Chef Daniel Bruce didn’t really know what he was doing when he started the Boston Wine Festival a quarter of a century ago. Now that it’s celebrating its 25th year this January, it’s clear that Bruce, executive chef at the festival’s home — the Boston Harbor Hotel — was was on to something all those years ago.
“It wasn’t for a couple years that I thought it was going to work. For the first two years, I couldn’t get any winemakers to come to Boston in January to talk at a dinner by an unknown chef,” Bruce recalls. “After two years, I could see they understood that I respected the wine in the bottle, and their work.”
Now, over the three-month series of wine pairing dinners (which launches with a grand opening gala on January 10), winemakers from all over the world will convene in Boston to talk about their life’s work, a feature that makes the annual event both intimate and unique. The Boston Wine Festival is the longest running event of its kind — and, unlike most wine festivals, its yearly run is longer as well. January through March, Bruce will personally oversee 40 four-course lunches and dinners, and attend them too.
In one year, Bruce samples over 800 wines and takes intense notes. Unlike most wine connoisseurs, who might write ‘mineral’, Bruce writes ‘oyster.’ Because when he tastes, his mind goes straight to food. “Unlike a wine writer, when I take notes its almost always food driven. However, the dinners go beyond tasting wines. You hear amazing stories from the winemakers. In hindsight, I should have called it ‘Winemakers Hosted Intimate Dinner Festival’.” That’s more longwinded, but that’s what it is.”
It all makes for a great gig, he’s the first to admit, but says that, more than the relationship between wine and food, it’s the mutual passion he shares with the winemakers and attendees makes it most rewarding.
“For me, the greatest thing is the relationships with people. I’m humbled by the friendships with the wine makers, and with the wine lovers who come every year. There are around 12 people I see every single year at the dinners. And the relationships just keep growing,” he says. “Along with new winemakers, people who came last year for the first time are returning. Now it’s their winter thing to do, as well.”
Boston Wine Festival: January 10-March 28 bostonwinefestival.net