Navigating the Highlights of Wine Fest Weekend

May 10, 2018

What once started out as a small gathering for a handful of wineries to pour at a Grand Tasting and a few intimate wine dinners hosted in friend’s homes has grown immensely to become one of the most highly regarded annual wine events in the country. With so much to celebrate during the fun-filled Nantucket Wine & Food Festival weekend held annually in mid-May, Advanced Sommelier Jenny Benzie offers a snap shot of highlighted events from a wine professional insider’s point of view that are worthy of your attention.

Sommelier Ieva Aldins - NantucketAN EXPERIENTIAL WINE JOURNEY

As a primer to all the excitement of this annual weekend, many of the seasonal finer dining establishments open the week before in order to be well prepared for the onslaught of thirsty people with satiable appetites. If you happen to be on island then, you get to sample this season’s newest menu items, chat with the Sommeliers about their winter wine travels and be the guinea pig at any new local watering holes – all probably without needing a reservation!

The Nantucket Culinary Center located in the heart of downtown Nantucket, however, happens to be an establishment that provides a food and wine-centric gathering space for the dynamic, yet intimate, year-round community. On Saturday, May 12th, they will be hosting ‘An Experiential Wine Journey’ with Sommelier Ieva Aldins, known for her time spent working the wine floor at Straight Wharf Restaurant (and also on the yoga mat for when you need to unwind after wine). Here you will learn a vocabulary of aromatic and taste components through your senses. Smell items that are commonly referred to in tasting notes, along with tasting components that define the structure of the wine. No prior wine knowledge is necessary. Wines featured at this event will be available for purchase through Épernay Wine & Spirits.

Get tickets now for this limited engagement: Wine Tasting 101 with Ieva Aldins.

Certified Sommelier Kirk Baker + Advanced Sommelier Jenny Benzie - NantucketIN-STORE POURS

While many of the weekend’s tasting events are ticketed, you would be remiss not to take advantage of one (if not several) of the complimentary events hosted at Épernay Wine & Spirits.

Located near the White Elephant Resort along the walking route to and from numerous wine fest events, this Sommelier owned and operated boutique wine store offers winemaker tastings at various times throughout the day all weekend long. Here you not only get to spend time one-on-one with a luminary from the winery, these tastings can be a quick casual stop-in between the main events and a perfect location for regrouping with friends for the next event.

While visiting the store, be sure to check out their cheese selection from Wasik’s Cheese Shop in Wellesley, MA, if you need a quick snack and also get your picture taken in the Nantucket Photobooth!

Here is just a tease of what’s ‘In-Store for Pouring’ at Épernay Wine & Spirits:

Thursday, May 17th (4 – 6 pm) Champagne Gosset: Tête de Cuvées from the Oldest Wine House in Champagne

Friday, May 18th (3 – 4 pm): Craggy Range: Distinctively New Zealand Wine Tasting

Saturday, May 19th (10 am – 2 pm): Aperol Spritz Social

For a complete list of tastings and to RSVP: Épernay In-Store Pours.

Tito's Vodka for Dog People - Nantucket Yappy Hour with NishaTITO’S YAPPY HOUR WITH NISHA

 Nantucket is definitely a dog friendly place. So much that pups are brought here to the island from other places for them to find their washashore “furever” homes! Here is an opportunity to support the organization that coordinates the travel and care of these beloved four legged animals at this super cool fundraising event.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka based out of Austin, Texas, is know as ‘The Vodka for Dog People.’ They will be hosting a Yappy Hour at The Culinary Village at Jetties Beach on Sunday morning of Nantucket Wine Fest. Toys and treats will be available for the pups, while owners can begin their day with a Tito’s “Hair of the Dog” Bloody Mary. All of the monies from ticket sales and donations from this event will go directly to Nantucket Island Safe Harbor for Animals, locally known as NISHA. Tito’s Handmade Vodka has graciously offered to match any of the funds raised. Therefore, be sure to bring the gang along knowing that your Bloody Mary will do more for this community than just help you seek some clarity on Sunday morning.

Get the details and fine print: Tito’s Yappy Hour with NISHA

Saturday Night Soirée La Féte - NantucketTHE SATURDAY NIGHT SOIRÉE OF LA FÉTE

The latest and greatest addition to the Signature Events of Nantucket Wine Festival in the past few years has hands down been La Fête. This convivial feast brings guests together with visiting vignerons, world-renowned chefs, experienced sommeliers and other avid wine collectors in order to taste, share and celebrate some of the world’s greatest wines with one another. It is a wine dinner event like none other where there are no rules other than each guest is invited to bring a special bottle of wine that they would like to share with their tablemates.

For an event of this caliber, it is strongly suggested that you bring a wine of pedigree, perhaps from an older vintage or a gem that you have been holding on to for that special occasion which is right now. Keep in mind that you will be enjoying a multi-course meal, which allows you the opportunity to bring white, red or dessert wine – even a bottle of port! A little due diligence to find out what is on the menu for the evening will also help you to decide which wine to bring. If you are still not sure or don’t have a bottle you think worthy enough of the occasion, be sure to consult with your favorite sommelier at the local bottle shop to help you discover what your treasure of the evening will be. In order to best serve you, contact them with at least two weeks notice to find something rare or order an item they may not currently have in stock.

BONUS TIP: Bring a back up bottle. On the unlikely chance that your bottle might be corked or you don’t care for the wines that others have brought, you will be prepared! Think of it as insurance whether you end up opening the bottle or not.

Book your seat before it is sold out: Saturday Night Soirée La Fête.

Sage advice to anyone partaking in this weekend is remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and at every event you attend. Making your way to the restroom often will also help to work off any extra calories from the decadent food and wine sampling!  Cheers!