HAWAI'I'S FIRST MASTER SOMMELIER
|||Taste, but please don't look|
|||Learn more about wine at tastings|
By Kawehi Haug
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Kawehi Haug
Whether you choose a bottle or box, whether you're a cork snob or will gladly take a screw top, whether you know your reds from your whites, and whether you drink it from a crystal stem or straight from the bottle, one thing's for sure: There's no better partner for a good meal than wine.
Q&A: CHUCK FURUYA
Chuck Furuya is Hawai'i's first master sommelier (and only the 10th American to earn the distinction), or in layman's terms, a certified wine connoisseur.
Now one of three master sommeliers in the state, Furuya knows what he likes, and he likes wine. As partner and wine consultant for Vino Italian Tapas and Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, both at Restaurant Row, Furuya spends his life putting his keen palate to good use. He is responsible for the wine lists for both restaurants and is always on the hunt for the most perfect wines.
We recently spent time with Furuya to pick his brain on all things wine. Over a few glasses of Chignin (his new favorite wine), Furuya sat with us at Vino and let us soak up some of his knowledge.
TGIF: What should we — the regular people who buy our wine from grocery stores — know about wine?
There are more than 10,000 grape varieties out there. If you like to try new things, be adventuresome and move beyond the chardonnays, merlots and syrahs. That said, if you're the kind of person who only likes pinot noir, stick with what you like and buy pinot noir.
TGIF: But some wines are definitely better than others, right?
Let me put it this way: When it comes to food, I don't think you can make a great tomato salad without a great tomato. I don't care how great your chef is. At the same time, you can't make a great tomato salad without a great chef. I don't care how great the tomato is.
The synergy between a great tomato and a great chef results in something tasty, interesting and, most importantly, unique. That's how I feel about wine. You have great grapes, a great vineyard and a great winemaker to make great wine. Finding great wine is about understanding which wines are the best in their respective regions.
TGIF: Does the rule of subjectivity still apply when it comes to food pairing?
Different kinds of food require different kinds of wine. If you have a piece of 'opakapaka with a tomato sauce, a teriyaki sauce and a French butter sauce, the wines that go with the sauces are going to be different. At the same time, if you like white wine, don't order a red.
TGIF: Even if you're eating steak?
Yes. People should drink what they want to drink! Honestly.
TGIF: When ordering wine, how much can we expect to pay for a good wine without breaking the bank?
This is my take on that whole thing — and I feel the same way about restaurants: I love Ethel's, I love Side Street Inn, I love Cafe Laufer and I love Alan Wong's. My point is that not everything has to be in the same price range all the time.
TGIF: So it's not realistic to expect to spend a few bucks and still get a really good wine?
If you like what you get for $15, then great. But there's more out there. One way to find good value wines is to look for wines that come from regions or wineries that might not be familiar to you. Those wines tend to not be marketed as prominently, and are therefore cheaper. But ask for guidance from the experts that work in the store. Take advantage of their expertise.
TGIF: As a lover of wine, do you want to see this city's love for wine grow and flourish and become a collective passion of ours? Or is your love of wine something that you consider a more personal and exclusive pursuit?
Oh no! No. Wine should not be an elitist thing. ... It should be about the more education there is, the more wine stores there are, the more sommeliers there are, the more wine bars — Du Vin, Formaggio — the better. We're here for the same reason. The more, the merrier.
Chuck Furuya's tips on ordering wine
1. Drink what you like.
The first thing you should do when you're ready to order a glass of wine with dinner is to tell your server what kind of wine you prefer. "Don't be shame," said Furuya. If it's a cheap California chardonnay, say so. Knowing your preference will help the server choose a wine that you're sure to like because that's what matters.
"If you say you like riesling, I'm not going to recommend a cabernet sauvignon. Even if you ARE ordering steak," he said.
2. Ask questions.
If your server isn't proactive about asking you what kind of wine you prefer and then steering you in the right direction, try to help him or her along by identifying the specific characteristics that you like in your favorite wine. Is it fruity, sweet, dry, bitter, bubbly, citrusy, spicy? If you narrow it down, your server will be able to better choose something that suits your taste.
3. Familiarity is overrated.
If you're into trying new things, Furuya recommends picking a wine variety off the menu that you've never heard of, then asking your server to give you the 411 on the wine while you sip it. It's like your own private wine tasting event at your table.
4. Don't believe the lie: There's nothing wrong with rosé.
Thanks to white zinfandel in a box, rosé gets a bad rap. But the thing is, said Furuya, a good dry rosé is a pairs-well-with-everything kind of wine. Order it with your meal, and chances are it'll be the right choice.
5. Order wine anytime.
There are no rules about when it's appropriate to drink a glass of wine. Whether you're spending $10 or $100 for a meal, wine is always a good addition. So next time you want to order a Stella with that burger, consider a good red (like shiraz) instead.
Reach Kawehi Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org.