Elegant Evening On The North Shore

Saturday, Sept. 22, was not only the first day of fall, but the third annual Westin Princeville Jazz and Wine Festival. If you walk through the handsome resort lobby, and past the pool, you’ll come to an expansive lawn that overlooks Anini Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

Cotton-ball clouds dipped in autumn’s golden light drift in a baby blue sky. Ladies in long dresses and gentlemen in sleek shirts sip bottomless cups of wine from stemless plastic wine glasses. In the center of the lawn, a tent shelters tables that are draped with purple tablecloths and face the stage.

David Braun’s trumpet pierces the air and washes over Michael Soong, a Kaua‘i-based criminal defense attorney.

“This is nice,” he says, smiling slow and easy. “You really don’t get to hear horn instruments on Kaua‘i very often.”

On stage, desolate notes from Braun blend with Jeff Richman’s guitar, Harvey Mason’s drums and Dean Taba’s bass, and caress the vocals of Michael Ruff, who has written songs for artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole and India Arie.

A silent auction benefits Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association, a nonprofit that saves lives through ocean safety education. Tall tables and lawn chairs surround the perimeter of the tent and are flanked by seven restaurants, each offering several varietals of wine.

Daniel Lane photos

Westin Princeville serves herb-crusted lamb chops with a roasted garlic and tomato chutney, Hamakua mushroom risotto enriched with truffle oil, and a lamb demi-glace. For gluten-free vegetarians, there’s aburaage — thinly sliced deep-fried tofu — stuffed with a local eggplant and tofu poke, and topped with a kim chee salad.

Jesse Schwartz of Chambers & Chambers pairs three affordable Denominazione di Origine Controllata (D.O.C.) Italian wines to the Westin menu. The sweet and bubbly red Lambrusco complements salty meat; a dry, white Orvieto for seafood, and a medium-bodied red Corvina for spicy foods.

“This is my third year here, and I wanted to do something that is affordable and pairs well with the food,” says Schwartz. “It’s a wine event, so I also wanted to do something that people don’t see every day.”

My face falls at the thought of not being able to enjoy these wines at home, but I’m assured that wine shops such as the Princeville Wine Market, The Wine Shop in Koloa and The Wine Garden in Puhi carry them.

A half moon shines from above, and rays of love emit from the voice of award-winning Amy Hanaiali‘i, who is Hawaii’s top-selling female vocalist. Her angelic voice soothes the audience as they sway to the sounds of traditional Hawaiian female falsetto.

Leanne Kamekona, formerly executive chef at RumFire, now presides as executive chef at St. Regis Princeville. The amiable chef is serving hamachi carpaccio with ume rice and basil oil.

A thick slice of pork belly is served over a parsnip puree, and topped with sesame cucumber salad and a honey-soy drizzle.

Cherie Haffner of JMD Beverages is featuring three red wines from the Estampa Winery in Chile. There’s a full-bodied Reserve Carmenere (available at specialty shops), a light Malbec/Petit Sirah blend, and a lush Cabernet/Petit Verdot blend (both available at Foodland).

“The best thing about wine is that you’re tasting a place,” Haffner says. “If you don’t get to travel, wine’s a great way to get there. It’s art in a bottle, it’s history, but for me, it’s mostly a place.”

Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, 827-8808

Marta Lane is a Kaua‘i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.