Cesare Casella and Elisabeth English

Cesare Casella and Elisabeth English

The 15th annual Nantucket Wine Festival has wrapped and the clinking of glassware subsided.  It was 5 wowza days of learning and meeting while having the most fun possible.   Most folks have now boarded a plane or boat to carry them home, while we business owners are working overtime to ready ourselves for Memorial Day weekend.  Where did those 5 days go?  It was kind of a blur…

Opening night at the White Elephant was a brief, but essential 2 hour party featuring Veuve Clicquot.  People were electrified for the start of the festival and elated that the gloomy weather prognosis was wrong, wrong, wrong.  My friend Cesare (Salumeria Rosi, NYC) and I continued the evening at The Pearl, where we had plate after plate of inventive morsels (and glass after glass of Veuve rosé) dining at the bar.  Like Cinderella, I was just barely home by midnight.

Farmstead cheese plate

Farmstead cheese plate

Thursday began with a cheese course for breakfast and 6 glasses of wine.  Perhaps you would call it brunch, in that it was 10am, but breakfast sounds more outrageous and it was my first meal of the day.

I’m all for cheese for breakfast, anyway, but these were special cheeses, selected by Matt Jennings of Farmstead in Providence and Ihsan Gurdal of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and NYC.  It was billed as an Old World-New World “smackdown”, with Matt representing New World American farmstead cheese.  It was amazing how they each had selected, without prior consultation, plates of contrasting, but complimentary cheeses.  Our table loosely agreed that it was a tie for the most part, but for me, the New World Ascutney Mtn. raw cow’s milk  from Cobb Hill Farm commune in Vermont–golden yellow and rich, caramelized flavors–gave Matt the victory.

la grande dame vcp nwf 2011I followed my cheese & wine breakfast with a champagne lunch.  A rock star champagne lunch, actually, meaning the cuisine of Seth Raynor (Pearl, Boarding House, Corazon del Mar) paired with the champagnes of Veuve Clicquot in an exquisite outdoor setting.  It was the 2nd annual “Nantucket Women of Wine luncheon” hosted by Veuve, and Mother Nature must have been in full favor of the event.  It was a lovely opportunity to connect with other businesswomen from the Nantucket community and luxuriate in  food and wine splendor–French Kiss oysters poached in Grande Dame, Grande Dame-braised lobster and toasted vermicelli…!  Poor Dominique Demarville (Chef de Cave)–he arrived late, newly initiated to the troubles of fog, airlines and island transportation.

Of course, one does not ideally follow these two events by going to work for the rest of the day, but alas, duty calls.  It was a busy afternoon of visits and sales and before I knew it, it was time to pour at the Comte Senard table at the Nantucket Wine Festival Gala.  If I was to be behind one table and taste wines of only one winery for the entire evening, this was where I wanted to be.  One, because Beatrice Senard is so fabulous and chic, and two, because the wines were possibly the best of the night.  Beatrice greeted me with a welcome sip of Bourgogne Blanc and from there, we progressed to the Premier Cru Les Valozieres, and TROIS GRAND CRU….2009 Clos des Meix, 2007 Les Bressandes, 2006 Les Paulands.  What a pleasure!

I did manage to sneak a taste of Alex Gambal‘s 2009 Puligny Montrachet from winemaker Fabrice Laronze en route to our table and also had a night cap of Tim Mondavis 2008 Continuum while noshing on porchetta from Salumeria Rosi.  From there, Mark and I joined Cesare and Lia Tolaini-Banville of Tolaini Estates for a late bite at Lola 41, before continuing on to the obligatory bottle of Veuve rosé at, where else, The Pearl.  I forfeited the Coach in lieu of the Pumpkin, and stopped by the Club Car for a midnight tune at the piano on the way home.

Dominique & Cesare
Dominique & Cesare
Veuve Clicquot & Salumeria Rosi Tasting at cV

Nevertheless, Friday began at 5am, when my feline alarm clock encouraged me to rise.  It was a big day and there were preparations to be made;  we had two major wine events scheduled at currentVintage.  First off, Lia Tolaini-Banville was pouring Terlano “Vorberg” Pinot Bianco plus two Tuscan reds and Cesare was hand-carving 30-month cured prosciutto paired with Petticoat Row Bakery baguettes.  The prosciutto melted in your mouth like none other and the bread was perfectly chewy and delicious.  Next was our Veuve Clicquot champagne tasting and bottle signing with Dominique.  We held the same event last year and all who attended were euphoric over meeting the gentile winemaker and sampling the beautiful wines from his hands in such an intimate setting.  It was one giant photo op, as we took group pictures with Dominique and a 1931 Veuve yellow taxi.  That was last year–this year was a mob scene.  There was hardly time to pop the Grande Dame as festival goers and winemakers packed the house.  It was the largest turnout for a retail store of our size ever, according to Veuve, a testament to Dominique’s popularity and the majesty of Veuve Clicquot.

Dominique with EE in cV

Dominique with EE in cV

What next?  Oh, yes–it was opening night at Ventuno, the new Italian restaurant from the team behind Straight Wharf restaurant and Provisions.  The opening was hotly anticipated as it was in the former location of beloved island institution, 21 Federal.  Although the end of the 21 era provoked nostalgia, and even tears, the new reign offers excitement and imagination in its menu and wine list, both welcome on the Nantucket culinary scene.  It was a who’s who table, organized by Sarah Powers of Kobrand, including Mike Trujillo, winemaker of Sequoia Grove (and a few other prestigious properties), and Chris Silva, the charismatic, fun-loving CEO of St. Francis Winery.  Cesare guided us through the offerings, both food and wine, and we proceeded to order almost everything on the menu, sometimes twice.  Highlights from the intriguing and affordable wine list included the lovely Ceretti Arneis and dry, but layered GrosJean Freres Petite Arvine.  The pasta star of the table was most definitely braised rabbit strozzapretti, although I loved my whole wheat pasta with ramps, morels and ricotta, as well.  Teeth brushed and tucked in just before the clock struck 12.

Joel Gott at cV

Joel Gott at cV

Saturday–let the Grand Tasting begin!  currentVintage had a new location this year, sandwiched between Cain and Frog’s Leap in the cooking demo tent.  We showed our cV Signature RRV/Sonoma wines alongside vintage grape-themed jewelry from the 1930s-70s, both to unanimous (as much as we could hear) praise.  Between the Grand Tasting sessions, we hosted Joel Gott for a tasting & bottle signing of some of his favorite wines.  He threw in a fashion show, modeling western shirts and departing with a new addition to his wardrobe.

Joel Gott in his new old shirt

Joel Gott in his new old shirt

Saturday night, I attended a wine tasting party, featuring Bodega Chacra, Sequoia Grove and St. Francis paired with Pi Pizza and Pappardelle Bolognese from the Pasta Goddess.  Given the preceding 72 hours, I thought almost nothing could dazzle me, but the Sequoia Grove chard, St Francis VV Zin and trio of Bodega Chacra Patagonia Pinots totally wowed.  So did the charming Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, founder of Bodega Chacra and member of the Tuscan family that brought us Sassicaia.  His totally cool vibe and euro-style made it even more of a surprise that he’s crafting exceptional single-vineyard Pinot Noir in the hinterlands of Patagonia from 55-80 year old vines…we might have to go and visit.

The only thing that got me through Sunday was knowing that the next day was Monday.  We had another awesome day at the Grand Tasting and I got around to visit some old friends and savor some new wines, as well.  The grand tasting segued into a Sinskey Family BBQ at the Boarding House, where Rob Sinskey poured his Abraxas and POV and Maria grilled duck sliders.  And just to gild the lily, there was a NWF staff party that night at the Lombardi barn, featuring a veritable feast of roasts and pastas and 200 or so leftover bottles of wine.  I joined briefly to toast the team and sup with Ray Coursen of Elyse, and then, it was homeward to savor it all.