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Lanai’s Wine is Getting Some PressTime

Image of Kaenavia Snooth

He’s got a new opening number. But it’s not what you might expect from a guy who has been making the audience laugh for more than two decades.

“And it’s no joke and no laughing matter either,” said Grant “Lanai” Tabura. “I want people to take me seriously as a wine drinker.”

OK so he’s not kidding about his new “Look Me In The Eye” varietal wine, which he recently introduced at local restaurants, and which will be uncorked during a launch party at a special fund-raiser for Kaleoaloha Keiki Choir, Friday, May 29, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Honolulu Design Center’s Cupola and Amuse wine bar. Tickets are $65, which includes a free $20 Amuse wine card.

The launch party will continue from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Admission is $10 per person. Those who arrive between 9 and 10 p.m. will receive a free $10 Amuse wine card.

“Do you know when you walk into a friend’s house and you smell his mom making adobo, and your tongue and cheeks start to pucker because you can almost taste it,” said Tabura, in a tone akin to a stand-up comedy sketch. “Well, that’s the comparison I use with friends who aren’t wine drinkers. I tell them to smell it, before they drink it. And take big whiffs.”

Tabura has always had an oenology streak in him, but it wasn’t until five years ago when he met winemaker Mikael Sigouin from Beckmen Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley that he started seriously thinking about creating his own line of wines.

“I was there on a wine tasting tour and told someone there that I was from Hawaii,” Tabura recalled. “They told me that their winemaker was from Honolulu and introduced me to Mikael.”

A Kaiser High School graduate, Sigouin proposed the idea to Tabura and the rest as they say in the wine industry is grapevine history.

“We only have 100 cases and I’ve already pre-sold 60 of those to various restaurants, including Amuse and Stage, and the new Azure,” Tabura said. “We’re hoping by next year we’ll have three wines, including a white and a Syrah.”

Praising Sigouin for his winemaking skills, Tabura said the former Honolulu resident has been “babysitting” this wine for a couple of years.

“It took him a year to produce 75 cases,” Tabura said. “He’s a real hands-on winemaker, who’s half farmer half scientist.”

A blend of 50 percent Syrah and equal part Grenache, Look Me In The Eye should pair well with local flavors.

During the fund-raiser Stage executive chef Ron de Guzman has developed a mini loco moco and braised short rib wontons to go with this full-bodied red wine.

De Guzman will also prepare snow crab toast points and kalua pig sliders, which will be paired with Sigouin’s Kaena “Hapa Blanc” and Kaena Grenache, respectively.

“He’s from here so he understands the local palate,” Tabura said of Sigouin. “Look Me In The Eye is fruity but it’s got a great nose and a nice ending. It’s what I call an ‘occasional’ red, which means it’s good for all types of special celebrations.”

That includes raising money for the Kaleoaloha Keiki Choir, which will benefit from the May 29 wine-tasting-and-pairing event. Guests will also have a chance to bid on various items during the silent auction. The kids will also perform for the crowd, followed by guitarist Johnny Helm.

“We’re hoping this becomes our annual fund-raiser,” said the choir’s executive director Wallace Horibata. “It’s going to be fun and it will give people a chance, not only to try a new wine, but also to listen to the kids sing and see what we’ve accomplished so far this year. It’s an exciting moment for us.”

And it is, too, for Tabura who came up with his wine’s whimsical name.

“I’m 25 percent Italian and when I visited Italy, people there said to me, ‘Look me in the eye’ when proposing a toast,” Lanai said. “So now I say that to all my friends. There are other cultures that say the same thing. And even kings and queens used to say ‘Look me in the eye’ to one another … but they’d say it to make sure that one wasn’t trying to poison the other.”

Now that’s funny.

For tickets or more information, call 779-1397 or 779-1465, or visit: www.kaleoalohachoir.org.

Source: [Simplicio Paragas of HonoluluAdvertiser.com]

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