Flying High at Nantucket Wine Festival – My Highlights 4 min read

In its eighteenth year, the 2015 Nantucket Wine Festival gave attendees unprecedented access to terrific food, fine wine and related educational and social opportunities.


I experienced all three grand tastings, a few evening events, and a number of seminars.


My Food Highlights were supplied by:


Chef Bernard Guillas, Executive Chef at The Marine Room in La Jolla, California, Member of the Maitres Cuisiniers de France, co-author of “Flying Pans” and “Two Chefs, One Catch” cookbooks.


I’m not certain what I am more fond of, Bernard’s food, or his life philosophy. Despite being wildly talented, he does not take himself too seriously. I fell in love with Bernard’s cooking prowess on Cayman Islands during Cayman Cookout, where he served some of my favorite dishes of the event. I was delighted to see him in Nantucket, and did he deliver! His food pairings, along with Tiffani Faison, for the seminar titled “Pink Up! Rosé and Grilling on the Beach” were hands down the best dishes I had at the event which, overall, featured fantastic food.


Tiffani’s barbecue skills during “Southern-Style BBQ with Tiffani Faison” and her easy-going, slightly self-deprecating, cheerful attitude were highlights as well. I enjoyed watching her compete on Top Chef and finally got to taste her food. Quite impressive; if you get a chance, I highly recommend you visit her Boston restaurant, Sweet Cheeks Q.


The fascinating part is that I felt compelled to travel all the way to Nantucket just to re-discover how great California wines were. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of immensely exciting Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and much more. However some of my biggest standouts were wines right from my own backyard. Incidentally, 2012 and 2013 vintages will go down as historic, and what a tasty history it is…


My Top “Wines of the Event” were:


  • Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon — Remi Cohen, winemaker, is a talent and a half.
  • Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blanc — Hands down favorite bubbles of this fine champagne-filled event.
  • Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc — 2014 is the best yet. Yum!
  • Daou “Soul of A Lion” and Mayote — Daniel Daou represented the only winery that was invited to the event from Paso Robles. He represented well. Phenomenal efforts.
  • Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon — Master of Chablis blew me away with his spectacular offerings!
  • Kistler Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — There hasn’t been a time in my wine life when I didn’t like those wines. This was no exception.
  • Nellcote Rosé – New discovery. Refined, robust Rosé made by Phillip Corallo-Titus.
  • Opus One Vertical 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 — Generously poured by Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci, it provided a fascinating study in aging fine California Cabernet. If I had to choose, 2005 would take top honors, a complete experience in every way.
  • Ovid V6.2 Blend, Hexameter, L2.2 — Austin Peterson is without a doubt, one of the most talented young winemakers in the country. Simply stunning wines.
  • Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — Loved Megan Baccitich’s effortlessly elegant, perfectly balanced offerings.
  • Penner Ash Pinot Noir — Winemaking legend Lynn Penner-Ash never disappoints.
  • Pride 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — Previously tasted it at SoCoBa, and I am consistently impressed.


Some Event/Seminar Highlights:


  • One of the most entertaining events was the VIP Hangar Party with Wheels Up, an opportunity to fly high with wine, cocktails and bites right on the airfield.
  • Veuve Clicquot: Rosé Master Blending Seminar — a chance to learn from and blend with Cellar Master Dominique Demarville himself!
  • Climb California from Coast to Calistoga — This seminar was one of the best I have experienced lately, with winemakers Dave Keatley (Flowers), Chris Hall (Long Meadow Ranch),  Christopher Carpenter (Lokoya), Austin Peterson (Ovid) and Suzanne Pride Bryan and Stuart Bryan (Pride) candidly discussing viticultural and production issues every wine lover cares about.
  • For cheese lovers, the Cheese Pairing Master Class with Max McCalman, Le Grand Fromage-Cheese with L’Espalier’s Louis Risoli and Formaggio Kitchen-Cheese and Charcuterie with Ihsan Gurdal seminars were all unbelievably informative and loads of fun. If you aspire to navigate the cheese world like a pro, those were designed for you.
  • Another favorite was a Portside Pairing. It you love vintage port and blue cheese this was your Nirvana.  Rui Ribiero, Marketing Manager for the Symington Family Estates, passionately spoke of the history, background, and diversity of port styles. A number of blue chesses were present, each complementing a well-chosen selection of ports.


All in all, a great series of events, in a spectacular Nantucket setting, well worth making a special effort to attend.

Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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