Vineyard offers lesson in Maui history


KAHULUI, Hawaii -- Tedeschi Vineyards at Ulupalakua Ranch on the slopes of Haleakala Crater underwent a transformation a year ago.

Those who visited Maui's only winery, which opened more than 20 years ago, will remember the tasting room in what was known as the jailhouse. Now there is a larger tasting room in the ranch's historical and restored manager's home.

Kalakaua Cottage Called the Kalakaua Cottage, it opened to the public in November 1997. Visitors have eight wines to sample, including the original pineapple Maui Blanc, which the vineyard began producing in 1977 while its Carnelian grape plants grew.

Guided tours of the winery and grounds end with the cellars and bottling room, tucked into a hillside above ground. Visitors can buy sandwiches and other takeout items from the Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Deli across the road. Picnic tables on the winery grounds, shaded by large trees more than 100 years old, provide a quiet place to reflect on Ulupalakua's history.

The 23,000-acre cattle ranch dates to 1845 when 2,000 acres of royal lands were leased for sugar cane. With Lahaina in West Maui developing as Hawaii's whaling capital, coupled with the California gold rush, demand for ranch and farm products increased.

In 1856, James Makee, a whaling captain, bought the ranch, which by then included livestock as well as sugar, and named it Rose Ranch. The ranch became famous for its hospitality and as a center for the social elite.

At 2,000 feet above sea level, the ranch is 23 miles and a 40-minute drive from Kahului Airport. The drive through the Kula area, known for its sweet onions, provides magnificent vistas that include the broad sweep of Maui's central plain, the West Maui Mountains and the island of Kahoolawe. The South Maui resort areas of Kihei, Wailea and Makena are below.

Ulupalakua is less than four downhill miles to Makena, but there is no connecting public road. It is more than an hour's drive along the slopes and down to the plain to the resort areas.

In Makee's day, ships would anchor off Makena Landing, and officers and dignitaries would take a six-hour uphill journey to the ranch and civilization. A shot from a cannon (seen on the winery grounds) signified that an ox cart was on its way. In 1874, the cannon fired a 21-gun salute. King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani arrived for the first of many visits.

The Kalakaua Cottage, then a one-room home built for the royals, later was expanded into a manager's home, with wings now housing the tasting room and a gift shop selling Hawaiian products. The original room is devoted to historical memorabilia and photos: sections on Kalakaua; the Makee family (six daughters, two sons); Maui's cowboys, and the ranch's owners.

In the 1880s, after Makee died, the unprofitable sugar farms ended and ranching took over. Visitors learn about the ranch's owners (the present owner, Pardee Erdman, bought it in 1963).

There are photos of Gen. George Patton, who stayed here in the 1930s. Then a colonel stationed on Oahu, he played polo on Maui and is remembered for riding his pony through the cottage's living room.

A pavilion on the grounds stands on the site of Makee's home, which burned down in 1975 (only the chimney remains). The pavilion is used for incentive and other group functions. The winery can handle groups of up to 100 for a catered lunch.

According to Paula Hegele, general manager, the winery gets between 500 and 600 visitors a day. Some take a detour to the winery on the way back from Haleakala National Park, which is more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Some visitors, she said, drive around East Maui via Hana -- a circular route of 110 miles from the airport. Car rental companies prohibit driving the route because of an unpaved stretch at Kaupo, midway between Ulupalakua and Hana.

Hegele said there are plans to restore the original tasting room for private tastings.

Makee used the coral-block building as an office, and its basement, running the length of the building, was believed to have been used as a jail.

The winery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission and tours are free. Tours, lasting about 25 minutes, are every hour, the first beginning at 9:30 a.m., and the last starting at 2:30 p.m.

To reach the winery from Kahului Airport, take the Hana Highway (Route 36) for a short distance, then take the Haleakala Highway (Route 37). For the last five miles, after Keokea, Route 37 is a narrow road.

Tedeschi Vineyards, Phone: (808) 878-1266, Fax: (808) 876-0127

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI