When you think of a good Winery location, Maui (or anywhere in Hawaii actually) is not the first place that comes to mind. And with the fact that grapes do not grow well in Hawaii, you would be forgiven for thinking that Hawaii’s alcoholic drinks were all about the Mai Tai. There are actually only 3 Wineries in all of Hawaii: Oeno Winemaking on Oahu, Volcano Winery on the Big Island, and Maui Wines on Maui. Hawaii does so many things well: sunsets, beaches, Kalua Pork, but its location means that it is not renowned for its Winemaking.
But does this assumption hold up? And with so many other great things to do on your trip to Maui, is it worth a trip to a winery? We visited Maui Wines on our last trip to Maui to review the wines, and experience what it has to offer.
Open Tuesday- Sundays 11-5. Reservation’s Strongly Recommended.
Maui Wines is located in Kula, Upcountry Maui, on the elevations surrounding Haleakalā. Once in Upcountry, Maui’s sandy beaches disappear as you enter the area of rolling hills and Mountains, dominated by Haleakalā, Maui’s highest peak. Maui Wine sits on 23 acres of south-facing volcanic land at approx 2000ft above sea level- a perfect location to grow grapes.
There’s only one way to get to Maui Wines from central Maui and that is to take Highway 37, the Haleakalā Highway. Your Journey from Kahului is 26 miles and will take around 40 minutes. However, the Journey to Maui Wines is part of the experience so allow extra travel time to stop and take in the breathtaking views of Maui.
Maui Wine began in 1974 when the then-owner of the ʻUlupalakua Ranch built a vineyard with the rich volcanic soil and Island climate being the perfect combination to grow grapes. While waiting for grapes to grow, the founder C. Pardee Erdman used the abundance of Maui Pineapples to make a Pineapple based Sparkling wine and later, a still wine in the form of the world-famous Maui Blanc (reviewed later).
Maui Wines is the only Hawaiian Winery to produce Sparkling wine. The Carnelian Grape has been able to produce the Maui Brut, Blanc de Noir first made in 1984 and the USA national seal of approval when it was served at the inauguration of President Reagan.
Maui wines are created with care to embody the great tastes of Maui, using only the unparalleled quality of Maui Gold Pineapples reflecting the warm sense of Aloha. When you arrive at Maui Wines you walk across the lawn where King Kalākaua re-embraced the tradition of hula and you can explore other areas of the vineyard where you can glimpse into the past of ʻUlupalakua Ranch and its way of life.
Visiting Maui Wines
After your scenic journey to Maui Wines, you will be greeted with the sight of the Kings Cottage Tasting Room, the location for your wine tasting. Here you will find the Hostess to check in with your pre-booked reservation, which you have right?
Despite the remote location of the Vineyards, Maui Wines is extremely popular, even more so with passing trade. While a lot of people will have done their research and planned a trip to Maui’s only Winery, the roads of UpCountry are filled with lots of tourists exploring the area who stumble across Maui Wines and stop to seek a delightful refreshment during their trip.
As a result, Maui Wines is VERY popular, and booking a reservation for your party is HIGHLY recommended. The tasting room is based in a small cottage so numbers are limited. They can only sit parties of up to 6 people together, so if there are more of you, be prepared to be separated into smaller groups. Reservation booking is made through their website and the booking window is open from 90 days:
Maui Wines do say on its website that they do its best to accommodate walk-ins but they can’t make any promises! If visiting the Tasting Room at the winery is something you want to do, it’s best to book in advance.
Not sure what time you will be arriving? Not a problem, if you like we were, are hoping to fit a trip to Maui Wines into a day of exploring Upcountry, it might be hard to know when exactly you are going to be arriving. As a result, we arrived almost 2 hours earlier than we had planned. The Hostess was able to bring forward our reservation, putting us in front of some walk-ups too, as technically we did have a reservation, just at a different time. Our tip, give yourself plenty of time to explore Upcountry and book your reservation with plenty of time to do all that you want to do before you reach the Winery. Better to be early than late and miss your reservation!
Explore the Grounds
Arriving slightly earlier than your reservation actually works well as you will be able to explore the grounds before your table is ready. Once you have checked in with the Hostess, you will be given a map for you to complete a self-guided tour of the grounds. Learn about the historic Hawaiian culture of the grounds and explore the sacred and historic buildings and artifacts.
Maui Wines do not offer guided or private tours but you are encouraged to explore the grounds yourself.
The Tasting Room
The tasting room at the winery is based in Kings Cottage, built in the 1870s for King Kalākaua, the last reigning King of Hawai’i. All guests are seated outside on the Lanai, offering scenic views of ‘Ulupalakua. There is no inside seating, so everyone gets a chance to take in the stunning views no matter where on the Lanai you are seated. There are canopies and umbrellas to offer shade against the strong Maui sun.
The winery shop and museum are also based in the King’s Cottage, reservations to visit the shop are not needed so even if you are unable to get a reservation or wall up, you can purchase some of Maui Wines to enjoy yourself at a later time. The shop is also open 11 am- 5 pm daily.
The Wine Tasting
Tasting Flights: $12-$15
Wines by the Glass: $6-$20
Now it’s time to get to the highlight of your visit: to try some wines (why else would you be here?!)
Wine is sold either by Flight or by the glass. There are 2 Wine Flights available, and both come with tasting notes:
Pineapple Tasting $12 – Maui Blanc (dry white), Maui Splash (sweet), and O Hula Maui (Sparkling)
Rose Ranch Tasting $12 – Lokelani (sparkling), Kula (white), Mele (Red)
We opted to try each of the flights and shared the 6 small 2oz glasses between us, so we could try as many of the wines as possible.
The ʻUlupalakua vineyard also produces other wines on the estate including Rose, Malbec, and a White Syrah. The current releases can be found on the menu here. These can be tasted individually in 2oz measures.
The Wine menu also includes a selection of Wine Cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. The winery does not, however, sell any Beer! This may seem obvious to some, as you are at a Winery, where wine is made, not Beer (the clue is in the title!). It’s worth noting though if any of your party are not wine fans, there is very little on offer here other than wine, mainly as Maui Wines do not produce beer, they produce wine. As we waited for our table to be free, there was a rather unhappy guest leaving, complaining as he went that there was no beer on the menu In all fairness while he felt very clever and expected people to follow him out the door, most people just rolled their eyes!
If you want a fun experience with similar stunning views and a more varied selection of drinks consider Gannons on South Maui. It’s not quite Upcountry Wineery but it’s pretty special
Your wine-tasting experience is designed to take up to 90 minutes, allowing you to enjoy the wines while soaking up the amazing views of Maui. To allow a fair throughput, there is a 90-minute time frame put on each reservation to allow other guests to experience the Wine tasting too.
Pineapple Tasting Flight
We already had a chance to try Maui Wines Pineapple Blanc before our visit to the vineyards and were already big fans of the wine. The Pineapple Blanc is a nice dry white with an intense pineapple nose, but actually does not really taste pineapple-y and is a refreshing dry white.
In contrast, the Maui Splash DOES taste like Pineapple and is really sweet. When people imagine Pineapple Wine this is probably what comes to mind. We actually prefer the Maui Blac as there is a nod to the Maui Gold Pineapples but it does not overwhelm you with the sweetness of Maui Splash. We found it nice to drink as part of the wine flight but would not want to drink a full bottle. (Unlike the Maui Blanc, which we drank several of during our trip to Maui)
The Hula-O-Maui is Hawaii’s only Sparkling Wine and as a semi-dry white sparkling wine, it is also very drinkable! Perfect for special occasions, refreshing and crisp. Our second favorite of the Pineapple Wines after the Maui Blanc.
Rose Ranch Tasting Flight
The Rose Ranch tasting offered some more traditional wines, made from grapes, not pineapple, and started with a lovely Sparkling Rose (the Lokelani). The Kula was again really nice and refreshing. However, we found the Mele, while nice, just didn’t quite fit the mood and ambiance of the ranch. We just don’t really drink reds in Maui or anywhere where it’s too warm as we find them too heavy.
The Rose Ranch wines were nice, but just overall a little less exciting than the prospect of drinking Pineapple Wines.
When drinking lots of wine, it’s always a good idea to have something to soak it up: Food!
Maui Winery offers a petite selection of small bites to accompany your wine-tasting experience:
Brie Happy double cream brie topped w/ rosé guava
jam, sweet peppers & mixed nuts. served w/ crackers
Artisan Board manchego cheese, spicy salami, & castelvetrano
olives served w/ fresh focaccia bread & roasted tomatoes
Goatta Have it chèvre goat cheese topped with lilikoi
pineapple wine syrup & black sea salt. served w/ crackers
Locally made Kettle Corn or Truffle Chips
We ordered the Artisan Board and Truffle Chips to share. The Artisan Board board was really good and the Truffle Chips were amazing but they were really just Bar snacks and nibbles rather than restaurant-sized portions of food. They did, however, complement our wine tastings perfectly.
After we had enjoyed our Wine Flights and nibbles, we concluded our visit with a trip to the shop where we purchased a couple of bottles of Maui Blanc to enjoy back on our own lanai during the rest of our time in Maui. The shop also provides an airline-approved packaging service for you to take Maui Wines home with you (mainland USA only) as well as a shipping service which unfortunately for us, is also only applicable to mainland USA.
Is Maui Wines worth a visit? Our truthful answer: YES!
We found our visit to Maui Wines one of the highlights of our trip to Maui. The scenic journey up to Kula, followed by the amazing scenery of the ‘Ulupalakua grounds are sights not to be missed. This little winery nestled in the beautiful Upcounty mountains is a true gem and a perfect way to drink in the spirit of Maui, quite literally!
Our only caveat would be, if you do not like wine then visiting Maui Wines, like most wineries, is probably not the activity for you.
You may also want to consider bringing those under 21’s or those who do not drink with you to the winery on your visit. Under 21’s are allowed to accompany you during your tasting but are not allowed to drink the wines and as mentioned previously, there are very few non-alcoholic options on the menu. The main activity of visiting a winery is the tasting experience, so those who can not or do not want to join in may find the visit lacking.
Otherwise, we would highly recommend you add a trip to Maui Wines to your next Maui vacation activity list! Especially if you are planning to explore Upcountry at some point on your trip anyway. It really does add a splash of sophistication to any Maui trip and just feels so different from the endless beach-based activities a Maui Trip usually entails
What else to See in Upcountry
Have Your Say
Have you visited Maui Wines Vineyard? Do you agree with your review of the Winery? Please let us know about your visit in the comments section below. Likewise, if you are planning to visit Maui Wines and have any questions about the winery, please leave them in the comments section below and we will get back to you.