KAPALUA - An upscale yet approachable wine bar in the scenic center of Kapalua Resort, The Wine Palette is my new favorite place to unwind pau hana. Located on Office Road in the intimate shopping/dining complex with parking in front, The Wine Palette serves outstanding wines and craft cocktails with casual art activities to uncork your imagination.
When owners Jim Maxon and Jamie Splivalo, who had been regular Maui visitors for years, were looking for a change in their lives, they came across a paint-and-sip place in Milwaukee that inspired them. After brainstorming about where they could open that type of business, they decided it had to be on Maui and preferably in Kapalua. So they developed a business plan and returned to Maui in 2012 to find just the right place.
"When we saw it, we knew this was the spot. Then we had to find a place to live," Jim said with a smile. "But everything came together, and we came up with 'The Wine Palette' name then opened in November last year."
Owners Jim Maxon and Jamie Splivalo welcome guests to The Wine Palette on Office Road in Kapalua Resort. PHOTO BY KAREE CARLUCCI.
Jim and his partner in life and business, Jamie, are warm and gracious hosts, personally welcoming everyone who walks through the door. In this inspired setting, you have a choice of enjoying alfresco views of golf course greens and majestic Cook Pines on the lanai, or cool comfort of the main dining room with its sultry gray walls, glass-fronted wine room and trendy cocktail lounge. The tables are high, complemented by comfy bar stools and invite conversation in groupings of two or four. The afternoon I visited, there was a mix of resort employees relaxing after work, guests waiting to check in to their condos and visitors enjoying a respite after a busy day in the sun.
Once seated, your experience begins. The Wine Palette's selection of wines by the bottle or glass is impressive - an international selection is available on each list, whether red or white. Wines from California, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, even a Lebanese vintage, are featured. I tried a flight of Pinot Noirs, which included Foley Estates from Santa Rita Hills, Champ de Reves from Anderson Valley and Domaine Serene from Oregon - a delightful trio for a great price. You can also create your own flight to sample.
If you're not a wine enthusiast, no worries, as top-shelf spirits and craft beers are also available. For those who quest for a perfect cocktail, the specialty martinis that were created by local mixologists answer the call, from a simple Bulleit Rye Whiskey Sour with fresh lemon juice to the more complex Cucumber Watermelon Rita made with Patron Tequila.
The Wine Palette's edibles menu offers gourmet appetizers to munch while sipping and interacting. The price range is low - from $4 to $18. We sampled Prime Oysters on the half-shell that were fresh and luscious. Caprese Skewers of sliced mozzarella, locally-grown basil and grape tomatoes were drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and seasoned with Hawaiian pa'a kai salt. Warm Brie was served to us on a platter with sliced marinated pears, walnuts, dried cranberries and mangoes as well as crackers. Other choices include a trio of olives or nuts, Charcuterie plate of cold meats and cheeses, Shrimp Cocktail with six jumbo shrimp, Alaskan Snow Crab and Gourmet Chocolates. Impromptu specials, like kalua pork sliders, pop up on the daily menu.
What's that about the art projects? That's where your imagination comes in; I heartily recommend giving it a try. Choose from a small canvas, wine glasses, a wine bottle or glass ornament. Prices range from $12 to $25. Jim presented me with an artist's palette of water-based paints, various sized brushes and a binder filled with examples of painted objects to spark creativity. Armed with a tasteful black apron to protect my clothes, I was ready to attack the wine goblet. At first, I felt a little intimidated to begin "painting," but once I mixed some springtime colors and started applying them to the side of the glass, the ideas flowed. It was a therapeutic experience to dabble in paint while my friend and I talked story.
Jim said that when families come in with teens, the kids really get into painting while their parents enjoy wine and beer. If you decide to sit in the upper level lounge, you'll find a chalkboard counter you can doodle and draw on as you try hand-built cocktails. The Wine Palette also gets a lot of requests for private party functions. Kaunoa Seniors will be there in May to paint and socialize.
Happy Hour runs from 2 to 5 p.m. daily and features half-off a canvas and wine special. The Wine Palette invites walk-ins and requests reservations for larger groups interested in painting. It's open between 2 and 10 p.m. everyday. Call 214-5296 or visit the-wine-palette.com for directions.