Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Aloha Wine FoundationRestaurant Insider
August 15, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with Aloha Wine Foundation master sommeliers founder and board chair PATRICK OKUBO, vice chair DAVID YOSHIDA , scholarship committee chair ROBERTO VIERNES and G.Lion Group restaurant manager and sommelier ARIANA TSUCHIYA
To unite, educate and inspire the Hawaii sommelier community is the intention of the Aloha Wine Foundation. Founder Patrick Okubo and I met at La Vie restaurant, along with fellow board members Ariana Tsuchiya, Roberto Viernes and David Yoshida, to learn more about this new nonprofit.
AL: Why was Aloha Wine Foundation started?
PO: Last year, we lost many great people due to the pandemic in the restaurant/ wine industry, by moving or switching careers. We are still recovering, and wine-savvy people are hard to come by in Hawaii. We have to build people from within and train from the bottom up, and it becomes really expensive to get wine certifications. Being in Hawaii has disadvantages, as the higher level types of courses require travel to the mainland and become very costly — and you also need to buy a suit! All in, I think I spent over $15,000 to get this master sommelier certification. This foundation is meant to help facilitate that need, by giving scholarships to people in Hawaii.
Prior to the launch of this, I discussed putting this together with this group here (pictured), as well as Sang Mun (sommelier with Pacific Club), Taro Kurobe (sommelier, assistant general manager and wine director with G.Lion Hawaii), and Chris Ramelb (master sommelier of Southern Wine & Glazers), who make up the full board. This 501(c)(3) was approved the end of May and now we are able to not just help Oahu, but it’s also a statewide outreach to people in the restaurant community.
AL: What is in store for the future of this organization?
DY: Part of what we do is gather all the sommeliers across the islands so that there is a sense of fellowship and guidance; we can learn from another. What we would like to do in the future is to work with other charities. For example, a nonprofit that could use help with its wine service at a fundraising event, or having us as guest speakers.
AL: What does this foundation offer?
RV: Primarily, we will give scholarships to wine industry professionals on a need basis in Hawaii with a goal of creating more diversity and inclusion in gender and race. Secondly, we will provide educational events that not only educate, but also serve as a networking platform leading to job opportunities, mentoring and fellowship. I oversee accepting the applications and, together with the other committee members, decide on who receives them. We encourage people to apply, as we give out $500 scholarships that can go toward online courses, travel expenses, etc. If people sign up for an online course that requires wine, we can save them money by giving away a tasting kit, which consists of 18 different wines (2-ounce bottles) that are specifically for the online courses. I wish back when I was starting, I had this type of resource, as it’s very expensive.
AL: Ariana, you are one of a few female sommeliers and restaurant managers here in Hawaii. Tell me about your journey.
AT: I studied abroad in Italy. It was eye-opening, as the food and wine culture there is different. Here, we are so much on the go, and we do not take the time to have wine with a meal. When I came back to the U.S., I worked in fi-nance, but my heart wasn’t in it. I actually started as a barback at Alan Wong’s, as I really wanted to learn about this industry. It’s important for us to keep educating and opening doors for the community that wants to learn more and grow.
AL: How can our readers support this organization?
PO: If someone is interested in a career change, please reach out to us. This is an outreach for the wine community and the first of its kind in Hawaii. We have an anonymous donor that is matching dollar-for-dollar until the end of August, you can donate on our website. Please visit the G.Lion group of restaurants and order these wines, as that donation will also be matched. Lastly, we are looking for donations of high-end wine collections. If you have access to a wine cellar with higher-end, unique offerings that you do not have use for, we could use this for educational purposes.
G.Lion Hawaii restaurants are giving 20% to Aloha Wine Foundation for the month of August with the purchase of these select wines. The dishes that are photographed are part of the La Vie selections menu, where guests can choose three or four courses. The wines were hand-selected by the G.Lion sommelier team.
• Grilled Maitake ($25) from Quiora (vegetarian, based on availability); paired with Aglianico from Terre Del Vescovo “Largo Madama,” Taurasi, Campania, 2012
• Venison Noisette from La Vie; paired with Gamay Noir from Domaine Jean Foillard “Cuvée Corcelette,” Morgon, Beaujolais, 2019
• Octopus Anchoïde from La Vie; paired with G.Lion Hawaii private label Tanaka 1789 x Chartier, Tokubetsu Junmai Sake, 2018
• Half Rack of Lamb ($57) from Hy’s; paired with the Syrah Blend from Ancient Peaks, “Renegade,” Paso Robles, California, 2017
Complete Somm Selection Bottles: Hy’s Steak House
• Ancient Peaks, “Renegade,” Syrah Blend, Paso Robles, California 2017 ($80)
• Domaine de Pallus, “Les Pensees de Pallus,” Cabernet Franc, Chinon, France, 2015 ($90)
• Numanthia, Estate, Tempranillo, Toro, Spain, 2012 ($125)
• Fontodi, Chianti Classico, 100% Organic Sangiovese, Greve, Tuscany 2017 ($126)
• Cade Winery Estate, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, 2017 ($186)
Quiora and La Vie
• Taurasi, Terre del Vescovo “Largo Madama,” Campania, 2012 ($90)
• Pinot Noir, Melville, Sta. Rita Hills, 2018 ($100)
• Beaujolais, Domaine Jean Foillard “Cuvée Corcelette,” Morgon, 2019 ($110)
• Sake, Tanaka 1789 x Chartier, Tokubetsu Junmai, 2018 ($140, 500 milliliters; a private label collaboration specific for G.Lion)
• Chenin Blanc, Domaine Huet, “Le Haut-Lieu” Moelleux, Vouvray, 2018 ($14, 3 ounces; only available by the glass at La Vie)