by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits
With so many activities to choose from during Nantucket Wine Festival weekend, it is sometimes hard to narrow down your choices as to what events to attend. Pre-planning your weekend to best allocate your time is wise in order to maximize your total wine exposure. Here are a few highlights (and helpful hints) to ensure you make the most of it without overwhelming yourself or missing out on must-attend tastings.
LUMINARIES POSING AS SOMMELIERS – THE FRIDAY NIGHT HUSSLE
These distinguished luminaries may not be working floor Sommeliers in the real world, but they get to play the role during Wine Fest weekend on Nantucket! In order to add a little twist of the corkscrew to this weekend’s festivities, Proprietors Bar & Table, located in the heart of Nantucket’s downtown on India Street, annually invites a few of their wine friends to lend a hand during dinner service. There happen to be two honorees for Friday night (May 19) this year in order to cover all the ground of this spacious restaurant and personally engage with each guest.
Jenny Johnson, Boston-based entrepreneur and founder of Champy Brut Sparkling Wine from California, will be hanging out in the lively Props Bar (@propsbar) all evening. A longtime lover of bubbly, her aim is to turn your ordinary moment into an extraordinary one with just one sip of her celebratory offering. Meanwhile, Matt Hobbs, right-hand man to his brother Paul Hobbs’ winery located in Russian River Valley, will be parading around the dining room featuring 10 different wines! From bubbles to Chardonnay + Pinot Noir, and somewhere in between, all of these wines will be personally hand sold by these esteemed guest sommeliers and available to purchase (by the taste, glass or bottle) to enjoy during your drinking and dining experience at Proprietors.
TIME TO REFUEL WITH SOME COFFEE
In order to get your wine-drinking day started in the right direction, you might need to get a handle on some coffee in order to clear out some of the cobwebs from the night before. Head over to the Handlebar Café, located on Washington Street, just a short jaunt from downtown Main Street and well worth the effort. This cozy java joint also happens to be a hip community space disguised as a coffee shop. This will allow you the opportunity to take advantage of using their free killer wi-fi to update your social media with your latest wine shenanigans. Perhaps while sipping on your choice of coffee libation, you might run into your favorite winemaker doing just the same.
IN-STORE POURS: SIP, SIGN+SHUCK
Attend a more intimate wine affair versus a marathon tasting event. Christian Moreau is like the Santa Claus of Chablis, located on the outskirts of Burgundy, France, where his family has been rooted in the heart of the village for over 200 years. Along with his son Fabien, he produces wines sourced from their extensive elite vineyard holdings and markets the wines under his own name.
On Saturday morning (May 20), you have the opportunity to taste the full range of these magical wines from Domaine Christian Moreau Pére et Fils at a complimentary tasting hosted at Épernay Wine & Spirits on North Beach Street. His eponymous Chic Chablis will be impeccably paired with outrageous oysters from our local Nantucket waters. Enjoy Grand Cru and Premier Cru selections that represent Christian’s labor of love from his small, family-owned winery. Be sure to get your picture taken with the jolly man and have him personally sign your bottle purchases (and check out the rest of their tasting schedule for the weekend).
QUENCH YOUR THIRST WITH SOME REFRESHING CIDER
It’s been said many times that it takes a lot of beer in order to make a good wine. There is nothing more exhilarating after a long day of wine than imbibing something crisp, cool and refreshing. But what if you don’t like beer and are afraid that a cocktail will have you taking a mid-day nap on the White Elephant lawn? A satisfying alternative to quench that thirst would be a lively hard cider beverage. Wait, there’s more… How about a Dry Rosé Cider?
Wölffer No. 139 hails from that other summer resort place and is aptly named for the number of their Hampton address on Long Island. This low-alcohol, pleasing pink potion is sourced from the best New York state apples and is in celebration of the bohemian spirit of everyone (sounds perfect for Wine Fest weekend). It is sold in a convenient 4-pack for easy sharing, served in single serving glass bottles with a handy screw-top for easy closure in case you are on the go. Please note that while a straw may be considered an accessory to this drink, it is not required and is not included in the packaging.
THE AMERICAN TRUFFLE REVOLUTION
You’ve heard of the famed truffles from Italy, but have you tried the truffles from North America?
Your trip to Piedmont last fall was made complete by the four-course tasting menu you savored that was served with delicate truffles that were once only harvested in European forests. How on earth would you ever be able to replicate this to share with your friends and family back home? Now look no further than your own backyard (so to speak) in North America.
Founders Robert Chang and Dr. Paul Thomas of the American Truffle Company are cultivating these “black diamonds” in several truffle orchards around the country. Learn about the American Truffle Revolution’s progress in cultivating one of the most expensive culinary ingredients closer to home at a three-course truffle experience in the Nantucket Culinary Center on Saturday (May 20) afternoon, complemented with a sampling of bubbles from Champagne Billecart- Salmon. Done and done.
This is just a brief synopsis of all the fun yet to come for Wine Fest weekend. Remember to keep yourself properly hydrated throughout the day (that means drink another glass of water), use the buddy system so your friends aren’t wasting valuable time looking for you later, be nice to your taxi or Uber driver for getting you safely where you need to be, and, most of all, cheers to you for leaving our beautiful island in as good a shape as it was when you arrived!
Hangover Cure: You are proactive in your party planning skills to ensure a good time had by all at the main event. Shouldn’t you care enough about your guests (and yourself) to take it a step further and ensure everyone is able and willing to do it all over again at Sunday Brunch the next day? Enter RESQ Water. The all-natural ingredients in this beverage help your body to get back on track when consumed while drinking or as your last drink of the night. Celebration should never have to be followed by a day of pain or misery.
Whatever plans you devise for the weekend as you gather with your favorite island companions to celebrate this annual tradition, most of all don’t forget to stop and smell the rosé… er, I mean flowers! More on rosé coming soon!