See You At Hawaii Food And Wine Festival

The author (white shirt, standing) speaks at the Krug Tasting at last's year's Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. This year's festival kicks off Sunday | Photo from Roberto Viernes

So I am standing on the beach with sand in my toes, a wonderful glass of wine in my hand and watching an amazing fireworks show, thinking, “This is awesome! I hope we can do this again next year.”

This is not New Year’s Eve or July 4, but the last day in a series of terrific events at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. It was the gala food and wine tasting on the bay at Disney Aulani Resort and Spa. And it was not just this one event – it was the entire week full of truly world-class food and wine.

Hawaii Food and Wine Festival is spearheaded by two of Hawaii’s leading culinary lights, chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. Those two names put together alone in one event already puts my hedonistic gauge in the red zone. Now add to that dozens of the world’s finest chefs. Reading from the website ( is like a hall of fame of chefs: Grant Achatz from Alinea, Dominique Crenn from Atelier Crenn, Hubert Keller from Fleur de Lys, Nobu Matsuhisa from Nobu, Christina Tosi from Momofuku … the list goes on and on. The events are spread throughout the week of Sept. 1-9, and I am going to do my best to attend every single one, especially the wine tastings.

If you read my column regularly, you will recall that last year we did a once-in-a-lifetime Champagne vertical tasting including Clos du Mesnil and Clos d’Ambonnay. It was one of the most memorable tastings I have ever done as a panelist. And that was just one of the tastings. This year we start off the wine tastings with a Pinot Noir Study (which happens to be my favorite grape) with four of California’s best – Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, producer of some of the most elegant wines on the planet and, in my mind, the Jedi of all Pinot Noir producers; Steve Clifton of Brewer-Clifton, whose wines express purity and honesty specifically from the Santa Rita Hills; Paul Lato of Paul Lato Wines, whose wines are showstoppers that reach out and grab your palate; and Thomas Brown of Rivers-Marie, whose wines are as rare as a bald eagle and has a cult-like following – all will be imparting their knowledge and excitement.

Our next tasting may be the most compelling as we dive into a 10 vintage vertical of Harlan Estate with the estate’s director, Don Weaver. Harlan Estate is without a doubt one of California’s “First Growths” and is one of the original “Cult Cabernets.” This truly will be rarefied air (or wine, as it may) at this once-in-a-lifetime journey through these wines.

The last in the trio will be “My Favorite Wine Producers.” This is where we master sommeliers get to pick some of our favorite producers in the world and share them with you.

Last year we showed wines from Angelo Gaja, Francois Raveneau, Domaine Comtesse de Cherisey, Chateau Pavie and the like. This year will be no different, with wines that many drinkers only read about – but you’ll be able to drink them if you come to the tasting. Yours truly will be on hand to lead the tastings, along with fellow master sommeliers Joe Spellman and Richard Betts. By the time this column goes to print, some of these tastings and events already will be sold out, so do not hesitate. Go to the abovementioned website. I kid you not – this is going to be another unforgettable week of eating and drinking some of the best food and wine in the world!

I’ll see you there.

Recommendations: 2009 Marcarini Barolo Brunate ($65) This is truly “regal” Barolo. Polished and vibrant tannin frame beautifully delineated fruit. This will age gracefully for a decade with ease. Search like a beast for this one. I understand there were fewer than four cases of this wine imported to Hawaii. Very, very special Barolo.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.