My wife Karen and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and it was amazing. We loved Maui. Twenty-five years later, we wanted to plan an anniversary trip. Italy, Portugal, even a river cruise through Europe perhaps. But after months of talking, we decided to go back to Hawaii to explore a different island.
The Four Seasons Hualalai resort in Kona looked amazing. We’ve traveled to many places including Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, and this is the best place we have ever stayed. Everything was perfect.
When we checked in, Karen and I were escorted to our beautiful room, but were told not to unpack because we would be upgraded to a suite the following day. We shared a wonderful bottle of wine that a good friend sent to us, and a bottle of champagne from the hotel. We were so happy with our room we weren’t sure we wanted to be upgraded. There was one thing I never had in our room before: At one end of the shower there was a door that opened onto an outdoor lava grotto with a big overhead shower. We loved it!
The next morning, we went for breakfast right next to the ocean. OMG the food was delicious. Kona French press is about as good as coffee can be. We then headed to one of the pools. Not long after getting settled in, a bellman showed up and told us our new room was ready. I offered to go for the transfer, but I was assured that I didn’t need to. They would handle everything.
We had our own thatched hut with a view of the pool and ocean. A piece of paradise. I’ve always liked being spoiled—and we were. Fresh melon, fresh pineapple, frozen grapes and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts were offered every so often by the pool staff. Did I mention they clean your sunglasses, too? How about a massage to relax?
After a few hours relaxing at the pool, we decided to go and check out our new room. Our upgrade was mindboggling. A huge living and dining room with a TV that had to be 75-inches, a nice bar, which we used extensively (more on that later). Two full bathrooms. I thought we would be disappointed since we lost our outdoor shower but in the second bathroom there was a glass door and when I opened it, discovered a fantastic steam room. Plenty of room for both of us. The sunsets from both of our decks were sublime. I could have lived here.
I did have some goals for our trip. Drink good wine, find a Kona coffee farmer that would ship beans to me and make sure I got to try the oysters grown on the resort’s property. (I had other goals, but I can’t mention them here.)
We’d thought about bringing our own wine, but the logistics of getting it to Hawaii were more than we wanted to deal with. I did my research and found several good wine sources in Kona. After visiting all three, we felt most at home with Westside Wines. The owner’s name is Alex and he is very knowledgeable about his wine. I recommend going there if you ever get to Kona.
I also wanted to hook up with a coffee farmer and see if we could get Kona beans shipped at a reasonable price. The first farmer we met was in the wine shop talking to Alex. I overheard him talking about his coffee crop and went over and introduced myself. The next two farmers happened to be sampling their coffee at the resort.
I’ve now successfully shipped from one of the farms and will probably try the others as well. Kona coffee is the best and we love it.
My third vacation goal: oysters. I’d read that the resort had their own oyster farm on property and was excited to try them. Our second night there, we went to the restaurant and ordered a half-dozen oysters each. Karen ordered a unique cook-your-own on a lava stone with Kobe beef, local fish and mushrooms. She loved it. I ordered a side dish of fried rice with Lobster and bacon. The oysters arrived first, and I recognized them right away—they grow Kumamoto oysters. I was so happy. They were beyond delicious. Did I mention that I ordered another half dozen, or that we went back two more times for a dozen each?
This was an amazing trip.
Here’s a sampling of the wines we enjoyed during our trip:
2015 Chimney Rock Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, around $100
This is an excellent Cab that’s drinking well right now and should be good for at least another 10-15 years. I think you know that I love it when there is a hint of chocolate, and this is where you can find it. The delicious dark fruits, berries and cherries. A little pricey but it’s a good one and you might find it in Buffalo.
Zardetto Brut Prosecco
$20, a bargain
If you like a little bubbly at a reasonable price, you might enjoy this Prosecco. Plenty of citrus popping in your mouth.
2012 PlumpJack Merlot
Napa Valley, around $60 or a little more, and worth it
I love Plumpjack wines, especially their Cabernet. The Cabs are up there in price ($250 or more). It’s rare that I get a chance to savor the Cabernet. This is a wonderful wine that is so elegant. It’s a big wine that, when you pour it in your glass, looks like a big Cabernet. We drank several bottles of this wine in Kona.
2016 Austin Hope Cabernet
Paso Robles, California, $50 or less
I’ve had a few wines from Paso Robles; JUSTIN is a top producer also from there. We noticed this wine while shopping and the review was pretty amazing. We bought a bottle to try and enjoyed it so much that we went back and bought a couple of more. This wine has luscious dark fruit, some chocolate and coffee beans. We loved this wine. I’ve seen it on a wine list in Buffalo.
2015 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, about $50
We’ve had different vintages of this wine and it is outstanding every year. As expected from a big Cabernet, there is plenty of delicious dark fruit, but I loved the mocha that was peeking through. A very nice finish and age-worthy. Should last another 15 years. I think I will find a few bottles to tuck away in the cellar.
2015 Pahlmeyer Merlot
Napa Valley, $90, give or take
I love Pahlmeyer wines and this Merlot is one of the best you can find. This wine is just a baby, it should drink well for 10 to 15 years, I think. This is a big wine with amazing dark and dense fruit. I like the little spice and chocolate, too.
2018 Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais Rosé
$15 or less
We wanted a nice rosé to enjoy on a warm Kona afternoon. This was very pleasant, and we enjoyed every drop.
2016 MERF Cabernet Sauvignon
I saw this wine on the shelf and I knew right away it was from one of my favorite winemakers, Merf Merfeld. He’s is a class guy and makes excellent wine at Northstar Winery in Walla Walla, Washington. We had to try it. For an entry-level Cabernet, it performed extremely well. Smooth fruit and a little spice makes this a nice match with pizza or pasta, or throwing a couple of burgers on the grill. Keep making great juice, Merf. And, by the way, if you see any 2014 Northstar Cabernet Walla Walla Valley, buy it.
2017 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir
Santa Barbara, about $25
This is a good entry-level Pinot and it doesn’t break the bank. We found this wine at a little store on the property. This was our last bottle before heading home. As always this is a good wine to have with a piece of Alaskan salmon.
Warren T. Colville is publisher and president of The Buffalo News.
Story topics: Food & Drink