Hawaii’s Vertically Integrated Small Businesses

Here are three Hawaii small businesses that do it all

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Photo: courtesy Tedeschi Vineyards; courtesy Aubrey Hord;

The technical term is “vertical integration,” and what it simply means is that you create your own raw materials, process them in-house and sell the finished products directly to the public. It’s a huge challenge to do it all yourself, but here are three local small businesses that make it work.


“Constantly experimenting”

Tedeschi Vineyards/Maui’s Winery 

Photo: courtesy Tedeschi Vineyards; courtesy Aubrey Hord;

There are many things to appreciate about wine. The taste, of course, plus the color and bouquet, but it is also rewarding to appreciate the process, patience and hard work that goes into each bottle.

Although it has been in business 37 years, Tedeschi Vineyards is still young and innovating, says president Paula Hegele. “We are constantly experimenting and trying new things,” she says.

The company has 18 acres in production at Ulupalakua Ranch on the leeward slope of Haleakala, but intends to plant more vines in 2012. From the lowest section, the farm climbs 1,800 feet, creating varied conditions for its different grapes: Syrah, the company’s main variety, along with Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Malbec.

“The crops take in the soil, they take in the conditions and become unique to your area,” she says.

The main thing that contributes to that uniqueness is Hawaii’s mild climate; in most winemaking areas, the vines go dormant naturally in winter, but in Hawaii, the vines have to be forced into dormancy.

Photo: courtesy Tedeschi Vineyards;
courtesy Aubrey Hord;
illustration hemera/thinkstock

“Although we harvest once a year, it takes year-round commitment to grow good grapes in Maui,” says Tedeschi’s winemaker, Mauricio Soler-Cruz. “There are multiple challenges, but I would say that forcing dormancy and keeping off molds and bugs are the most difficult in the vineyard. Dormancy is particularly difficult because the climate and humidity make the vines grow excess vegetation that can lead to pushing fruit more than once per year. We want to concentrate on having just one good harvest rather than two that are not of high quality.” All that work keeps the Tedeschi crew busy during those four winter months and throughout the year.

Harvest time in late August can never be precisely scheduled, so the crew might have only two days’ warning before they must begin handpicking the grapes.

“It’s really being patient at the end,” Hegele says. “Farming, birds, humidity … things like that all take away from the fruit. We’re really trying to make them taste like Hawaii.”

The harvest is only a start. Next come the other stages in winemaking: crushing, de-stemming, cold soaking, malolactic fermentation and aging.

Photo: courtesy Tedeschi Vineyards;
courtesy Aubrey Hord;

“It is interesting to note that we ferment our wine in small batches according to the location they came in from the vineyard,” Soler-Cruz says. “During the process of fermentation we get to know the personality of each individually fermented block before we decide what part it will play in the final product.”

Patience is required throughout the process. Tedeschi’s 2010 Plantation Red wine, which is 100 percent Maui-grown Syrah, was harvested in August 2010, bottled in August 2011, and won’t be sold until early 2012.

Being involved in all parts of the winemaking process has paid off for Tedeschi. It gets about 180,000 visitors a year to its Maui winery and regularly wholesales to more than 12 other states and four countries.

“I believe that to make good wine you have to listen to what little nuances the vineyard and wines are telling you, since every wine is different, rather than forcing a process. You have to integrate different tools to the necessities of each individual lot,” Soler-Cruz says.

“I consider myself a very lucky guy. I get to do what I love in the most beautiful land, and while there are many challenges, I see them as opportunities to learn and get better.”

Ulupalakua, Maui
(808) 878-6028


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