It’s the 27th year for the Boston Wine Festival at the Boston Harbor Hotel’s Meritage, or as Chef Daniel Bruce, noted at the opening night party Jan. 8, “half my life.” He also noted some folks at the soiree had yet to be born when it all started.
Time catches up with all of us, sure, but if the enthusiasm and care remain, well … look at what Cal Ripken, Jr. did. Says Bruce: “I’m never really off duty.” He does not say this with a world-weary shrug. The man likes what he does. This year’s Festival runs through March 25 at the BHH’s Atlantic Room. (Check website below for particulars, wine, food, cost. The champagne dinner is a perfect thing to do for Valentine’s day period. The dinner is Feb.13 and a jazz brunch Feb. 14. My wife and I, we’ve done this one.)
Aside from the food and the wine, mixing and mingling is part of what people do at the opening party – and then on a smaller scale at the individual events. There are seven or eight tables and a maximum of 78 people per dinner.
“I personally create and am there for every dinner,” says Bruce. “I create the whole programs, create the menus and compare the menus and speak about at the end of each meal. They form a connection with me a personal relationship, they come back, brining other people and says, ‘We know the chef.’ It’s very personal. I enjoy meeting people and many have become friends.”
Bruce notes that they are seeing a generational shift. That is, it’s just the well-heeled middle-aged or upper demo that’s wining and dining. “People in their 20s and 30s are more and more interested in the event,” says Bruce. “What I’m finding, there’s always people interested in wine and I’m finding a little more genuine interest in meeting the winemakers, [reflecting] the nature of what’s happened with our culture, not just food, but wine. I’ve been doing it for three decades.
“A lot of people have heard of the Wine Festival but never attended, thinking they might be intimidated. Now, they come and go home saying, ‘I can’t believe how relaxed this is.’ It’s informal, no airs about it all. Young people come; it’s not old and stuffy. This next generation is very comfortable about sharing thing. There’s conversing, the dinners, and at the end of the night everyone knows about each other.”
Last year, Bruce says, was his toughest yet – only because he pulled out all the stops for the 25th anniversary – “all my favorite wineries”- and his policy is not to repeat from year to year he had less to choose from.
“Now I can go back,” he says, to some of his favorites, “like Joseph Phelps, long-time relationships and these guys want to finish with me. I think there are seven that are sold out already. What’s really fun this year, the majority this year are a lot of North American wineries. There’s an Australian one and a couple of French, some great tiny wineries that do maybe 400 cases a year.”
“The Fesitval is still growing. The winemakers are committed. I don’t think anybody considers it a job. I hear from winemakers all the time. I make major attempts with my food to honor those wines, how can it showcase the wine to the best. It’s like a win-win situation. My style of food has become more wine-centric and I enjoy the mingling of the two. As you develop with this direction I’ve taken, sharing this with passionate winemakers … I love what I do.”
70 Rowes Wharf, 617-439-7000 http://www.bostonwinefestival.net/event-calendar