by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier of Épernay
Nantucket is breathing a huge sigh of relief these days. As the fast and furious summer chapter on island is closing, the door to autumn begins to open. The sun sets a little earlier, although no less spectacularly, and the temperature begins to gracefully fall, reminding us to carry an extra layer for warmth and comfort just in case. Now is the perfect time to drink in some of the beauties that the Grey Lady has to offer, sans the hustle and bustle of the summer season, and with an apropos pairing to highlight the experience.
THAR SHE BLOWS
Always on the lookout for a good time had by all, the captain of your ship should gather the crew to experience an afternoon at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Be sure to set aside a few hours in order to observe and absorb all that this gem has to offer. The museum has daily programs, guided tours, featured exhibits, and small films that bring to life the rich history of the Grey Lady. You will even see the skeleton of a 46-foot sperm whale! Spend time on the rooftop observation deck, also known as Tucker’s Roofwalk, to take in the stunning views of Nantucket Harbor. The museum, managed by the Nantucket Historical Association, is located in the downtown district at 12 Broad Street and is open daily April through December.
After a day imagining what it was like to be “on the whale,” you will most likely be in need of refreshment. Folly of the Beast Pinot Noir, from grapes grown in the Central Coast of California, is the answer. This wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir and a white whale of a “wheely-good” wine for this grape varietal as this price point. From foggy mornings to cool evenings in the vineyard, this wine offers aromas of bright cherry and clove, continued on the palate with a slightly smoky, vanilla taste. It is round on the palate with bright fruit and such the crowd pleaser of a wine. A perfect supplement to any fall feast!
A WALK IN THE WOODS
When looking for an easily-accessible place to walk among the many trails maintained by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, most would most likely venture towards Tupancy Links with their four-legged friends or Sanford Farm for a longer stretch. Now that you have the time to venture elsewhere on the island, Masquetuck Reservation is an excellent spot to view Nantucket’s diverse natural habitats within a small area. Grassy fields, hardwood forests, freshwater bogs, and salt water marshes are all part of the scenery along this series of walking trails near the West Polpis Harbor. It is located at the end of Quaise Pastures Road, approximately three miles down Polpis Road when turning off from Milestone Road.
After exploring, open a bottle of Domaine de Prion Fleurie “La Madone,” to capture the taste and essence of fall. Fleurie is considered a Cru Beajoulais, the highest classification from the granitic soils of this region located north of Lyon in France. Made from 100% Gamay Noir, this is a stronger, fruitier and more abundant grape than its relative Pinot Noir. This wine offers a velvet texture with a fruity, floral bouquet and earthy texture on the palate. “La Madone” is a lieu-dit, literally meaning “said place,” referring to a small geographical area such the name with boundaries – in this case, as a single vineyard. The grapes are hand-harvested and processed with a traditional (for the region) slight carbonic maceration, in which whole grapes are fermented in a carbon dioxide rich environment prior to crushing them. This leaves a fruity wine, low in tannins, with perhaps just a touch of spritz on the palate.
SPIN TO ‘SCONSET
If you haven’t yet made your annual pilgrimage pedaling your bicycle to the other side of the island, now is the time to do it. The long haul on the ‘Sconset Loop Bike Ride is a great way to clear your head, stretch your mind, and work out some of the kinks of the routine work of summertime. Whether you take the straight route to ‘Sconset via Milestone Road (almost 7 miles) and return on the lengthier (9.5 miles) and more exciting Polpis Road route —or vice versa, remember your bike etiquette just in case you do encounter other riders. Ride right, pass left after announcing your presence, wear your helmet, and signal properly when turning.
Following such a long trek, you may be in need of a bottle of wine that lasts longer. Chene Bleu Rosé Côtes de Provence en Magnum is considered a “Super Rhône” wine. Made with organic and biodynamic principles in the Vaucluse region of Provence in France, this boutique wine property is named after the blue oak tree on the estate. The wine is an old-style, artisanal French rosé, made from 95% Grenache and 5 % Syrah. Notes of strawberry, spice, and a salty minerality on the nose are followed on the palate by a clean, elegant finish with refined acidity. Best to bicycle with your besties and break out this beauty afterward together!
TIME TO EAT
An awesome way to finish the summer season on Nantucket is by taking advantage of Nantucket Fall Restaurant Week. During the last week in September, local restaurants offer specially priced, unique menus. It’s worth the extra night out or two to dine at not just your favorite restaurant, but also to try a new spot. Grab your girlfriends, colleagues, or your beloved spouse for date night during this week to show your love for the culinary expertise that is abundant on Nantucket.
To get the celebration started before go to dinner, you can pre-game with a lovely bottle of bubbly. Jo Landron Brut “Atmospheres” Sparkling Wine hails from the Muscadet region of the Loire Valley in Northwest France. The blend is 80% Folle Blanche (also known as Picpoul), with tons of lively acidity, and mostly Pinot Noir with a dab of Chardonnay. The fruit for this cuvée is 100% from their estate, biodynamically grown and hand-harvested for that ever so gentile touch. A traditional secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, just like Champagne, with a low dosage making the sparkling sensation on the dry side (Extra Brut). Racy citrus with fresh peachy fruit is accompanied by a rocky, earthy complexity, making it taste very fresh, clean and pure. Who doesn’t love bubbles and this is a brilliant score for the price!
However you decide to celebrate the ending of the summer and your ritual of welcoming the new dawn of fall, may your days be filled with bounty from the local harvest and your cup overflowing that you may give and share with others to experience.
Jenny Benzie is an Advanced Sommelie and owner of
Épernay Wine & Spirits at 1 N. Beach Street
You can follow her at @epernaywines and #yeswayepernay.