What could be better than sharing a wine tasting experience with good friends? Well, how about if that wine tasting experience was on the Hawaiian island of Maui? Yes, that is better. Our intrepid friends Inna and Igor inspired us to join them in Hawaii for several days and one evening they took us to one of their favorite Maui spots, The Wine Palette. We were staying in Lahaina and took the short trip up to Kapalua to taste wine before dinner.
Our first impression of Palette was favorable: the interior is open and bright with a mix of high-top tables with stools spread throughout the spacious interior as well as two large couches in the middle of the room on the lower level. There is also an upper level that would easily accommodate a large group. Since it was still early, we were just one of a few groups in Palette when we arrived; by the time we left to get to our dinner reservation, the bar was filling up nicely both inside as well as outside on the patio.
After being seated we got our hands on the menu and took a look at the wine and food options. We were pleasantly surprised by the breadth of the by-the-glass offerings as well as the bottle selections for both white and red wines. As residents of Napa Valley, we were happy to see many of our hometown wineries on the glass and bottle lists as well as a strong showing from our neighbors in Sonoma County. In addition to our “local” wines were choices from California’s Central Coast, Oregon and Washington, and ten countries (including a red blend from Lebanon that we wished we had thought to try). After perusing the bottle list it was clear that the four of us all wanted to try different wines so we passed on buying any bottles. Instead, we each crafted our own “pairing” by ordering 2-ounce pours of several different wines.
Along with each tasting-sized glass was a small note card with the name of the wine and tasting notes. As the wines are placed on the table, the note cards are placed face down next to their respective wine to create the effect of a blind tasting. So for Igor, who created his own Pinot Noir flight, there was the challenge of distinguishing between the Oregon and the Sonoma County Pinot Noir. Each of us had similar challenges and I recall we all were able to correctly identify the wines based on aroma and taste.
To accompany their wines, Palette offers a wide selection of food, ranging from starter plates to full meals. As we were heading to a delectable sushi restaurant later in the evening, we did not need a full meal but did fancy something to pair with the wine. We agreed on some edamame (perhaps in anticipation of sushi) and the more traditional cheese and charcuterie plate.
If we have the opportunity to visit Palette again (yes, please, since this means we’ll be in Maui again!) we may opt to stay longer and forage through the rest of their food menu. And drink more wine of course.
When our friends first told us the name of the wine bar, our ears (conditioned by our time in Napa no doubt) heard “palate,” not “palette.” We could only imagine that the wine bar was named after a word that refers to the appreciation of tastes and flavors – palate. Even when we saw the name written as “palette” on the door as we entered the bar we did not think twice – until we saw paint brushes, canvases and other painting supplies. Ohhhhh, “palette.” As in colors mixed by painters. In addition to yummy food and excellent wines, The Wine Palette also allows its customers the opportunity paint, either on canvas or on wine glasses. Our friend Inna is a talented painter and, time-permitting, we surely could have talked her into creating a masterpiece for us.
In addition to supplies for painting, The Wine Palette also has dozens of board and card games available for customers to play while they are sipping. There is also a large screen in the bar area that was playing a movie (coincidentally one of my very favorites, “Bridesmaids”). Not long after we sat down, a family with small children came in and occupied the couches. They blended in nicely which is a testament to the clear intent of the owners to make their establishment work for many different types of visitors. We should also mention that The Wine Palette is not just for wine aficionados as they also have a full bar and an impressive selection of beers.
We always enjoy good food and great wines, but there is something uniquely special about enjoying them after a vigorous day of swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. If you end up in Lahaina, Kapalua or Kanapali, make your way to The Wine Palette and take advantage of their ambience and libations. For reservations or to find out more, visit them here: The Wine Palette.
John & Irene Ingersoll
April 4, 2017