- Established in 1974
- Made in Ulupalakua, Maui on Haleakala’s southern-facing slopes
- Maui’s first winery is situated 1,800 feet above sea level!
- Maui Brut was served at President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration!
- MauiWine crushes Hali’imaile Distilling Company’s pineapples for them!
Traversing history as it evolved from a farm and sugar plantation, to a cattle and horse ranch, and now a winery, Ulupalakua Ranch is home to an interesting and well-documented past.
MauiWine’s beautiful logo is full of equally beautiful meaning. The left side represents the pineapple. The symbol of hospitality, the pineapple was integral to the company’s early success with pineapple wine. Ulupalakua is represented by the middle of the logo, celebrating the historical significance of the region. Finally, the right side stands for MauiWine’s commitment to agriculture. The rich, volcanic Haleakala soils are essential to producing Ulupalakua’s estate wines.
Maui Wines is located on land that King Kamehameha III leased to rancher and seaman Linton L. Torbert in 1841 for $800 a year in a 6-year contract. He actively used his 2,300 acres dubbed Torbertsville to raise animals such as hogs, cattle, sheep, and turkey, as well as sugar (the land came with a sugar mill!), firewood and potatoes. After purchasing a schooner (a sailing ship with two or more masts) and loading it up with potatoes, he set sail to cash in on the hungry appetites of the California Gold Rush. Unfortunately, his boat had a leak and he lost his schooner and its load.
Captain James Makee
In an economic rough patch, Torbert transferred all of his holdings to Captain James Makee in 1856. The whaling captain of 7 years retired at age 30 after a crew member intended to attack and kill him following his denied shore leave. The murder was unsuccessful but left Makee with gashes to the head and a limp. Makee joined by his wife Catherine and their eight children who made the 122-day voyage to Hawai’i from Boston, continued to develop the land. Named Rose Ranch after Catherine’s favorite flower, Makee built impressive stone buildings and even a mausoleum and a bowling alley, as well as planted exotic trees and gardens for Catherine. Rose Ranch was known as the most extensive estate in the Hawaiian Islands.
Makee Sugar Production
By 1861, the sugar mill was running. Rose Ranch donated 200 barrels of molasses to be sold to raise money for relief work during the Civil War. His molasses sold for $6,000, which is about $160,000 today. Makee rebuilt his sugar mill with the latest and greatest materials and technology available at the time, drawing visitors from across the globe to see his setup. Rose Ranch generated over 800 tons of sugar a year for over ten years! By 1864, Makee’s mill garnered over $100,000 in sales, which translates to $2.7 million in today’s terms. The 1878 drought marks the initial decline in sugar production, which dwindled away until the final sugar cane crop was milled in 1883.
Rose Ranch Festivities
The Makee family threw lavish parties and showed their guests incredible hospitality. These gatherings would entail feasts, sometimes featuring peacock as the main course, singing, horse racing, and dancing that would last until sunrise. In 1871, King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani were ushered by 150 torch-carrying men on horseback from Makena Harbor five miles to Rose Ranch for three days of partying! It was noted that the “entertainment was on a princely scale of hospitality.” In one notable game of poker, after losing all his chips King Kalakaua bet Molokini, which was visible under the moonlight from the open front porch where they played. After losing to Makee who was excited about his new land acquisition, the king exclaimed, “You don’t listen. I bet omole kini (a bottle of gin).”
67-year-old Captain James Makee died on September 16, 1879. His body was laid to rest in a lead coffin in his mausoleum after being covered in Kentucky whiskey. Reports indicated that vandals broke into his coffin, stealing Makee’s arms and Catherine’s jewelry.
James Isaac Dowsett
The ranch was sold in 1886 for $84,500 to James Isaac Dowsett, said to be the first white child born in Hawai’i not of missionary parentage. Dowsett transitioned from childhood playmate to adult confidant of Kamehameha IV, Kamehameha V, and future King Lunalilo. He spoke the native language and was loved by Native Hawaiians who had named him Kimo Pelekane, Jim the Englishman. He was the first person to bring Aberdeen Angus to Hawai’i, importing four bulls and four cows from Aberdeen, Scotland in 1881 for $11,000. His passion for raising cattle resulted in the ranch holding 5,000 mostly purebred cattle at the conclusion of his ownership.
Dr. James M. Raymond
Dr. James M. Raymond purchased the ranch in 1990, renaming it Raymond Ranch. Two years prior, he married Pheobe Dowsett Makee, James Isaac Dowsett’s daughter who had previously been married to Makee’s son Charles. Raymond adding a slaughterhouse to the ranch and raised thoroughbred Hereford cattle. He was known for owning some of the fastest racehorses in all of Hawai’i. On his ranch, early paniolo learned from the famous Angus MacPhee, five-time world champion roper from 1902-1907 and member of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. In 1908, three Hawaiian paniolo traveled to Cheyenne, Wyoming to compete in the Fronteir Days world roping competition, taking sixth, third, and first places. In addition to first place, Ikua Purdy broke the world record and was later the first Hawaiian paniolo to be inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Frank Fowler Baldwin
In 1922, Frank Fowler Baldwin purchased the ranch, renaming is Ulupalakua Ranch. Grandson of the Lahaina missionary and son of a pioneer sugar grower, Frank Baldwin came from one of the most prominent families in Maui history and he was the president of the historical Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company (HC&S). Additionally, Baldwin, who had more interest in using his horses for polo than rodeo, lead many polo teams to championships and his three sons were known as the best polo players around. Frank’s son Edward managed the ranch up until his death in 1956.
C. Pardee Erdman
C. Pardee Erdman, a former petroleum geologist, purchased the ranch in 1963, which had grown to 58,000 acres and 6,000 cattle managed by 30 workers living with their families on the ranch. While continuing paniolo traditions, Erdman also raised sheep and elk.
Tedeschi Vineyard and Winery
Erdman went into business with Emil Tedeschi, a vitner with a Napa Valley background. Together, they began the first winery in Maui, Tedeschi Vineyard, which was established as a Hawaiian Corporation in 1974. Makee’s establishments came in handy for Erdman and Tedeschi. His old dairy built from lava rock was transformed into the winery’s lab and bottling room and the old jail is now a tasting room. After trying out over 140 grape varietals and various spots on the ranch, Erdman and Tedeschi planted 23 acres of Carnelian grapes on the location with the best slope, terrain, and elevation. While awaiting their vineyard’s maturation, they experimented making wine with pineapple to set up their production processes. Never intended for sale, their sparkling pineapple wine is now Maui Wine’s most popular product! The first grape harvest was set for 1980 until a terrible storm obliterated the crops. Alas, the September 1981 harvest produced 22 tons of Carnelian grapes which all went into producing the 1984 Maui Brut Blanc de Noir Champagne. All 2,000 cases quickly sold out.
The 90s – Now
Maui Splash made its debut in 1992. Concocted specifically for one restaurant, production was only a few gallons per month. Intentionally made as a sweeter wine, it was best served as a wine cooler or spritzer. As production increased, Maui Splash coolers were served in the winery’s tasting room. The profile was ultimately altered to reduce sweetness allowing the wine shine on its own.
1994 marked the winery’s 20th anniversary, celebrated with the release of 100 cases of Hula o Maui, a sparkling pineapple wine. It is produced via the Traditional Methode Champenoise, which is known for its high quality and costs. The outstanding characteristic of this method is that the transformation from still to sparkling wine happens right in the bottle!
From 1997 until 2011, replanting was the winery’s main focus, sowing Syrah, Malbec, Grenache, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Chenin Blanc . Syrah his since become the winery’s flagship grape due to its long growth cycle suitable to Hawai’i’s short off-season and non-traditional dormancy periods. 2009 marked their final crop of Maui Carnelian grapes, after 34 years of growth! 40 years of trials and patience were crowned in 2014 as the entire vineyard reached maturity!
In 1996, the tasting room relocated to the King’s Cottage, a former guesthouse for royalty, as it offered more space and a peak into the ranch’s rich history. Inside, you’ll find an 18-foot long bar crafted from a just one piece of solid Ulupalakua mango wood.
Although Tedeschi left Maui to return to California in the late 1980s, Tedeschi Vineyards didn’t officially rebrand as MauiWine until June 2015. Now run by Paul Hegele, the company has grown to 32 employees and distributes their wines to 18 states and 4 countries, Canada, Japan, Guam, and Switzerland! MauiWine aims to focus on continually improving quality and creating intimate, customized experiences for their visitors.
The fragrant pink lokelani rose is the official lei flower of the Valley Isle. Not actually indigenous to Hawai’i, it was brought in the 1800s by Spanish explorers. This “rose of heaven” is rare, but can be spotted throughout the winery as it was back in the days of Rose Ranch. It grows atop a tall shrub commonly pruned in an upward spiral so that the flowers seem to sprout from the top like a fountain.
First released in 1977, this Maui Blanc is made with 100% Maui Gold pineapple. At 11.5% ABV, this crisp, tropical wine is off-dry.
Maui Splash, 11.5% ABV, is a sweet pineapple and liliko’i (yellow passionfruit) wine.
Hula O Maui, 12.5% ABV, is a sparkling brut pineapple wine produced via the traditional Methode Champenoise. It was bottled as a still wine which has transformed into bubbly right in the bottle!
Lokelani is a brut, 12.5% ABV sparkling rosé. It is 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay fermented via the traditional Methode Champenoise. They say it has notes of strawberries, orange blossom, toasted almond, and citrus.
Kula Rose Ranch white wine, 13.5% ABV, is the product of a partnership with California growers. It is just off-dry, pairing well with much of the local fare. MauiWines aimed to capture the essence of Maui with this wine.
Mele Ulupalakua red wine is 13.5% ABV and ruby-red in color. MauiWine notes that it smells of red berries, baking spices, vanilla, and eucalyptus.
Lehua is a fortified, sweet dessert wine born as a solution to local farmer’s overabundance of raspberries. Since Lehua’s popularity burst, they now supplement their supply with crops from Lyden, Washington, the raspberry capital of the world. Raspberries, sugar, grape neutral spirits, and Haleakala rain water are the only ingredients in the bottle. Excess raspberry juice goes to the Maui Culinary Institute, where they whip up a raspberry wine jam available in the Tasting Room!
The Ulupalakua Syrah undergoes a longer maceration period to allow for maximum tannin extraction. This oldest varietal in the vineyard produces a 13.5% ABV wine that is said to have notes of black plum and cherry, au jus, milk chocolate, cured meats, and fire.
The Ulupalakua Grenache is a 13% ABV wine produced via the siagnee method. The high ratio of skin to juice heightens color and tannin extraction. To improve color and mouthfeel, 8% Syrah is blended in.
The Ulupalakua Malbec is a 13.3% ABV wine crafted from Malbec grapes that have been 100% destemmed and then cold-soaked, fermented, macerated, and extracted via punch downs and pump-overs. It is unique from traditional Malbecs but still bold in color. It is said to have notes of Belgian chocolate, dark cherry, blueberry cream, and sweet mint.
Ulupalakua GSMV is a 13.5% ABV blend of Syrah, Grenache, Malbec, and Viognier varietals. Blended to highlight the best characteristics of each grape, they say this wine has notes of violet, spiced cranberry, white cherry, and brown sugar crumble.
The Ulupalakua Rose is concocted primarily from Syrah grapes, with 10% Grenache blended in. They say the flavor is bright and perky, with notes of marshmallow, pear, watermelon and starfruit. This dry wine is 12.5% ABV.
The Ulupalakua Chenin Blanc is a 12.5% ABV white wine made entirely with the Chenin Blanc varietal. It is an unpredictable wine that changes flavor with environmental and production factors. 65% of the malic acid was converted to lactic acid to boost creaminess while preserving freshness.
Their flagship white wine, Ulupalakua Viognier (vee-own-YAY), is made entirely of the Viognier varietal which thrives in Maui’s climate. It is pressed with minimal skin contact and aged briefly in French oak. This fruity 13.5% ABV wine has notes of nectarine, pineapple, apple, and ginger.
The Ulupalakua Blanc de Blanc is a 12.5% ABV dry wine produced from an early- harvest of the Chenin Blanc varietal that has low sugar and high acid contents. Dry ice assists in oxygen removal and chilling as the whole clusters are pressed. The tirage bottling style adds in sugar and yeast prior to 30 months of aging in the Traditional Methode, undergoing a second fermentation to finish with a Brut Nature.
Pau Hana Pleasure
Maui Blanc Pineapple Wine purchased from Safeway on sale for about $14. The convenient twist off top reveals a strong pineapple aroma. Although no sugar is added, the natural sweetness is even a bit much for my personal taste. Awesome concept and flavor though!
MauiWine has an online store where you can (maybe) purchase their wines. You’ll also find clothing, wine accessories, and Hawaiian treats, such as Kona coffee and Pineapple Snow.
MauiWines are available for shipping to 28 states, but no international shipping is available. The wine bottles may vary by type, as long as they are purchased in quantities of 3, 6, or 12 bottles. Check here to see if any distributors carry MauiWine near you!
P.S. Pro Tip: If you make it out to visit MauiWine, grab lunch across the street at Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill. The serve only Maui-grown meats, including beef, elk, and lamb, and they’re striving to serve only Maui-grown produce, too! They’re only open from 11am to 4pm, so plan accordingly!
Address: 14815 Piilani Hwy, Kula, HI 96790
Phone: (808) 878-6058
Tours: 10:30am & 1:30pm, 30 minutes, complimentary
Tastings: 10am-5pm, $12-$16 for a flight of four
Old Jail Tastings: 2:15pm, reservations required, $40 per person, four special wines with taste pairings, book here.
Private tours and tastings start at $400, inquire here.