Maui Food and Dining

Wine Tasting With a Master Sommelier

October 9, 2012, 4:06 PM HST
* Updated October 9, 5:29 PM
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By Vanessa Wolf

Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Looking to beef up your wine knowledge?

There are 118 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America – and just three in Hawaii. Oahu resident Patrick Okubo is one of them.

Earning the title was no mean feat. Okubo quit his job as general manager at Formaggio in Oahu to focus entirely on studying for the Master Sommelier test.

In 2010, he passed the extremely daunting blind tasting. During this phase of the examination, candidates have 15 minutes to evaluate two wines from around the world and fill out a tasting grid. They must identify not just the grape, but the country, region, winery, and vintage.


Okubo had spent $5000 out of pocket obtaining obscure wines in order to prepare for the testing and passed on his first try.


However, he was not so successful with the service and theory portions. Candidates are tested on either Standard Wine Service, Champagne Service or Decanting Service and are evaluated on a variety of elements surrounding these skills as well as their knowledge of aperitifs, cocktails, food and wine pairing, proper service temperature of wine and beverages, and sales and communications skills.

The theory exam tests general knowledge about the world of wine, spirits, beer, and service. Candidates have 30 minutes to complete questions such as: “list all sub-regions in a wine-growing area,” “define the minimum sugar level for Sauternes,” and “calculate the maximum yield for Alsace Grand Cru.”

Master Sommelier Patrick Okubo. Courtesy photo

Not one easily defeated, Okubo recommitted himself, and in July of last year he passed the test and earned the designation.


Makena Beach and Golf Resort has partnered with Okubo, one of the youngest Master Sommeliers in the world, and this Thursday from 6-7 p.m., you can learn from his experience…or just pepper him with really hard wine questions.

The “Poke and Sauvignon Blanc” event is the first in the resort’s Food and Wine Education series. The inaugural affair is being held at the resort’s Molokini Bar and Grill at a cost of $35 per person.

Okubo has hand-selected a trio of wines featuring Craggy Range, Michelle Redd, and Matanzas Creek. While you sip, Okubo will provide an education on the green-skinned grape variety, which originates from the Bordeaux region of France and produces a flavorful, tart white wine.

Makena Beach and Golf Resort’s Executive Chef Marc McDowell. Courtesy photo.

The event also highlights the poke creations of Executive Chef Marc McDowell, and a trio of pokes made with diverse main ingredients like fresh caught ahi, shrimp and beef will be provided. All three have been specially crafted to match the unique flavor profiles of the wines.

Poke, a Hawaiian verb meaning to cut or in pieces, consists of fish that has been cleaned, deboned, and cubed. Traditionally it was served with condiments such as sea salt, seaweed, and limu (the Hawaiian word for algae). During the 19th century, introduced foreign vegetables such as tomatoes and onions began to be included.

The new partnership between Master Sommelier Patrick Okubo and Executive Chef Marc McDowell was designed to pair the best of the chef’s dishes with the finest of old and new world wines. There will be one offered each month, with subsequent dates of November 8 and December 20 already planned for this year.

Reserve online or by calling 808-875-5888.

We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line.

Dying to know how a certain dish is made so you can recreate it at home? Send in a request, and we will try to pry the secret out of the chef…and even take a run at cooking it up ourselves. Mahalo. -vanessa(

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