overseen by Chef Ben Diamond. “The restaurant here originally didn’t have a name,” Chef Ben recalls. “I work closely with our gardener, Emery Blair. He has a friend who makes wooden crates, and when he [Emery] harvests, the bounty goes into a wooden crate, which he brings into the kitchen. One day I called out, ‘Here comes the wooden crate!’ And that’s been the restaurant’s name ever since.”

The Wooden Crate offers a daily buffet breakfast and lunch; dinner is offered nightly at 6:30pm. For two diners, it’s plated; for more than two, it’s served family style. Although a liquor license is in the works, for now it’s BYOB with no corkage fee. [HINT: purchase a bottle of your favorite estate wine after the King’s Visit at MauiWine, and bring it with you to Lumeria.]

“The menu changes every night,” says Chef Ben. “Everything is gluten free, and mostly dairy free [some of the sauces contain butter], and there’s always a vegetarian option. Our baseline is vegan, and we add onto that.”

Seating is on Lumeria’s spacious open-air lanai, and this evening it’s a bit brisk. Server Amanda brings a steaming mug of organic Tulsi tea, which quickly works to ease the chill. Tonight’s prix-fixe meal begins with a garden salad with beets and balsamic dressing, which may sound basic, but is anything but: luscious organic greens and succulent ruby-red beets are tossed with cucumber, daikon radish, micro greens, and walnuts, dressed with a balsamic blend, and accented with bright yellow-orange edible nasturtium blossoms. The salad is fresh, light, and perfectly dressed—it’s a wonderfully tasty beginning to the meal.

The main course is composed of fresh grilled ‘ahi with lemon-herb pistu (the vegetarian option is house made lentil loaf), crushed cauliflower potatoes and herbs, and lemon garlic grilled zucchini topped with a bright pink beet puree. The ‘ahi is melt-in-your-mouth tender and is beautifully complemented by the pistu; the zucchini is bursting with flavor; but it’s the cauliflower/potato/herb medley I can’t seem to stop eating!

Dessert this evening is chia pudding with star fruit, roasted figs, toasted coconut, and a coulee of raspberry. “ We make our desserts on the lighter side, using coconut sugar as the primary sweetener, which is healthier than white sugar,” Chef Ben explains.

“Dining at Lumeria is all about simplicity, and an awareness of where our food comes from,” adds Chef Ben. “At The Wooden Crate we celebrate the miracle of having so much fresh fish and organic produce right at our fingertips.”

–heidi pool

WHAT

The Wooden Crate restaurant at Lumeria Maui, offering an exquisitely prepared garden-to-table Maui dining experience.

WHERE

Located at 1813 Baldwin Ave., in Makawao.

WHEN

Breakfast daily from 7 to 11am; lunch from 12 to 4pm; both cost $15 per person. Dinner is served once per night at 6:30pm; cost is $40 per person plus 15% gratuity.

HOW

Reservations required at least 24 hours in advance for dinner: 579-8877.

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