Rare wines by the glass: Coravin at La Mer

A new gadget using argon gas allows for wines by the glass while still preserving the bottle.
La Mer sommelier Kevin Toyama demonstrating Coravin.


La Mer at Halekulani is the first restaurant in Hawai'i to secure Coravin, a new gadget that allows restaurants to serve fine, and often rare, wines by the glass.


The Coravin is a wine preservation system, a handheld device that allows wine to be poured directly from the bottle without exposing it to oxygen. How does this work? Though a thin, hollow needle that is inserted all the way into the cork. After the needle goes in, the bottle is pressurized with argon gas, and wine is poured out through the needle. When the needle is pulled out, the argon takes the place of the wine so that there is no oxidation. It doesn't preserve the wine a full 100 percent, but it comes mighty close.


For the diner, this opens up a whole new world of drinking options. Wines that were previously offered only by the bottle (due to rarity, pricing, etc.) can now be sold by the glass. That alone is worth a visit to La Mer. With the Coravin in mind, sommelier Kevin Toyama recently launched a new by-the-glass program. (Note: this is an addition to the current by-the-glass offerings.) Diners can partake in a selection of six different wines without committing to the full bottle. This includes the exquisite 2003 Château d'Yquem, a silky Sauternes that's intense, complex with notes of honey and dried fruit, and high acid balancing the sweetness. It's a splurge at $68 for 2-ounces, but also an opportunity to try a wine you might have been eyeing for awhile.


Wines offered by the glass via Coravin.


For whites, Toyama offers a 2010 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru from Domaine Follin-Arbelet and a 2009 Meursault "Les Rougeots" from Domaine Coche-Dury (often called the "Master of Meursault"). Both are from Burgundy, France. There are three reds including a 2000 Vosne-Romanée "Duvault-Blochet" Premier Cru from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy, a 2000 Barolo "Brunate – Le Coste" from Giuseppe Rinaldi in Piedmont, and a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Dalla Valle in Napa Valley. Prices range from $36-70 for a 3-ounce pour and $60-115 for 5-ounces. 


La Mer at Halekulani, 923-2311, halekulani.com