There’s no wintering in Florida for Daniel Bruce. In fact, the Boston Harbor Hotel’s executive chef is at his busiest this time of year. In addition to overseeing the hotel’s restaurants, he heads the Boston Wine Festival, which begins Friday and runs through to the end of March.
That makes it the longest running event of its kind, and this year’s Boston Wine Festival includes 36 different wine and food pairing events, from sit-down dinners with winemakers; dine-around, drink-around buffets, like the opening gala; seminars; and a special bubbly infused Valentine’s brunch and dinner-dance.
Chef Daniel Bruce talks 30 years of the Boston Wine Festival
“It’s pretty insane isn’t it?” says festival founder Daniel Bruce of entering his fourth decade organizing and overseeing the festival. “I have been doing this festival since 1989, but I really began before, back in New York at the 21 Club. While I was chef there I did small wine pairing dinners and people were so happy about those. I brought that idea with me to Boston and turned it into this festival.
“Really, it’s not like other wine festivals, it’s really wine dinners,” he continues. “Most wine festivals are weekends or three days; mine is 12 weeks long. To my knowledge, there’s no where else in the world doing something like this.”
For the first couple of years, Bruce found it hard to persuade wine makers to come to Boston in the winter to appear at an unknown event.
“What wine maker in his right mind would come to Boston in the winter?” Bruce jokes. He started small, relatively, with two months and ten dinners; apart from expanding, the festival has undergone few changes.
“Thirty years later, there are more things that are the same than there are differences. The big difference is that wine makers now seek me out. They know who I am and how passionate I am about the wine. They trust me to show off their life’s work.”
Besides enjoying good food and good wines, Bruce relishes the communal aspect of the Boston Wine Festival, either mingling or sitting down for dinner at shared tables. He has made many friends over the thirty years, both with the winemakers he’s working with, and with guests who return each year: “After four glasses of wine it is more than likely you will have made a friend by the end of the evening,” he confirms.
Newcomers need not worry, spitting and swishing isn’t obligatory: just sip and enjoy: “One thing about the festival is that it’s very approachable; it’s not just for oenophiles. Anyone can enjoy a good dinner with good wine, and maybe learn something at the same time.”
Incredibly, Bruce hasn’t missed a festival dinner, ever.
“For 30 years, I have been at every dinner. There’s not one that I have missed. It’s never felt like work, it’s just a natural thing I wanted to do.
Wine must be good for you,” he laughs, “it keeps me feeling younger each year.”
If you go:
Jan. 11 to Mar. 29. Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston. $110+, bostonwinefestival.net