The Best Wine For Any Restaurant: A Complete Guide to BYOB Wine Pairing in Hawai‘i

Master sommeliers share the best wines for every cuisine. Plus, our favorite BYOB restaurants in Hawai‘i and the unwritten rules of BYOB dining.
Photo: Steve Czerniak, Product Photos: David Croxford


Ahh, BYOB dining, where the food is taken care of and enjoying a drink with dinner doesn’t make your wallet cry. The only disadvantage? There’s no wine list or advice from a sommelier to make pairings easier. You’re on your own, staring at a seemingly endless wall of potential bottles at the wine shop. But never fear. We’ve asked local wine experts for pairing tips, and they had all kinds of ideas. Think it’s impossible to pair wine with a plate lunch? Think again.

“I’ve done it,” master sommelier Patrick Okubo says. “At K’s Drive In in Hilo, we have plate lunches and wine. You know, chicken katsu, beef stew, or pancit. [The wine] goes great with it.”

From Japanese to Hawaiian food, if you can order it in Hawai‘i, there’s a wine pairing for it. Here’s our wine guide for local BYOB dining.


Our experts:  

  • Chuck Furuya (master sommelier, d.k Restaurants)

  • Patrick Okubo (master sommelier, Young’s Market)

  • Roberto Viernes (master sommelier, Southern Wine and Spirits)

  •  Marvin Chang (general manager, R. Field Wine Co.)



“Traditionally, sushi is about seafood—fresh, pure and delicately nuanced,” Furuya says. “I think the paired wine should be, too. Avoid wines with oak, higher alcohol or bitterness, because they will clash with shoyu and wasabi.

➸ Hans Wirsching Scheurebe Dry (about $19)

At R. Field Wine Co.

The white grapes used in this wine are grown in red sandstone hillsides of Franconia, Germany. “It’s rounder, coarser, and way more apropos [for sushi] than any other white wine I can think of.” —Chuck Furuya

➸ Rudolf Furst Muller Thurgau Dry “pur mineral” (roughly $23)

This wine can work with many types of sushi. “The wine is delicately dry, finesseful, pure, minerally and remarkably light and ethereal.  It works especially well with seafood nigiri.” —Chuck Furuya


➸ Calcu Rosé from Chile ($10.99)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times 

Ready to venture toward stronger flavors like unagi or uni? “This dry rosé from Chile fits all of that. It’s one of the few things that is a good match with shoyu.” —Patrick Okubo

➸ 2012 S.A. Prum Riesling “Essence” ($13.99)

At R. Field Wine Co.

“Dry to off-dry Rieslings work beautifully with Japanese sushi. The natural acidity of the wine matches up perfectly to the rice-wine vinegar element of the sushi rice. The subtle sweetness of the sushi is complemented by the balanced sweetness of the Riesling.” —Roberto Viernes

NV Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blanc Champagne ($47.99)

At R. Field Wine Company

“Sushi with Blanc de Blanc Champagne is one of my all-time favorite pairings. The creaminess and acidity of the Champagne together with fattiness of the fish with soy and wasabi are magical.” —Roberto Viernes

➸ 2011 Hans Wirsching Silvaner Trocken ($16)

“Much of Japanese cuisine and especially sushi is about the purity of the ingredients. It is very elegant and full of finesse. Wines of power and bigness often overpower this type of food. The Silvaner is pillowy and fragrant with an umami-like deliciousness to it.” —Roberto Viernes

➸ NV Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blanc Champagne ($49)

“Sushi with Blanc de Blanc Champagne is one of my all-time favorite pairings. The creaminess and acidity of the Champagne together with fattiness of the fish with soy and wasabi are magical.” —Roberto Viernes




➸ Domaine Fontsainte Gris de Gris (about $20)

At Tamura’s Fine Wine 

This dry rosé pairs well with pipikaula, oxtail soup or beef lū‘au stew. “It totally handles the oiliness of these kinds of foods. You can even serve it in a plastic cup with ice.” —Chuck Furuya

➸ 2011 Janasse Côtes du Rhône ($15.99)

At R. Field Wine Co. 

“The flavors of kālua pig, essentially pork, smoke and salt, are simple yet utterly delicious. A rich, full red wine with a hint of spice and smoke really does the trick. I like reds made from Rhône varietals—Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, etc.—as they match the weight and overall intensity of the dish without overwhelming it.” —Marvin Chang

➸ Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling ($9.99)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times 

One of Okubo’s favorite dishes is chicken katsu curry. “The pairing for this dish is a four-mile run the next day, but wine-wise, it’s great with a slightly sweet Riesling. The Dr. L from Germany has just a little bit of sugar to it.” —Patrick Okubo

➸ 2012 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (about $39)

At Tamura’s Fine Wine

“I actually love Chardonnay with Hawaiian food, especially kālua pig. The smokiness of the pork melds so well with a lightly buttery and oaked California Chardonnay.” —Roberto Viernes

2013 Meiomi Chardonnay ($20)

“You must try the 2013 Meiomi Chardonnay. It is luxurious, mouth-coating with notes of tropical fruit all laced with toasted vanilla from the oak.” —Roberto Viernes




➸ 2012 Dupeuble Beaujolais (Kermit Lynch Selection) ($16.99)

At R. Field Wine Co. 

“Tandoori and tikka masala dishes work well with slightly chilled, light, fruity red wines. The fruitiness and cool temperature help to tone down the heat. Also, you want to get something that is not too high in alcohol or tannin as this will accentuate the heat in the dish.” —Marvin Chang




➸ 2012 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Spatlese (about $38)

At R. Field Wine Co.

“For something more decadent I would go with the Spatlese. This wine personifies the elegance and nobility of Riesling and it is just plain delish.” Also recommended: the same Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Kabinett paired with Chinese food.  —Roberto Viernes



Hot Pot

➸ Bernabeleva Camino ($11.99)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times

Sure, cold beer is always refreshing with shabu shabu. But what about wine? “I find myself waiting in line to get into one of these [hot pot] places no matter how long the wait. When you want wine, you want something a little colder. Bernabeleva Camino is what I would do.” Try this Spanish red slightly chilled at your next hot pot outing, whether it’s Japanese, Mongolian or Taiwanese. —Patrick Okubo



Light, crisp and slightly sweet wines pair well with Korean dishes.

➸ CF Wines Riesling “Estate” (about $19)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times, R. Field Wine Co., The Wine Stop and Tamura’s Fine Wine 

“Crafted exclusively for Hawai‘i, our warm weather and Asian-inspired foods, winemaker Bert Selbach of Dr. F. Weins Prum produces absolutely delicious, superbly ethereal, effortlessly light wines which are terrific young or old. Well worth seeking out.” —Chuck Furuya

➸ Catena Malbec ($22.99)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times 

“I can’t resist kalbi, especially the fatty kind with all the charred outsides. Catena Malbec from Argentina has all of the dark and smoky flavors and is $23, but well worth it.”  —Patrick Okubo

➸ 2011 Zin 91 Zinfandel ($12.99)

At R. Field Wine Co.

The shoyu, sugar and garlic of a classic kalbi marinade calls for a big, juicy, fruit-forward red wine. Zinfandel is a good choice for this dish as it has tons of fruit to match up to the sweetness of the dish and has enough body and tannin to stand up to the richness and fattiness of the beef. The slightly peppery quality of the wine is also a bonus.” —Marvin Chang 






➸ Gunderloch Riesling Kabinett “Jean Baptiste” (about $20)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times, R. Field Wine Co. and Tamura’s Fine Wine 

The slight sweetness of a German Riesling “would counter the saltiness, spiciness and sweetness normally found in Chinese fare. Imagine taking a bite of cold pineapple in between morsels and you will better understand how it works—cooling, refreshing and cleansing.” This Riesling’s “innate minerality helps to buttress the crisp acidity, helping to keep the palate fresh and alive between bites.” —Chuck Furuya

➸ Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough ($21.79)

At Tamura’s Fine Wine

“Cold ginger chicken can be a wine killer because of the amount of ginger and garlic in it. Many wines can taste bitter, so the wine needs to have some green flavors and tart acid. [This] New Zealand sauvignon blanc has the green bell pepper and grassy flavors to match the herbs and ginger on the chicken.”  —Patrick Okubo 

➸ N.V. Mercat Brut Cava ($13.99)

At R. Field Wine Co. 

“I love eating dim sum, and I go to Chinese dim sum restaurants with my family nearly every week. I find that the acidity of sparkling wine cuts through the oiliness of the food and counterbalances the saltiness as well. It also gives the food a bit of a lift, making it seem not as heavy or filling.” —Marvin Chang

2011 Domaine Schlumberger Pinot Gris ($19)

“Pinot Gris from Alsace is something you cannot go wrong with for Chinese meal.” —Roberto Viernes

2012 Maison l’Envoye Attache Pinot Noir ($45)

“It is not only the safest bet for Chinese food but also my favorite grape variety. It’s silky, exuberant and charms the palate.” —Roberto Viernes

➸ Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($33.99)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times 

“Roasted Peking duck with plum sauce is my favorite Chinese dish. It’s for special occasions and celebrations. California pinot is perfect with it because the plum sauce matches its flavors.” —Roberto Viernes






➸ Cantine Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna ($13.99)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times 

“[This] is one of my go-to wines. Since it’s versatile and inexpensive, I buy it by the case. This white wine is tart, crisp and can work with olive-oil-based seafood pasta or even nigiri sushi.” —Patrick Okubo

Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti (under $15).

Okubo recommends low-tannin red wines such as Sangiovese and pinot noir for tomato-based Italian dishes. But keep in mind, “The tricky part to Sangiovese is that some of them do not say Sangiovese, it says the name of the region on it.” In this case, Chianti, Tuscany. Patrick Okubo

➸ Domaine Skouras “Zoe” (about $13)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times and SWAM Wine Shop 

“Produced from the indigenous Roditis and Moschofilero grape varieties in southern Greece, this wine has lovely aromatics, which can uplift and enhance foods, just as fresh herbs do.” —Chuck Furuya

Bargain: Sella & Mosca Vermentino de Sardegna “La Cala” (roughly $15).

“This particular white comes from the northern part of the island of Sardegna, and also has a slight salinity edge. Its lemony crispness enhances seafood dishes as a squeeze of lemon would.” —Chuck Furuya

➸ Domaine Fontsainte Corbieres (about $14)

At R. Field Wine Co. and Tamura’s Fine Wine 

“This is one of my wife’s favorite red wines to have at home, largely because of its superb deliciousness. You will also be amazed at how wide an array of foods it can readily work with.” —Chuck Furuya

Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras (roughly $33).

This red from France’s southern Rhone Valley goes well with red meats. “This wildly rustic, brooding and soulful red wine over-delivers for its price.” —Chuck Furuya

2012 Cecchi Chianti ($12.99) and 2010 Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva ($29.99).

“As the saying goes, ‘If it grows together, it goes together.’ Cooked Italian tomatoes and Sangiovese have a definite synergy. The high fruit level of the wine counters the saltiness of the sauce. A good Chianti with a marinara sauce is a classic combination.” —Marvin Chang

2011 Bertani Secco Valpolicalla ‘Original Vintage Edition’ ($32).

“This is a Valpolicella made with an ancient recipe for Valpolicella that was created at the winery in the 1930’s but with modern vinification. The complexity of the wine is impressive. It has enough structure for cassoulet or osso bucco but without having the higher alcohol levels and jamminess of Amarone.” —Marvin Chang

➸ 2013 My Essential Rosé (about $13)

At Fujioka’s Wine Times 

“In Provence ‘La Vie en Rose’ is not just an expression, it is a way of life. I love a great rosé not only to start a meal but also with plenty of Mediterranean fare: eggplant, olives, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, etc. It acts like a white wine with cleansing and vibrant acidity but adds to all the citrus character with notes of melons and berries. Beautiful aromatics, lovely buoyant flavors—la vie est belle!” —Roberto Viernes




Our Favorite Local BYOB Restaurants


Morio’s Sushi Bistro

2443 Kūhiō Ave., 741-5121

Mitch’s Fish Market

524 Ohohia St., 837-7774


835 Ke‘eaumoku St., 942-1414


1610 S. King St., 953-2070 


Hot Pot  

Asuka Nabe + Shabu Shabu

3620 Wai‘alae Ave., 735-6666

Sweet Home Café

2334 S. King St., 947-3707  


Italian and Mediterranean  


3036 Wai‘alae Ave., 739-0220

Bruno’s Forno

1120 Maunakea St., 585-2845

Olive Tree Café

4614 KĪlauea Ave., 737-0303

The Fat Greek

Multiple locations

Kan Zaman

1028 Nu‘uanu Ave., 554-3847  




747 Amana St., 944-8700

Sik Do Rak

655 Ke‘eaumoku St., #108, 949-2890 




1860 Ala Moana Blvd., 957-0011

Moon Garden

578 N. Vineyard Blvd., 843-1868

Dew Drop Inn

1088 S. Beretania St., 526-9522

Little Village Noodle House

1113 Smith St., 545-3008 



Himalayan Kitchen

1137 11th Ave., 358-7158

Café Taj Mahal

3036 Wai‘alae Ave., #4, 732-6496


661 Ke‘eaumoku St., 312-4295


Café Maharani

2509 S. King St., 951-7447 



‘Ono Hawaiian Foods

726 Kapahulu Ave., 737-2275

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

1240 N. School St., 845-8044


BYOB Wine Guidelines  

Unwritten rules, revealed.

DO: Call the restaurant ahead to understand its BYOB protocol. You may have to bring your own corkscrew and glasses.
ask about corkage fees. The last thing you want is to pay the restaurant for a bottle of wine that you brought.

DO: Consider the type of food you’ll eat. Use our handy guide.

DO: Chill the wine ahead of time if necessary.

DON’T: Bring an entire case of wine or boxed wine. BYOB is a privilege. Don’t abuse it.

DON’T: Limit yourself to traditional pairings. You might dismiss a certain wine because of what is traditionally recommended. “There are no rules,” Okubo says. “Try it out. You might like it.”