Maui Food and Dining

Sweeney’s Vine Cliff Winery Featured at Makena Dinner

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By Vanessa Wolf

Vine Cliff's Rob Sweeney. Courtesy image.

Vine Cliff’s Rob Sweeney. Courtesy image.

This Thursday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m., the Makena Beach & Golf Resort’s Winery of the Month Series continues.

This time, the Sweeney family’s Vine Cliff Winery will be featured at the event, held in the Resort’s Molokini Bar & Grille Restaurant.

The dinner will feature five courses, plus an amuse bouche and intermezzo course, all prepared and designed by Executive Chef Marc McDowell.

The dishes are created to highlight the wines and Vine Cliff’s proprietor Rob Sweeney will also be in attendance, providing insight into his family-owned and operated winery.


“We are happy to finally feature Vine Cliff Winery this month,” said Leo Mallari, director of food & beverage of the Makena Beach & Golf Resort, “our resort has such a special connection with the Winery and their wines are sold exclusively at our resort’s Sundry Store here on Maui.”


Located on 500 acres carved out of the George Yount Estate, Vine Cliff Winery was established in 1871 as the first winery in Napa Valley to plant Bordeaux Varietals on a commercial scale.

A scene from Vine Cliff's Napa property.

A scene from Vine Cliff’s Napa property.

Nell Sweeney purchased the then-defunct winery for her family in 1985.

The Sweeney family, a well-known hotel proprietor in Hawaii, is also part-owners of the Makena Beach & Golf Resort and Oahu’s Kahala Hotels & Resort and are owners of both hotel’s operating management company, the Landmark Hotels Group.


Rob Sweeney, the family’s eldest son and and general manager of the winery, will be hosting the dinner.

With the winery’s special connection to the resort, Chef McDowell pulled out all the stops for this event.

A Grilled Peach salad from a previous Makena event. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

A grilled peach salad from a previous Makena event. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The evening starts off with an amuse bouche course of tequila shrimp. A veritable party in your mouth, a single white tiger shrimp is marinated in tequila and 17 spices with a yin-yang aired chili-achiote rice and vanilla bean rice with tequila lime butter paired with champagne.

The first course introduces Los Carneros Dijon Clone 95 chardonnay paired with a heirloom cherry tomato and Boccachini caprese made with Zuhair’s vine ripened tomatoes, Maui onions, handmade fresh mozzarella and fresh basil vinaigrette.

The second course features Vine Cliff’s Los Carneros chardonnay with butternut squash ravioli, made with delicate rice pasta pillows topped with butter poached lobster, roasted tomatoes, pecans and sage butter.

The third course is preceded by an intermezzo, a kaffir lime sorbet made from Kumu Farm’s green papaya, honeydew melon and chef’s garden mint which is then macerated with chartreuse liqueur. The mind boggles.

The third course features cinnamon-seared duck breast made with white tea spinach, roasted garlic fingerling potatoes with a blackberry demi-glace and paired with a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon.

Vine Cliff’s Oakville Estate cabernet sauvignon is the last wine presented for the evening and is their signature cabernet. The cab is paired with chef’s fourth course, a pistachio-crusted rack of lamb. Featuring roasted Colorado lamb, Kumu Farm’s baby carrots, Laurel Channel goat cheese, mashed potatoes and a cabernet jus, we predict it will be hard not to beg for seconds even if you don’t have room.

The dessert course rounds off the night with a trio of chocolate treats featuring chocolate mousse, marquise, and ice cream.

The entire event is offered at $125 plus tax and gratuity and includes live entertainment.

Seating is limited and reservations are required.

Call (808) 875-5888 to make yours.

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