Tamura’s Comes To Aikahi

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 05, 2008
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Jason Fukeda and Lili Hess
Jason Fukeda and Lili Hess

I bumped into Lili Hess in the liquor store the other day. Appropriately enough, since we both have a long history of being associated (professionally!) with alcohol. Lili is the international sales manager for the Boston Beer Company. She’s also the face of a brand new beer (which she created along with Murphy’s Bar and Grill bartender, Jonathon Schwalbenitz). The beer has just arrived at the new Tamura’s Fine Wines and Liquor store in Aikahi. It’s a grape ale (yes, made with grape juice) that’s been receiving rave reviews.

“It’s exciting,” says Lili, a Kaneohe resident, of her beer superstardom. She’s also excited that not only is Tamura’s carrying her Grape Pale Ale, but that she now has one of the best fine wines stores in the Islands on her doorstep. “It’s fabulous,” she said with a huge grin.

She’s not the only one to think so. Since opening last December, people have been stopping by the store to declare their undying thanks to the staff for being there.

“Every day people tell us how happy they are that we’re here,” says Jason Fukeda, store manager. “It makes it fun to come to work!” Jason’s one of those helpful and devoted wine guys who appreciates fine wines, but who really appreciates the value of a great, budget-priced wine.

“Our selection of wines under $15 is incredible,” he says proudly.

For those who like to do a little socializing with their sipping, Tamura’s weekly wine tastings are proving a huge hit.

“People really look forward to them,” says Jason. “It’s like a party over here. It’s incredible, really. People are interested in what we’re pouring, they come armed with questions about the wines and then they develop really strong loyalties.”

So much so, that he can’t keep certain bottles in the store.

“Layer Cake,” he says, referring to the phenomenal Australian Shiraz and pointing to an empty space. “We can’t keep it on the shelf. Not for a minute. As soon as people hear we have it, they tell their friends and it’s gone again.”

Tamura’s rule of thumb is that a wine has to taste great first; if it also happens to be under $15, then so much the better. There’s a selection of gourmet food items, too, along with a huge poke counter where more than 25 different poke combinations are made fresh each day.

“We have everything from shoyu poke to raw shrimp, pickled ogo and scallops,” says Jason.

I asked Lili (who admits to spending a lot of time in the store) for her favorite wine of the moment and she pointed me in the direction of Sticks Pinot Noir ($12.79). “We visited the winery in Australia,” says Lili. “It’s such a cool place.”

Jason’s best bet is the gorgeously fruity Angeline Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. “I know it’s hard to believe you can drink a really nice Pinot for $12,” he says with a smile, “but trust us, this one is fabulous.”

The Aikahi Tamura’s has more than 2,000 different wines and spirits (including a lovely collection of single malts) in almost 4,000 square feet, and the store is a testament to owner Glenn Tamura and his decision more than a decade ago to bring great wines to the masses. “I want to get my hands on the best wines being brought in to the state,” I remember him telling me years ago. Now I’m just waiting for someone to give him an award for helping increase our quality of life!

“I always knew I could sell wines at a fair price,” says Glenn.

If you live near Aikahi Shopping Center and haven’t yet been to the store, you’re in for a treat.

Oh, and don’t forget to pick up some of Lili’s Grape Ale while you’re there.

Happy sipping!


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