My impressions of the Boston Wine Expo

Franciacorta Berlucchi '61 sparking wines
Berlucchi ’61 Franciacorta sparking wines from Italy

I recently attended the Boston Wine Expo February 16-17, 2013. I had never attended such a large wine and food event, so below are my impressions as a newbie.

Mead from Moonlight Meadery
Mead from Moonlight Meadery

Wines
As a budding oenophile, I always seek out wines and other beverages I’ve never had before, so I was grateful that Jason Phelps of Ancient Fire Beverage Blog, from whom I had won a one-day Grand Tasting ticket, had mapped out some new drinks to try. I especially enjoyed trying mead from Moonlight Meadery and Neige apple-based wines from Québec (a member of the Boisset Family Estates portfolio) for the first time. I also tried wines from Greece and Son Prim Petit Celler, wines from the island of Mallorca, that were very interesting, as they offer grape varieties, aromas and flavors that are quite different from typical Old World wine production regions. For example, the wines from Mallorca had a distinct salty/saline aroma and flavor due to the island soil type and proximity to the sea. I tried beautiful sparkling wines from Berlucchi ’61 Franciacorta as well as wines from South Africa.

Boissett and Gallo samples
Boisset and Gallo samples

Seminars
I attended two seminars, “Two Distinct Wineries, One Family: Wines from Two Continents with Jean-Charles Boisset and Gina Gallo” and “The Cool Climate, World Class Wines of the Finger Lakes.” For me, the seminars were the best part of the Expo because the experience is very personalized, the focus is on specific wines or beverages, and one has the opportunity to interact with winemakers and wine professionals. I thought the Boisset and Gallo seminar was the perfect way to start my Saturday. Jean-Charles Boisset and Gina Gallo were approachable, personable, funny, and passionate about their wines. I had the opportunity to taste great Gallo Signature Series and Estate wines that I had never tasted before, as well as amazing wines from the Boisset Family Estates’ extensive portfolio of wines. I ended my Sunday with the Finger Lakes seminar, which was a thorough and enjoyable introduction to the stellar wines that the Finger Lakes region has to offer. Presenter Thomas Pastuszak, the Wine Director at Chef Daniel Humm’s new NoMad Restaurant in New York City, demonstrated his extensive knowledge and passion for the wines and engaged the audience with questions and answers.

Son Prim Petit Celler, Mallorca
Son Prim Petit Celler, Mallorca

Food
I sampled some great foods, but with so many wines being poured, over 1800, I wish there had been more food exhibitors or larger samples given. It’s challenging to taste a large number of wines without substantial food to nibble on in between. On the second day, I participated in the trade-only tasting in addition to the Grand Tasting, so I was at the Expo almost six hours. That is a long time to go without enough food to equal a meal. I had a hunger-induced headache that started about three hours into the day and gradually worsened, which was thankfully remedied quickly as soon as I ate dinner at my hotel. However, the headache did prevent me from getting the most out of the last three hours. I would have gladly purchased food from an exhibitor if given the opportunity. Some of my favorite food exhibitors included AGRIFORM – Italian Cheese Road Tour, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Backyards Farms tomatoes, Bee’s Knees Supply Company, Bertucci’s Faneuil Hall, Chef Yves Bainier Souffles, Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports, Slant Shack Jerky, Sysco Boston LLC, Whole Foods MarketYancey’s Fancy New York’s Artisan Cheese, and Yummy Yammy sweet potato dips. I bought two packages of Slant Shack Jerky, as I knew it would be easy and perfect for travel. I sampled Yancey’s Fancy cheeses three times over the course of the two days. I wish I could have purchased some of their offerings.

Finger Lakes samples
Finger Lakes samples

Water
I couldn’t get enough water, which is also required when tasting lots of wine. On the second day, I finally found a booth handing out bottles of water. Perhaps water booths should be more strategically placed or have better signage.

Neige Apple Sparkling and Ice Wines
Neige Apple Sparkling and Ice Wines

In spite of the challenges I had with food and water, I had a wonderful experience and would return in the future.

2009 Buena Vista Pinot Noir, Carneros

2009 Buena Vista Pinot Noir, CarnerosOn Tuesday, January 22, 2013, I participated in a Twitter tasting sponsored by Boisset Family Estates and Boston Wine Expo. The French professor in me was excited to tweet with a Francophone, Jean-Charles Boisset, the President of Boisset Family Estates. It had been way too long since I had that opportunity, so I tweeted mostly in French.

I received my complimentary sample shipment the day of the event. When I opened the box, I discovered that I had a Pinot Noir that no one else had received, instead of a Chardonnay. So when life hands you a wine that you didn’t expect, you taste and review it.

I followed the conversion about the Chardonnay and realized I was missing something special, but after tasting my Pinot Noir, perhaps I was the special one. The 2009 Buena Vista Pinot Noir ($21-$27 retail) benefited from the longer Carneros growing season, which was evident in the ripe, juicy aromas and flavors of black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry, with just a touch of spicy cinnamon and vanilla. I’m a tolerant taster who enjoys a fruit-forward Pinot, so this was a palate match. I kept thinking, “If only it were Thanksgiving, as this Pinot and its food-friendly acidity would be the perfect accompaniment to that meal’s rich cuisine.” Thanksgiving in January? Why not?

Feeling like I already know some of the Boisset Family Estates team through this social media experience, I am looking forward to tasting more of their wines when I attend the Boston Wine Expo in February. Maybe I’ll even meet Jean-Charles Boisset in person at one of his seminars. Santé!