Nantucket Wine Expo 2001

Nantucket is well known to New Englanders as a quiet vacation spot with a comfortable charm. To me, itíll always be the home of my favorite wine festival. For the 5th annual Nantucket Wine Festival held on May 17th-20th, the weather was gorgeous and the wines were bountiful and delicious. It was truly the best festival yet.

The friendly, relaxed atmosphere at Nantucketís festival is one that any other wine expo would be hard pressed to approach. Those familiar with the Boston Expo often talk about the crowds of people, the loud noise, and those who seem to come solely to get as much wine into them as possible before the end of the event. Because Nantucketís festival is on an island, and held in gorgeous surroundings, the crowd tends to be less rambunctious and more friendly.

With fewer people crowding the tables, and with the serving areas incredibly well organized into various outdoor tented areas, the layout approaches perfection. You can easily find yourself sitting on a lawnchair chatting with the winemaker about his latest chardonnay, while butterflies buzz the grass only feet away. Ah, if only this lasted year-round!

Do you enjoy food with wine? There were numerous fine offerings from cheese to pate to chocolate conveniently scattered amongst the wines. In addition, the cooking demonstrations were incredible! A huge cooking area complete with stovetop and fridge was constantly in use, and those watching eagerly sampled the wedding cakes, omelets, and other delicious treats being created. Between the fresh-cooked samples and the other food stations located in every tent, the festival ensured that attendees had enough food to go with the wine regardless of their preferences.

And yes, there was wine, in more than copious amounts. There were 135 wineries represented from all corners of the globe, most pouring both their inexpensive-but-popular and their high end offerings. There were Champagnes, Ports, Zinfandels, Bordeauxs, and even local Massachusetts and Rhode Island wines.

If that all wasn't enough, attendees could also choose to participate in a variety of other events. There was a charity gala, seminars, an auction, and even private dinners. For a reasonable fee, you could have dinner at one of the Nantucket homes - you, 7 others, and the winery owners! A chance like that is normally completely unattainable, and at Nantucket several of these dinners were being offered.

The highlights of this year covered just about every wine love of mine. When we entered the main hall, we headed straight for one of our favorite wineries - the local Westport Rivers! Bill Russell, winemaker, was pouring out his great award-winning sparkling wines, and greeted every visitor with a ready smile and as much information as you wanted. For me, talking with Bill set the tone for this entire event. You could relax and talk, and learn more in 5 minutes than you could over an hour with the servers at other expos.

After that, it was time for the remaining Champagnes and sparkling wines while my palate was fresh. Many well known names were represented Ė Chandon, Gruet, Nicolas Feuillatte. We tracked down our favorite Pommery Pop woman, with her small bottles and straws. Even she was dressed more sedately than usual, in honor of the quiet surroundings.

Sakonnet, a local Rhode Island winery, was conveniently located next to the cooking demonstration. We sampled their wines while we nibbled on a variety of omelets for breakfast. What could be better for breakfast than fresh omelets paired with Vidal ice wine?

We moved along to the whites, with offerings from the Terre Rouge Viognier (light, fresh and fruity) to the Sileni Chardonnay (smooth, buttery, creamy), but the evening wasnít really about proving you could taste 5 flavors in a wine while your neighbor only tasted 4. It was about the audience Oooooing and Aaaahing while Priscilla and Peggy from Bartlett Farms created a multi-tiered wedding cake right in front of us, and then poured some bubbly to go with our ample pieces.

The reds were equally as tasty, from Chianti to Shiraz to Amarone and more. All of my favorites were represented. There were even high end rums and liqueurs offered Ė we saved these until the end of the day. They were as delightful as the rest, with a rich variety of flavors.

While we werenít serenaded with Mack the Knife this year on our bus ride back into town, there wasnít much else missing from what to me is just about the perfect way to spend a weekend. If youíre anywhere near Massachusetts next May, be sure to set aside the Nantucket Wine Festival weekend! Itís one wine event not to be missed!

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.