The Best Festival

Which is the best wine festival in Hawaii?

That would be, in my opinion, Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. Now in its fourth year, it brings together another host of top culinary and vinous talent from around the globe.

Previously I’ve written about the fabulous experience after these events, so this year I want to make sure that anyone who loves wine knows ahead of time about the world-class events happening this year.

We actually begin the festival on the island of Hawaii, move on to Maui, then return to Oahu over the course of a week. And when we are back on Oahu, I will be in full swing with four major wine seminars — all Saturday, Sept. 6.

We start the day with a vertical tasting of Colgin Cellars. Colgin is one of Napa Valley’s elite Cabernet producers. It always is considered one of Napa’s First Growths, and this is the first time we will do a vertical tasting with this famed producer. It will feature three Estate vineyards: IX Estate, Tychson Hill and Cariad Estate. And from each of the estates/vineyards we will taste four marvelous vintages as far back as

1999. These are some of the most collectible wines in the world, with minute production. A single bottle of its current release of 2010 would run you in the neighborhood of $500. I can’t wait to taste them.

Our second tasting takes us to the Old World, with a vertical tasting of some of Burgundy’s best. Take three of the top names from Burgundy — Domaine Comtesse Bernard de Cherisey, Domaine Roulot and Domaine Coche-Dury — and you already have reason to drool. From Cherisey, we will take his two best vineyards, both Premier Crus: Meursault-Blagny “La Genelotte” and Puligny-Montrachet “Hameau de Blagny.” This will be a great exhibition on terroir, as these vineyards are separated only by a lane as wide as a car, and both are made in exactly the same fashion. Three vintages of each, and all from magnums! From Roulot we will taste his lovely Meursault “Les Tessons” and the Premier Cru Meursault “Charmes.” Many in the wine business consider Roulot’s whites to be the best. With three vintages of each and several from magnum they will surely prove their worth. Then we come to my favorite white wine producer: Coche-Dury. These wines are like the legend of the unicorn — many hear about it, but only a lucky few actually see and taste it. Three wines from this domain including Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet Enseigneres and the Grand Cru of Corton Charlemagne. By the way, a bottle of this Corton Charlemagne would set you back $1,000, if you’re lucky.

The next tasting is called Master Sommelier Favorites. According to previous years’ attendees, this is often their favorite tasting because we all get to let our hair down. This year will be no different. But we will have four master sommeliers this year instead of three — Richard Betts of My Essential Wines, Saint Ginglin, Sombra Mezcal and Astral Tequila; Joseph Spellman of Justin and Landmark Wineries; Paul Roberts of Colgin Cellars; and yours truly. The list of wines is a secret I cannot divulge, but suffice to say I would be there even if I were not on the panel!

Lastly and certainly not least, we are doing an eight-vintage vertical tasting of Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon going back to 1986 with Joe Wagner himself! The winery is celebrating its 40th vintage this year and in true style. Special Selection holds a special place in my wine memory, as it was the first “expensive” bottle of wine I spent my own money on when I first entered the wine industry back in 1996. It was the wine I just “had to have.” And now I get the chance to see how they are aging.

Any of these tastings is once-in-a-lifetime experience, and to take part in all of them will be … what is better than awesome?