Disclosure: While my hotel accommodations and travel activities were provided for me, free of charge, by Vineyard Square Hotel, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, and MV Wine Fest, I was not compensated for this post. All opinions remain 100% my own.
The travel theme for this year appears to be beaches and shores of the Northeastern portion of the United States. Carrying on with that quite beautifully, I spent last weekend on Martha’s Vineyard for the MV Wine Fest!
It was my first trip to Martha’s Vineyard and, as such, I’m going to take my time in a second post–BONUS!!–to delve deeper into the touristy part. Because I just can’t fit it all in here–this is already very picture-heavy and my enthusiasm may just be too much for you. So this is more focused on what drew me to the island in the first place–an invitation from Marnely Murray of Cooking with Books to attend the festivities themselves!
After checking into our room at the Vineyard Square Hotel–which I just loved!–my friend and I had a couple hours to settle in before it all began. I took some time to walk the streets and prepare my liver for the marathon ahead, then headed over to the Atlantic Fish and Chophouse for our first event of the weekend: the Boozy Cocktail Competition.
Here, three local distilleries displayed their wares, mixed concoctions, and competed for the coveted prize–a gift certificate and a VIP swag bag assembled specially for the MV Wine Fest. I had no prior experience with any of the distilleries we tasted, so I was a clean slate.
We started with Charlie Jacob’s offering of the Bee’s Knees, featuring the new Estate Gin from Bully Boy Distillers that I really, really loved. Herbal, yes, but the juniper was not at all overpowering, and was perfectly accented by the citrus and honey in this drink. I thought for sure it would be the winner.
Then along came Matthew Perry with Turkey Shore Distilleries‘ entry–Boston Rum Punch, prepared with their seasonal Greenhead Spiced Rum–and it was all over. This one really puzzled me initially. The simple rum punch carried an aroma very reminiscent of tequila… and not in a bad way, since tequila happens to be my favored liquor. So imagine my surprise when I discovered it was actually spiced rum that was the key ingredient. Greenhead–named for the annoying biting flies that flock to the NE in the summer–is like no spiced rum you’ve sipped before, though. They start with their White Cap rum, then blend it with lemongrass, green tea, and mint. If I can find a bottle of this nearby, I will have a reason to drink spiced rum again!
Finally, Jessyloo Rodrigues took the floor to share her excitement for Caledonia Spirits‘ Barr Hill Reserve Tom Cat gin. This gin is aged for 4-6 months in American white oak barrels…and then there’s the raw honey. Which makes for a great use for all that honey that beekeepers get, but don’t really make any money off of selling. We all received generous pours of Tom Cat in our full-sized cocktails (no small samples here!), as well as the opportunity to hug a wheel of beeswax and wish upon it for good luck. I hope there are no photos of this existing on the internet…
Despite her best efforts, the goody bag–and bragging rights–went to Turkey Shore Distilleries. Congrats, guys!
Next we walked back to Vineyard Square Hotel (and Chesca’s Restaurant) for the Real Men Drink Pink event on the porch. 6 different rosé wines were poured into our waiting glasses, taking us on a journey from bubbly to still, subtle to assertive. I tried all six, because that’s what good journalists do. And while I quite enjoyed the effervescence of Anna de Codorníu‘s Anna Brut Rosé, the opposite end of the spectrum won my heart: Boschendal The Rose Garden. And you don’t even need a corkscrew to drink it!
The last event for my evening was a short walk away for a private wine dinner with The Prisoner Wine Company. All the private wine dinners were hosted in homes for sale in Edgartown–what a fabulous way to showcase the available housing stock! It was warm and homey and, in my case, since just about everyone at the dinner knew each other, I felt like I was truly attending a dinner party, not a ticketed event for a wine festival.
Chef Carlos Montoya of The Sweet Life Café wowed us with his 6-course meal, including local oysters on the half shell, roasted chicken and duck liver mousse ravioli, the most amazing pork loin topped with a rosemary gremolatta, and Grey Barn short rib tortellini (I actually had a chance to visit Grey Barn on the next day!). We sipped Blindfold Chardonnay, Saldo Zinfandel, Thorn Merlot, The Prisoner Red, and Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, paired perfectly with each course.
Ken Mason, Sales Manager for Classic Wine Imports, headed the dinner. He explained to us that The Prisoner Wine Company is going through a bit of a transition right now. This Napa Valley company produces all blends and consists of no vineyards. They contract with the local vineyards for the best grapes for their wines. And the latest? They’ve recently sold to Constellation Brands for approximately $285 million. Staggering!
After a night of rest, the next morning began with a quick jaunt next door for the Breakfast and Bubbles event. (It’s also where I fell in love with an Edgartown house that I will never be able to afford…but I digress…) The breakfast was prepared by student sous chefs from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School culinary program, as well as Executive Chefs Jack O’Malley and Cynthia Cowan. Baskets overflowed with muffins and quick breads; a Stonyfield yogurt bar was set up on the patio with fresh berries, granola, and honey; and somehow, I found myself with coffee, a mimosa, and a Bloody Mary at my place setting. I had to sip all of them, of course. They couldn’t go to waste!
Guests could select from baked pecan praline French toast, spring vegetable strata, Black Forest ham and cheddar quiche in a hash brown crust, or Belgian waffle with strawberries and hand-whipped cream. It was an easy choice for me, but my friend’s French toast gave me a bit of breakfast envy.
We had a bit of a break before the next event, spent with my fellow press members on a tour of the island, led by Stagecoach Taxi and Nancy Gardella of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. Then we reconnected with the MV Wine Fest revelers at Burgers and Bubbles on the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s lawn.
The Burgers and Bubbles event pitted 3 chefs against each other in a television-style cook-off with the attendees acting as the judges. Each burger had its own flag, which would be used later for voting purposes. Each bite was accompanied by Veuve Clicquot, which flowed generously throughout the 2-hour tasting. When the votes were counted, Peter Lodi of Blue Crab Kitchen came out victorious–but Dan Whalen’s Isaan Beef Burger sliders had already captured my heart. The burger started subtle, then developed into one tasty morsel as the Sriracha mayo opened up the tastebuds. I could have eaten more.
If you attend nothing else at the MV Wine Fest, then the Grand Tasting is the MUST SEE, MUST DO event of the weekend. Over 500 wines, spirits, and samplings from local restaurants vie for your attention. An opportunity to speak with the makers themselves to learn their stories. And so many fabulous discoveries, all on the lawn of the Kelley House.
Luckily, you’re given a book to keep track of it all. While I would like to brag that I drank my way entirely through the tents, we all know that not only did that not happen, it would have probably sent me to the hospital. So it’s a good idea to go in with a game plan and an idea of what you’d like to see, smell, and taste. Fortunately, there are bottles of water available, too, to help keep you hydrated in the process.
A surprising wine for me was the 2013 Siegrist Blanc de Noir from Germany, brought to the Wine Fest by Trellis Fine Wines. I drink a lot of Pinot Noir and paused when I saw the blanc de noir on the label. It turns out that blanc de noir is a white wine made from a black grape. While the grapes are fermented without their skins, that little bit of contact during pressing transforms the wine into something much more interesting. I had to snap a pic so I’d remember to look for this back home!
It wasn’t just wine, of course! Our friends from Bully Boy Distilling, Turkey Shore Distilleries, and Barr Hill joined in on the fun, as well as Astral tequila (oh, tequila!), Ty Ku Sake, New Amsterdam Vodka, Deep Eddy Vodka, and more. Then to temper it all, you could sample flavors of Polar seltzer, which I did rather enjoy. Because it makes for a great mixer, too.
Food could be found from Chef Carlos Montoya (from my wine dinner the evening before), Seacoast Sweets, and, one of my favorites from the event, Pizza di Napoli in Nevin Square, Edgartown. I sampled their Pepperoni, but they also had an MV Clam Chowder out for tasting. Eventually, I decided I had indulged enough and I slipped back to my room for a little nap before the last wine dinner of the weekend.
Make that a beer dinner. With Peak Organic Brewing Company beer as the star, to be paired with a menu prepared by Dan Whalen. Crudo with lime/chives/jalapeño, arugula salad with maple dressing, skirt steak tacos with chimichurri slaw, and handmade spicy seafood linguine graced the table. Peak Organic IPA, Maple Collaboration, Fresh Cut, Summer Session, and Nut Brown Ale filled our glasses. (I was, in particular, a big fan of Maple Collaboration, but it was met with mixed reactions…) And then, the highlight of the evening: Dan made ice cream for us.
Not just any ice cream. A fresh minty specimen, to top nut brown ale brownies he baked earlier. But the truly special part was that he prepared the ice cream at the table, utilizing liquid nitrogen. It’s a little like magic, a lot like science, and makes for something guests won’t soon forget.
I retired to my room for the night, knowing there was only one event left between me and the end of an amazing weekend…
Oysters and Bubbles. Back at my favorite little house next door to my hotel, we dipped in Sabra hummus, sipped Château de Bligny champagne, and hung out by the pool in the backyard. Fresh local oysters were shucked on the patio–and were in high demand throughout the event. It was a lovely, chill way to close out the weekend.
I packed up my things (including my own VIP swag bag–thank you, MV Wine Fest!) and hopped in the Stagecoach Taxi van to be carried back to the ferry. It seemed like it all ended so soon. And yet, the weekend was so very full. I’m looking forward to MV Wine Fest 2017 and the opportunity to wine, dine, and relax in Edgartown once more. Future trips to the Vineyard will have a high bar set for them!