9th Annual Nantucket Wine Festival

For the ninth year in a row, Nantucket has beautifully demonstrated why it remains my favorite Maytime destination. The trees are covered in gorgeous pink blossoms, the restaurants and shops are all ready for business, and the hordes of tourists have not yet arrived. Most importantly, the Nantucket Wine Festival offers the best combination of location, atmosphere, wines and food that I've found anywhere. This event remains my favorite of the year, and it's no surprise to me that the entire four sessions of the Grand Tasting had sold out in advance of the weekend.

Running up to the actual tasting weekend are a number of seminars, auctions, dinners, and other food events. Unlike any other festival that I know of, the Nantucket schedule includes dinners in mansions on the island, featuring world-famous chefs pairing with highly rated wines. One dinner had Chef Lydia Shire of the Locke-Ober pairing up food with four decades of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. That would be a once-in-a-lifetime event!

Numerous restaurants around the island offered wine paired meals, including the wines of Stag's Leap, Robert Sinskey, Opus One, and more. Simply choosing which lunches and dinners you wanted to attend could keep you occupied for quite a while. But there was more. To educate your mind, there were also a number of seminars. You could learn cooking from Ian Just of Les Zygomates, Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger, or Jay Murray of Grill 23. You could sit down with famous winemakers and learn more about Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, or other varietals. There were even beginning seminars for the new wine drinker.

If you make it to Saturday morning with a desire to drink even more wine, then you are now prepared for the treat of a lifetime. First, the large, white tent that hosts the Grand Tasting is located on Brant Point, near a gorgeous vista of ocean and lighthouse. The tables within hold over 200 wineries' products, as well as beer, spirits, glassware, cooking supplies, artwork, and a number of food options. There's even a large Viking kitchen area, with free cooking demonstrations!

It's not just the number of things to do that make this event so special. What I've found to be thrilling each year we visit is how friendly the entire event is. When someone drops a glass - which is a traditional event at any wine event I've been to - the entire tent erupts in cheers and applause. Tasters routinely chat with each other, comparing notes on the wines they are sampling. You can talk for 20 minutes with the actual winemaker from a small winery in Soledad, California, learning how he chooses his grapes and crafts his pinot noir. At other events, you typically encounter the pour and ignore from a faceless distributor that knows little about the liquid beyond its price. Instead, at the Nantucket Festival you feel like you're hanging out in the back room of the winery, enjoying a fine glass of wine while the creator reminisces about the days of harvest.

This great spirit and atmosphere becomes even more apparent when Mother Nature becomes energetic. Yes, Thursday was simply gorgeous - sunny, warm, with a light breeze. You couldn't ask for a more perfect Nantucket experience. Friday cooled down a bit, but still offered a nice, sunny opportunity to walk out to the Nantucket Vineyards and samples wines for the day, then walk out to a wine dinner for the evening. Saturday, however, decided to be challenging. When we headed into town, the rain was heavy and literally blowing sideways. We ran through the puddles from awning to awning. But the shuttles ran frequently, the tent held firm, and soon the heaters were keeping us warm. Laughter rang throughout the tent as fine wines were poured and conversations flowed.

Some mainland wine events let you sample $5 and $8 offerings, where you barely get 10 seconds of pour time before you are moved on. At the Nantucket Festival, you get a glass of $80 Stag's Leap and a long, interesting discussion of winemaking technique with the winemaker and vineyard manager. Add in the delicious hand-made chocolates and cheeses, and you've got a few hours of pure heaven. There was Cliquot and Gossett, Tohu and Mionetto, Rex Goliath and Rudd.

Every person we spoke with at the event or on the shuttle expressed their delight in the event and their desire to come back for subsequent years. There's no surprise in the quick selling out of the tickets here, and it means that the pre-planning for 2006 needs to begin early. So mark your calendars, and bookmark the festival website. If you're looking for a gorgeous location, an incredibly friendly environment and world-class wines and foods, there is only one place to be. That is Nantucket Island, in May, at the Nantucket Wine Festival.

Full tasting notes will be posted shortly!

Photo Album from Grand Tasting
Main Page for 2005 Nantucket Wine Festival Reviews

Master Wine Event Listing

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.