Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Nantucket Wine Festival

Originally uploaded by pdbreen.
Nuke & I went to Nantucket this past weekend for their annual wine festival. A number of firsts - my first wine festival, Nuke's first time staying in a hotel, Nuke's first boat ride, my first time to Nantucket that I can recall (other than a brief stop at the airport when I went flying with John O'Grady). It also turned out to be the first time I had an oyster. I have always avoided them as they don't look that appealing. But, as I was waiting to board the bus to the afternoon tasting, people were comparing notes on the best food at the morning tasting and everyone agreed that the oysters shouldn't be missed. Having paid $50 to get in to the tasting - I certainly wasn't going to miss the one thing that people were talking about!
The minutes pass, but the shuttle bus never arrives so most of us end up walking the mile or so to the festival. Probably a good thing as I think the food at the festival is much more interesting and much more of a reason to go than the wine. But I'm sure those more educated than me would argue that there was a good selection of wines available for tasting.
As for the food, I was able to pretty much have dinner there both days (though it would be easy to argue I didn't eat healthy meals). I had lots (and lots) of cheese, smoked salmon, cookies, sushi, shrimp, bagels, brownies, chocolate... Basically, lots of finger food. The only thing that was meal-like was the end product of the cooking demonstrations (which were quite good).
And, I did have an oyster - actually several. They had selections from 5 different farms that varied in salinity and sweetness - so not only did I have my first oyster, I had several and now also know something about the differences in where they're raised. I preferred the sweeter ones over the salty.
Sampling the wines was actually difficult for me - knowing so little about wines, the conversation pretty much boiled down to the following:

PB: Can I try some of X?
Vendor: Here you go.
PB: Thank you. [Sniffs. Tastes.] Wow. That's good. Has X been turning out to be a good year?
Vendor: Yes.
PB: [Takes another sip.] Ok. [Pauses] Thank you! [Walks away]

It seemed neither I nor the vendor were much for small talk when the wine tasted was nothing special. What's the proper way to say there was nothing special about what I just tasted? There were a few execptions. The most notable in the show was Four Vines. The blends were amazing and the vendor/winemaker had somewhat of a punk demeanor which was refreshing.
There were 4 grand tastings - 2 each on Saturday and Sunday and each lasting 2 hours in total. I had tickets to the afternoon session on both Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday session passed quickly (other than food, I focused on red wines, especially those from Tuscany). On Sunday, I switched to whites, but got bore about an hour in - I had already tried much of the food on Saturday and the wine makers were definitely visibly tired and much less engaging as well. Some booths just left the bottles behind so you could pour your own.
Overall, going to one session is very enjoyable with lots to take in - in terms of wine, food, audience and cooking demonstrations. Another session seemed excessive. For those people that spent 2+ hours at all 4 sessions - more power to you! I don't think I could do it...

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