Actually, it used to be the case that there was a lot of whining in Hawai`i for a lack of decent,
affordable wines. Then as America’s palate changed from swilling 12 packs of their favorite
“brewsky” to actual bottled wines with real corks, so did the denizens of Hawai`i. Though once
again, we were left with the short end of the cork… so to speak.
The only “serious” wines to be found were those from Robert Mondavi, though usually at Tiffany
and Cartier prices. This left us wanting for more “less filling, taste great” libations. However, as the
tides rise and fall, President’s Bush’s come and go (or go and come) and Prince goes to the Artist
Formerly Known As back to Prince, so does wine in Hawai`i come full circle.
Fujioka’s Wine Merchants
For starters, there is Fujioka’s Wine Merchants in the lower end of Market City Shopping Center
just off of the King Street off-ramp. Lyle Fujioka initially started selling wine in a corner of his
family’s Fujioka Market on the North Shore. He then expanded a wine-only business under the
original Beau Soleil Restaurant on Waialae Avenue and currently resides at Market City.
He offers a wide selection of California wines – many priced comparable to those found in
California. He also features an extensive Italian and Champagne selection with prices rivaling those
found in the “Big Box” merchandisers. He also has an extensive selection of chilled sakes including
the hard-to-find Koshi No Kanbai line as well as gourmet food items (the Boschetto Tartufo
cheese is to die for in the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich).
He also opened the Formaggio enoteca or wine bar adjacent to his retail wine shop that offers at
least 30 different wines in full or tasting portions. And these aren’t just your ordinary supermarket
offerings of wine. Imagine sipping Marquis Philips Integrity or Antinori Sassicaia in tasting
portions before you actually purchase a bottle (if you can find it). In true enoteca tradition, they
also serve heavy appetizers to compliment the wine (once again, wine should always be considered
as a food). Fujioka’s also sponsors the annual wine tasting fundraiser events for the Hawaii Lupus
Foundation, The Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific and Hawaii Public Television.
Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquor
A mile or so east of Fujioka’s is where you’ll find Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquor. Like Fujioka’s,
Glenn Tamura started selling wine in a corner of the family’s Tamura’s Wahiawa supermarket. He
then branched off a liquor-only store in Kakaako and finally ended up on Waialae Avenue. He
offers a wide range of California wines – again with prices competitive to the California market and
offers full and mixed-case discounts. The store also has a “side” room with high-end bottlings such
as Caymus Special Selection, Cardinale and Opus One. He also offers limited supermarket items for
that end-of-the-workday one stop shopping.
R. Field Company
Until six years ago, R. Fields was a stand-alone wine shop/gourmet food sore owned by Richard
Field who had several previous ventures in the wine retailing business and started R. Field Wine
Company in 1977. Eventually the Sullivan family of the local Foodland supermarket chain saw a
good thing and purchased the R. Fields business and incorporated it into their supermarket business
at several locations.
They, too, offer hard-to-find bottlings including Marquis Philips Integrity and Konsgaard
selections. Their knowledgeable staff includes Kevin Toyama at the Beretania location and Marvin
Chang at the Kailua location who both hold advanced certificates from the Court of Master
Sommeliers. They also carry a wide range of gourmet foods along with an extensive cheese
selection and cigar selection to round out your perfect hedonistic evening.
R. Fields also sponsors the annual Hawaii Public Radio wine tasting fundraiser, Hawaii Uncorked,
where 200-plus wines are featured along with food and music. Since R. Fields is located within a
supermarket, the ability to also purchase toilet paper, pharmaceuticals and “peace” offerings for the
significant other on the same outing doesn’t hurt either.
Vintage Wine Cellar
The family team of Allen and Jay Kam probably has the longest tradition of weaning 50th staters
off of Reunite and Blue Nun. Vintage Wine Cellar started back in 1968 and was the Hawai`i
representative for the Les Amis Du Vin wine organization. They have an excellent selection of
French wines as well as California wines.
If you’ve developed a taste for the Domaine de la Romanee Conti wines, this is the place to get it.
They also offer wine “futures” purchasing where you pre-pay for yet-to-be-bottled wines at
reduced prices and they also hold occasional wine tasting dinners featuring either the winery owner
Hawai`i is also home to one of only 56 Master Sommeliers in the United States. As well as being
the wine consultant to Fine Wine Imports, Chuck Furuya also serves as a consultant to several
restaurants and is involved in many of the large wine tastings held in Hawai`i. Despite having the
distinction of being one of just a handful of acknowledged wine experts in the country, Chuck
displays the same enthusiasm talking about a newly discovered $10 bottle as he would an
established old world $100 bottle.
Definitely not your stereotyped wine snob.
So No Whining in Hawai`i
Therefore, if you thought that a visit to Hawai`i only included Mai Tais and other rainbow-
colored libations, think again. You can enjoy your favorite wine in paradise for a decent price too.
For those planning extended vacations here, wine can now be shipped into Hawai`i as long as 1)
the wine is not available in Hawai`i , 2) it’s not intended for resale and 3) it doesn’t exceed three
cases per year, per person. If you don’t have a shipping address in Hawai`i, you can send it to me…I’
ll store it for you…I promise…Trust me.
No Whining in Hawai'i?