Highlights:The festival includes an annual dinner that focuses on “rising star” winemakers, and a couple of brunches, notably one on Valentine’s Day. Of course, there are opening and closing receptions, which includes pass-plates and buffet style service.
The CostThe sit-down dinners can be pricey – in 2013, it’s $145 to $225 per ticket -- but there are options for the more budget minded. When you’re browsing the event’s calendar, the key word to look for is “reception”. The opening and closing receptions cost $100 for a ticket, but an even better value are the small number of receptions that occur throughout the festival. These include a great number of wines and smaller plates, last for three hours and cost just $75 per ticket.
In 2013, there’s an Italian Wine Reception on March 1st, which includes 45 wines, and a California Cabernet Reception on March 15th. Another good word to look for is “brunch”: they’re also a decent value at $95 per ticket.
The Background:The Boston Wine Festival was the brainchild of Chef Daniel Bruce, graduate of Johnson & Wales culinary school, who did stints in Europe and at New York’s 21 restaurant before returning to New England to work at the Boston Harbor Hotel. The festival, which kicked off in 1989, has continued lo these many years. Since Chef Bruce creates pairings to go with the dinners – evidently more than 200 dishes each year – it’s probably not surprising that Meritage, the flagship restaurant at the Boston Harbor Hotel which opened in 2002, focuses on “wine friendly” food.
This description does raise the question of how fine dining could possibly be wine-hostile – but of course those in-the-know understand that “wine friendly” is a shorthand for a menu in which seasonal produce and specially products are thoughtfully paired with a wine collection that exceeds 12,000 bottles.
Lately Bruce has been in expansion mode. The wine festival concept has expanded to other cities, and the formula is similar – the events are held at hotels, and are focused on dinners. There’s The Capital Wine Festival at The Fairfax at Embassy Row in Washington D.C., The Berkeley Wine Festival at the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa in Berkeley, and the French Quarter Wine Festival at the Maison Dupuy Hotel in New Orleans. Not coincidentally, Bruce now also runs Meritage restaurants at the Claremont and the Maison Dupuy.
About the Hotel:The Boston Harbor Hotel overlooks the Boston Harbor, as its name implies. It’s at Rowes Wharf, and those who know their American history will recognize that John Rowes was the ship owner who had his tea dumped into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. This proximity to history means that the hotel is also close to many of Boston’s other top attractions – including Paul Revere’s house, Faneuil Hall the New England Aquarium. This isn’t a small hotel – 230 rooms – but since the hotel occupies the 8th to the sixteenth floor of its building, all rooms have either a harbor or a city skyline view.
According to the Boston Globe, in 2013, the Boston Harbor Hotel will offer a special Wine Festival rate of $220 per night to attendees, and its spa will feature wine-themed treatments, like a Chardonnay Body Wrap and a Chardonnay Body Butter Massage.