Nantucket Wine Festival 2003
Each spring, I have eagerly looked forward to the Nantucket Wine Festival, enjoying its gorgeous location and laid-back, wonderfully casual approach to drinking and talking about wine. Each year I think it couldn't possibly get any better, because I have so much fun there. And each year I am proven wrong! The 2002 Nantucket Wine Festival easily outshone all previous festivals in just about every way imagineable.
First, they moved the festival from the far end of the island to its very center. I wondered if this would make the festival more crowded, and remove some of the casual ease. On the contrary, the setup of a series of tents and buildings helped keep the noise level down, give lots of space to walk and talk, and with gorgeous springtime weather, you couldn't have asked for a better venue. Not only was the festival itself a green-grassed eden, but when you wanted to grab some lunch or head out for dinner, everything was right there. Sushi by Yoshi around the corner, our B&B just down the street. The cherry trees were in full bloom. You couldn't have asked for a more lovely setup.
The new seminar plan introduced for 2002 included separate morning and afternoon Grand Tasting sessions, and a wide variety of educational seminars. Where in previous years you had to buy tickets for an entire day - and miss out on some of your grand tasting time if you were shuttling back and forth into town to grab a seminar as well - this year you simply paid for what you would use. Did you want to taste in the morning and walk around town in the afternoon? How about combining two afternoon tastings with a morning seminar on foie gras? Any combo you can imagine, it was there.
The selection of options was simply staggering. There were wine and food seminars on topics from winemaking to art to wine varieties. The restaurants on Nantucket were each doing winery lunches and dinners, featuring wineries such as Arrowood and Steele. Perhaps most amazingly of all, many "Grand Houses" on the island opened their doors for intimate winery dinners with incredible wines, incredible meals, and a select group of guests. Talk about your perfect wine dinner!
With most people buying multiple grand tasting tickets based on their personal schedules, the atmosphere at each tasting session was very laid back and relaxed. Visitors picked out their favorite wines from the wide selection and moved from one to the next, spending time talking with the winery representatives and learning more about each offering. Unlike other festivals where the reps are in a pour-and-move-on mode, here we were able to sit and chat with the reps about the wines, the winery, their hopes and dreams. The sun was shining, the breeze was gentle, you could grab a delicious slice of Pi Pizza or sample Company of the Cauldron's smoked salmon - created with vines from Nantucket Vineyards. Ready for a break? The Viking kitchen setup had a non-stop lineup of famous chefs demonstrating their favorite techniques.
Denis Toner is the man in charge of the Nantucket Wine Festival, and oversaw the festival's progress with a pleased eye. Every person I spoke with - from winemaker to patron - echoed how wonderful the festival was doing. Comments ranged from "this is 400% better - you can come and go as you please!" to "people can walk to the restaurants, walk down to main street in 2 minutes" and "you get a much better feel for Nantucket and what it has to offer."
Judging by the sold out signs everywhere, and the smiles on the faces in the crowd, it was obvious that the festival was a masterful success. I again highly recommend that anyone who can get to Nantucket in the spring make their plans to attend this festival. Be sure to book early! With each passing year, the word of how wonderful this festival is spreads, and you don't want to miss your spot!
Nantucket Wine Festival - Overall Review
Local Wineries at the Nantucket Wine Festival
Steele Winery Dinner at Cioppino's