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More designer wines find place in isle restaurants

One of the most interesting side stories in the local wine scene is the growing number of designer wines offered in hotels, restaurants and even airplanes.

The new age of “designer” wines originated locally at Roy’s Restaurant with a 1993 chardonnay created by legendary Santa Barbara winemaker Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, under the watchful eye of Roy’s then-partner Randy Caparoso. This elegant, Old World chardonnay was intended to be lighter, fresher and therefore better suited for Hawaii’s warm climate. It was also designed to meld with Roy’s innovative, contemporary fare, a fusion of European- and Asian-styled food. It was pure genius.

Here are current designer wines worth checking out:

» “Kitchen Sink” (Alan Wong’s): Evening Land Vineyards winemaker extraordinaire Sashi Moorman created this blend of Napa Valley grapes in elegant style to complement Wong’s world-class food.

» Vita Nova Pikake “Family Reserve” (Hawaiian Airlines): This red wine was created was crafted by Clendenen specifically for Hawaiian’s first-class serv­ice to and from Haneda, Japan, but is being folded into first-class serv­ice for other international destinations.

The 2007 is a blend of organically farmed cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, along with merlot. All were grown in California’s Santa Barbara appellation.

» Halekulani Pinot Noir “Burnside Vineyard”: Halekulani has an amazing lineup of exclusive wines crafted by a group of handpicked winemakers, including Bert Selbach of Dr. F. Weins Prum in Germany and Olivier Humbrecht of Zind Humbrecht in France.

This latest, spearheaded by wine cellarmaster Kevin To­yama, is produced from grapes grown in the Sonoma Coast’s Burnside Vineyard and crafted by James Hall of Patz & Hall winery.

» CF Muller Thurgau “Eurasia” (DK restaurants): The CF Wines were created for our restaurants to fill a void of well-priced, high-quality, food-friendly wines. To accomplish this, we have partnered with contemporary, innovative winemakers, in this case Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany, a former “Winemaker of the Year” for his country.

Delicately nuanced and remarkably light-bodied, this wine works almost magically with many foods.

» “Look Me in the Eye”: This special-occasion grenache-syrah blend was produced for local radio personality Lanai Tabura by Hawaii-born Mikael Sigouin, winemaker at Beckman Vineyards in California, who has his own label, Kaena.

Lanai says of this wine, “I believe women are wine lovers and often expose their male partners to the wonderful world of wine. ‘Look Me in the Eye’ is inspired for the palate of those women.”

» “Tavern Red” (Roy’s): The newest addition to the Roy’s portfolio is a juicy, rustic, savory blend of tempranillo and syrah, with a dollop of cabernet for structure and pinot noir for lightness and deliciousness.

Produced by Gary Burk of Costa de Oro Winery and spearheaded by Mike Webber, Roy’s Hawaii director of operations, it is wine of a markedly different style for this restaurant group. It was created for Roy’s new concept, “The Tavern” in Princeville, Kauai, with its blend of American cuisine, local favorites and a few traditional French offerings.

The cool twist to this wine is that it’s served from a 5-gallon keg pressurized by nitrogen, making it an ingenious, en vogue version of “beer on tap.”

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