by Advanced Sommelier Jenny Benzie
What once started out as a small gathering for a handful of wineries to pour at a Grand Tasting and a few intimate wine dinners hosted in friend’s homes has grown immensely to become one of the most highly regarded annual wine events in the country. With so much to celebrate during the fun filled Nantucket Wine & Food Festival weekend (May 16-20, 2018), here is a snapshot of the events worthy of attention from a wine professional insider’s point of view.
AN EXPERIENTIAL WINE JOURNEY
As a primer to all the excitement of this annual weekend, many of the seasonal finer dining establishments are already open the week before. If you happen to be on-island then, you get to sample this season’s newest menu items, chat with the sommeliers about their winter wine travels, and be the guinea pig at any new local watering holes: all probably without needing a reservation (though it’s better to be safe than not get a table).
The Nantucket Culinary Center, located in the heart of downtown Nantucket, provides a food-and-wine-centric gathering space for the dynamic, yet intimate, year-round community. On Saturday, May 12, they will be hosting An Experiential Wine Journey with Sommelier Ieva Aldins, known for her time spent working the wine floor at Straight Wharf Restaurant (and also on the yoga mat for when you need to unwind after wine). Here you will learn a vocabulary of aromatic and taste components through your senses. Smell items that are commonly referred to in tasting notes, along with tasting components that define the structure of the wine. No prior wine knowledge is necessary.
Tickets for this limited engagement event are available for purchase at nantucketculinary.com/classes/tasting101-2018.
SATURDAY NIGHT SOIREE
The latest and greatest addition to the Signature Events of Nantucket Wine Festival in the past few years has hands down been La Féte. Taking place on Saturday, May 19, this convivial feast brings guests together with visiting vignerons, world-renowned chefs, experienced sommeliers, and other avid wine collectors in order to taste, share, and celebrate some of the world’s greatest wines with one another. It is a wine dinner event like none other where there are no rules other than each guest is invited to bring a special bottle of wine that they would like to share with their tablemates.
For an event of this caliber, it is strongly suggested that you bring a wine of pedigree, perhaps from an older vintage or a gem that you have been holding on to for that special occasion. Keep in mind that you will be enjoying a multi-course meal, which allows you the opportunity to bring white, red or dessert wine or even a bottle of port! A little due diligence to find out what is on the menu for the evening will also help you to decide which wine to bring. If you are still not sure or don’t have a bottle you think worthy enough of the occasion, consult with your favorite sommelier at the local bottle shop to help you discover what your treasure of the evening will be. In order to best serve you, contact them with at least two weeks notice to find something rare or order an item they may not currently have in stock. Book your seat at nantucketwinefestival.com/events/signature-events
BONUS TIP: Bring a back-up bottle. On the unlikely chance that your bottle might be corked or you don’t care for the wines that others have brought, you will be prepared. Think of it as insurance whether you end up opening the bottle or not.
TITO’S YAPPY HOUR WITH NISHA
Nantucket is definitely a dogfriendly place. So much so that pups are brought here to the island from other places for them to find their washashore “furever” homes! Here is an opportunity to support the organization that coordinates the travel and care of these beloved four-legged animals at this super cool fundraising event.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka based out of Austin, Texas, is know as “The Vodka for Dog People.” They will be hosting a Yappy Hour at The Culinary Village at Jetties Beach on Sunday morning of the Nantucket Wine & Food Fest. Toys and treats will be available for the pups, while owners can begin their day with a Tito’s “Hair of the Dog” Bloody Mary. All of the monies from ticket sales and donations from this event will go directly to Nantucket Island Safe Harbor for Animals, locally known as NISHA. Tito’s Handmade Vodka has graciously offered to match any of the funds raised. Therefore, be sure to bring the gang along knowing that your Bloody Mary will do more for this community than just help you seek some clarity on Sunday morning. nantucketsafeharborforanimals.org/event/yappy-hour-at-wine-festival
CAN YOU HEAR YOUR WINE?
On Sunday afternoon, let all of your senses be opened as you explore a new way to appreciate the melodic tones of the great masters of music with the art of some of the Nantucket Wine Festival’s finest winemakers in perfect harmony. WSET Advanced Wine Educator Jerry Siegel, owner of WineScripts LLC will conduct your experience with the island’s own talented musicians of the Nantucket Music Center. This event is a benefit for the Nantucket Music Center. You will never hear wine the same way again!
While many of the weekend’s tasting events are ticketed, be sure to take advantage of the complimentary events hosted at Épernay Wine & Spirits. Located near the White Elephant Resort along the walking route to and from numerous Wine & Food Fest events, this sommelier owned and operated boutique wine store offers winemaker tastings at various times throughout the day all weekend long. Check the calendar in this paper for details.
Here you’ll get to spend time one-on-one with a luminary from the winery, and these tastings can be a quick casual stop-in between the main events and a place to regroup with friends before for the next event. While visiting the store, get your picture taken in the Nantucket Photobooth!
Here is just a tease of what’s :in-store” at Épernay during NWFF:
Thursday, May 17, 4-6 pm: Champagne Gosset – Tête de Cuvées from the Oldest Wine House in Champagne
Friday, May 18, 3-4 pm: Craggy Range: Distinctively New Zealand Wine Tasting
Saturday, May 19,10 am-2 pm): Aperol Spritz Social
Sage advice to anyone partaking in this weekend’s festivities is remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and at every event you attend.