FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

America’s Longest-Running Wine Festival Appeals to Every Kind of Oenophile

by Kelly Magyarics

Mar 13, 2024

© Binita Patel

March 2024

“Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to Paris.” That was sommelier Tom Gannon’s greeting to those of us seated at round tables in a ballroom at Boston Harbor Hotel. Waving the tricoloré while his cohort, sommelier Brooke Sabel, carried the stars and stripes, the duo (along with festival director Nick Daddona) presided over a dinner loosely recreating the 1976 Judgment of Paris blind tasting that put American wines on the map after beating their Burgundy and Bordeaux counterparts.

The dinner was part of the annual 2024 Boston Wine & Food Festival — now in its 35th year and one of the most popular, to boot, quickly selling out. Rather than try to cram a bevy of events into one weekend the way other well-known food and wine festivals do, leaving guests with a schedule as full as their bellies, this one spreads out the dinners and tastings over three months, January through March. Like the city’s most famous sporting event, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Daddona, affiliated with the festival in one capacity or another since 2013, helped expand its breadth a few years ago beyond winemaker dinners; this year guests have the opportunity to attend a Champagne and saké masterclass, New Orleans jazz brunch, Uncle Nearest Whiskey Tasting and even a dinner comparing Bordeaux regions to actors who portrayed James Bond. Having a variety of formats and price points,

wine

© Binita Patel

Daddona told me during a sit down in the hotel’s dimly lit, crimson-toned Rowes Wharf Bar, opens up the festival to a wider swath of curious wine fans. While some may not want to shell out a few hundred dollars for a pairing dinner (or in the case of one featuring pours from lauded Burgundian producer Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, $2,950), they may be more willing to spring $70 to taste and explore Italian spirits and spritzes.

All festival events take place in the hotel — a stunner of a property opened on the marina in 1987 and bedecked with a 60-foot-tall stone arch, elegant marble, classic décor and crown moldings throughout, plus a collection of framed vintage area maps in the lobby. Guests who book any of the festival events can take advantage of a discounted rate of $295 — especially convenient after a dinner like the one I attended, matching eight expressions with four courses from Executive Chef David Daniels, plus a welcome flute of bubbly.

Throughout the evening we voted for our favorite matchups by raising our own small flags from table centerpieces. Daddona admitted he had run restaurant wine programs for years before he ever set foot in a vineyard. Now, hosting producers and industry experts from around the world bring little “nuggets” of sun-drenched wine country each year to a Boston winter.

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