If the winter doldrums are starting to get to you, don’t let them. A potent panacea is within easy, car-free reach. Winter wine events are plentiful this season, with tastings, pairings and seminars that will please novices as well as connoisseurs.
Whether it’s a complex Bordeaux, a buttery Chardonnay or a simple rosè that tickles your taste buds and excites your nose, educate and tempt your palate at one of these seven wine events near NYC and throughout the Northeast.
What: Boston Wine Festival
Where: Boston Harbor Hotel, Rowes Wharf
When: January-March, 2014
Why: The 25th edition of the nation’s longest running Food and Wine Pairing Series takes place at the 16-story Boston Harbor Hotel. Stay overnight and book a room with stellar harbor views. This luxury waterfront structure may be in the direct path of Boston Harbor’s cold winter winds, but you are sure to warm up quickly at one of many themed events, ranging from a Cajun-influenced Jazz Brunch to a Frog’s Leap seminar and lunch. Whichever event you choose, this renowned series is under the expert tutelage of Chef Daniel Bruce, whose passion and talent for pairing fine food with perfectly complimentary wines is respected in wine circles.
How to get there: Consult the oM Boston Guide for public transportation. The hotel is a 10-minute walk from South Station.
What: The Winter Wine Festival
Where: Wentworth by the Sea Hotel, New Castle, New Hampshire
When: January 18-February 16, 2014
Why: Named one of Travel + Leisure’s 500 top hotels in the world, this historic hotel with a Grande Dame atmosphere is just outside of Portsmouth, a town that’s developing a blossoming reputation among foodies. The lineup for this seven-week event ranges from serious Grand Vintner’s Dinners to more whimsical offerings, celebrating sustainability with local food and award-winning American wines. Use promo code WN9 to book accommodations as a Wine Festival Guest at the Wentworth by the Sea. Rates start at $159.
How to get there: From Boston’s South Station the bus to Portsmouth takes one hour via C&J Trailways line. From the Portsmouth/Pease stop, you can catch a taxi to the Wentworth, or give the hotel a call a few minutes before you are pulling in, and they should send the hotel van to pick you up; 603.422.7322.
What: Virginia Wine Expo
Where: Richmond, Virginia, Greater Richmond Convention Center
When: February 18-23, 2014
Why: The centerpiece of this Expo, the Walk-Around Grand Tasting, will have you sampling over 400 bottles of Virginia wine. The Grand Tasting will be held on February 23-24. Seminars include Famous French Cheeses Paired With Champagne and Virginia Wine and Shellfish & Wine Taste Divine: How to Pair Shellfish w/ Wine. Hotels a short walk from the Expo include the nearly-new Hilton Garden Inn- Richmond Downtown and the charming Linden Row Inn, which has a complimentary shuttle service to whisk you around town. For an old-fashioned southern treat, stay at The Jefferson Hotel, where the ambiance and genteel service is reminiscent of a bygone era. Many Richmond hotels have special rates for the Expo, so be sure and mention that you are attending.
How to get there: Amtrak to Richmond in just over 6 hours.
What: Niagara Icewine Festival
Where: Niagara Falls, Ontario
When: January 10-16, 2014
Why: Icewine is a dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine, producing a highly concentrated flavor. The festival events are scheduled at a number of locations in the Niagara region. The opening night Icewine Gala: A Bacchus Evening of Icewine & Revelry is the much-anticipated celebration of the best of Niagara cuisine coupled with over 30 of Ontario’s premier icewines. This formal attire affair will be held at the Fallsview Casino Resort. Make sure to book a room with a view of this natural wonder of the world. Discover Passes are $40 and include access to eight food and wine pairings at the festival.
How to get there: Amtrak’s Maple Leaf will get you to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in 9 hours.
What: Wine Classes at Brooklyn Winery
Where: 213 North 8th Street, Brooklyn
When: January 6, 13, 20, 27
Why: You don’t have to leave your beloved city to expand your oenophile instincts. A MetroCard and 35 bucks will suffice. Classes will range from tackling the basic principles of wine tasting, including identifying general wine characteristics such as acidity, tannins, length, age-ability, and the presence of oak to food and wine pairing and the best wines to drink in winter. Expect to do up to five tastings of BW’s very own vino during each class. You will leave with a deeper knowledge of key buzzwords, so you can confidently order your next bottle from that slightly intimidating sommelier—who won’t be at the Brooklyn Winery.
How to get there: Take the L Train to the Bedford Ave. stop (First stop in Brooklyn). Exit on either Bedford or Driggs and walk north to North 8th St. Walk east on North 8th St. and it’s on the north side of the street at 213 North 8th St.
What: The CIA Wine Explorations classes
Where: Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY
When: An Introduction to Wine: March 8, 2014 from 3-5:30 p.m.
Why: Explore the world of wines by taking a day trip to the Hudson Valley, home to scores of respected vineyards. Through discussions and guided tastings with the CIA’s experts, An Introduction to Wine class ($125) will cover a variety of topics that will up your comfort zone and have you feeling ready to select your next bottle with ease. Check back on the CIA website for upcoming Food and Wine Pairing 101 courses, which guide students through the art of marrying food with the appropriate wines. The class ends with a wine and cheese tasting, where you can test your newly acquired skills. Whichever class you take, a copy of the CIA’s WineWise is yours to keep. After class, treat yourself to dinner at one of the CIA’s acclaimed restaurants.
How to get there: Metro-North to Poughkeepsie. The CIA is a 10-minute cab ride from the Poughkeepsie Train Station
What: 5 Nights of Oenological Adventure
Where: Stage Left Restaurant, 5 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, NJ
When: Check the calendar for specific classes, which run January 9-February 27
Why: Stage Left has been hosting wine courses for 18 years, and is introducing a new “After-Class Dinner” series, including Rhone Valley Red & White, Burgundy: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, Tuscany, Piedmont, Southern Hemisphere. You will be in good hands with Francis Schott, the convivial owner and wine expert who helms the evening. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about wines that you’ll then enjoy pairing with food, like lobster with spoon bread and vanilla sauce and duck confit with roasted onion and Nueske bacon risotto. Stage Left houses a great cellar and hosts a full line-up of wine events, so it should be on the map of anyone with a serious interest in wine. Call Alex Hall at 732.828.4444 ext. 200 to reserve a spot. Each class is $100, with a minimum 2 classes required.
How to get there: NJ Transit from Penn Station to New Brunswick. Stage Left is a short walk. Exit the station toward the front of the platform, make a right on George St. and continue four blocks, turning right on Livingston St.
Photo: Wentworth by the Sea