Winefest enjoys another vintage year

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WEST MAUI -- Kapalua Resort just wrapped up its 22nd annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, but it's not too early for clients to be planning for next year.

This epicurean extravaganza, the longest-running event of its kind in Hawaii, treated a record crowd of close to 4,000 connoisseurs to wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, seminars and gala dinners revolving around the theme "Flavor Map of the World -- Charting a Course for Grand Taste."

Hostess for the third straight year was Andrea Immer, dean of wine studies at the French Culinary Institute in New York and author of three best-selling wine books. Immer is one of only 10 women in the world to earn the prestigious title of master sommelier.

Describing the festival as "a full-fledged foodie fantasy," Immer oversaw a delectable schedule that featured 150 wineries and 16 of Hawaii's top chefs.

Among the packed events was a hands-on sushi-making demonstration led by D.K. Kodama of Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar and master sommelier Chuck Furuya.

There also was a seminar on artisanal (hand-crafted) cheeses; plus a tasting that highlighted the differences between Old World (European) and New World (American) methods of winemaking; and a cooking demonstration by chef Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass., who is renowned for his "East meets West" style of cuisine.

The Kapalua Wine & Food Festival began in 1981 as a small wine symposium and the brainchild of the legendary Robert Mondavi.

"Its target was the food and beverage industry of Hawaii," said Kim Carpenter, Kapalua Resort's vice president of marketing. "Robert invited his friends from the wine industry to come over, enjoy Kapalua and Maui, and feature their wines."

Fifty people came that first year. Today, the festival is "one of the best-attended wine functions in our industry," said James Ferguson, western region manager of Banfi Vintners in Tuscany.

What makes it attractive, according to Carpenter, is the personal interaction that attendees enjoy with prominent winemakers, as opposed to the usual cadre of sales reps found at other festivals.

"Sales and marketing representatives usually attend the wine festivals on the Mainland," Carpenter said.

Even if the winemakers are among those attending the Mainland events, those festivals often are so crowded attendees do not have a chance to say hello to them, let alone have meaningful conversations, she said.

"Our event provides a rare opportunity for participants to mingle closely with the top winemakers in the world to gain valuable insights about the art of making and drinking fine wine," Carpenter said.

Kapalua Wine & Food Festival
Place:
Kapalua Resort, Maui
Dates: July 8 to 11, 2004
Packages: Kapalua Resort's three properties (Kapalua Villas, Kapalua Bay Hotel & Ocean Villas, and the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua) offer festival plans that include accommodations and tickets to select events. Depending on the package selected, other inclusions might be an Andrea Immer book, daily breakfast and a merchandise credit.
Commissions range from 10% to 15%. Attendees can purchase a four-day festival pass, including admission to all events and a welcome reception. Tickets for most events also can be purchased separately.
Contact: (800) KAPALUA; Web: www.kapaluamaui.com.

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