Then & now: beauty, hospitality and productivity...
As you stroll the beautiful grounds of Maui’s Winery, whispers of the past beckon every place you look: from the stone cisterns where water was collected in plantation days, to the towering kauri tree that once guarded the front walkway of Rose Ranch.
Ulupalakua’s history is rooted in agriculture, dating back to when the slopes were first planted with sweet potatoes and dry land taro by the early Hawaiians. Modern operations began in 1845 on what is now Ulupalakua Ranch land, when Linton Torbert farmed potatoes and corn to ship to California during the Gold Rush. Under direction from King Kamehameha III, Torbert later planted the first sugar cane.
For three decades after that, James Makee, a former whaling captain, grew sugar cane and other crops and raised his family on what he called Rose Ranch after his wife Catherine’s favorite flower. The estate grew to be famous for its beauty, hospitality, and agricultural productivity. Catherine Makee’s gardens were the pride of the household with their profusion of roses, flowers, rare plants and shrubs. Visitors today can still admire Catherine’s circular garden beds with their flowering bounty, tended year-round.
Rose Ranch was also famous over the years for its hospitality. Newspaper accounts from that time period describe unforgettable parties at which guests danced until the wee hours, lauding the “generous hospitality of the worthy host and hostess” [Pacific Commercial Advertiser, July 14, 1866].
In 1874, King Kalakaua brought his lovely Queen Kapi‘olani to the ranch, and was so enthralled that he became a frequent visitor. Click here to read an historic excerpt. Today, the winery’s Tasting Room is located in the guest cottage once built for Hawai‘i’s “Merrie Monarch.”
Other historic buildings are also put to modern-day use. The lava-rock dairy where butter was once made is now part of the winery’s fermentation facility (the three-foot-deep walls keep things nice and cool in summer!). The old jail, a remnant from plantation days, today serves as a private tasting room – and a landmark for guests arriving from Hana side. Glimpsing its weathered stone façade beneath the overarching trees, you know you’ve reached Ulupalakua!
After the last sugar crop was processed at Ulupalakua Mill in 1883, the area transitioned into a working cattle ranch – a function it preserves to this day under the leadership of Ulupalakua Ranch and the Erdman Family. But beneath a heavy tangle of vines on the makai (ocean) side of the road, you can still see the ruins of the old sugar mill.
History is part of everyday life at Ulupalakua…Come on up and be part of it!