Not at the NWWF? Drink Up These Great Wines
The Naples Winter Wine Festival brings together the best beverage professionals around—here are their thoughts on the weekend and their picks for memorable pours.
Year in and year out, the Naples Winter Wine Festival—by far the largest fundraiser in Southwest Florida and the top wine auction in the United States—has more master sommeliers, chefs, vintners and other gourmet dignitaries flowing into our neck of the woods than champagne in a fountain. At the 2017 festival, we caught up with a few to hear their thoughts on can’t-miss producers, quality wines that won’t break the bank and even other festivals that are worth a visit.
The Modern (New York City)
“[The master sommeliers], we are donating our time over the weekend to help with the events to facilitate the service aspect—making sure the wines are in the correct condition, decanting them, answering questions people may have. … This is my first time at the festival, and it’s great to see everything, especially Meet the Kids Day. … I love classic wines, like Pinot Noir from Burgundy. The region has been there for centuries, but there are a lot of exciting young producers coming up. A good example for white wine is Domaine Paul Pillot—that’s a white wine producer from Burgundy doing a great job. At The Modern, we pour it by the glass and have a good selection of the wines.”
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (Houston and Dallas, Texas)
“I'm always excited about champagne. They’re wines, albeit expensive, but once you understand the process, how intensive it is, you realize why. … They’re not just for celebrations, and they’re so food-friendly. The whole concept behind the wine list at Marta was champagne and pizza. [Editor’s note: That’s the Danny Meyer restaurant whose wine program Mason launched.] Some people think it’s crazy, but when you understand champagne is a wine that pairs well with food, it isn’t. … A great bottle that runs around $50 is Bérêche Brut. … As for reds, I’ve been loving this wine from Mt. Etna in Sicily, Passopisciaro. They make blends, and if you did a blind taste-test, you’d think they were red Burgundys. That’s literally my favorite red wine now.”
Director of Food and Beverage
The Barn at Blackberry Farm (Walland, Tennessee)
“Our vintner dinner featured Chappellet wines. We rotated them in the restaurant leading up to the event, and the 2009 Pritchard Hill Cabernet Franc is on our wine list. … Our dinner host was very knowledgeable about the wines. I love this festival—everyone who can give, gives—and you see how it benefits the community. … As for other festivals that wine and food lovers can check out, Aspen is the best of the best for the ones that are not invitation-only [like the Naples Winter Wine Festival]. It’s big, but you’re in a contained area. It’s not that you can rub elbows with celebrities; you can’t miss them. … The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is smaller, but it’s better tented than most, and it has really good dinners. … Another great one that’s really casual is the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party—it’s right in the center of New York City in Madison Square Park, and it has a charitable angle, too.”
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