Newport WineFest : Jonathon Alsop Gives Good Wine
While my friends are catching the last of the summer ferries to Fire Island to drink well liquor and munch on freezer-to-fryer mozzarella sticks, I’m going to get one more wear out of my white Levis and pray that I don’t spill anything on myself at the Newport WineFest, August 20-22. The 3-day celebration of wine, food, beer and spirits will be held at the picturesque Newport Yachting Club and feature top personalities from the culinary world.
Weekend highlights include:
I had a chance to chat with Jonathon Alsop, Founder & Executive Director of the Boston Wine School, who will be featured throughout the weekend along with his team of smart and sassy oenophiles. The school’s approach is "snob-free" - a casual atmosphere where people can learn about wine and food, but also learn about themselves: what they like and don’t like, and how they can express those ideas without being thrown out of a dinner party. I put him to the test to provide EDGE readers with some wine basics, along with a few special surprise tips.
Matthew for EDGE: What super funky things are happening in wine-making these days that are pushing the envelope?
Jonathon: The coolest thing happening in wine today is the urban winery - winemakers without vineyards. They’re popping up in Boston and New York City and other areas throughout the country. Especially for young people, it’s a way to become wine maker. You’re not limited to your own grapes or geographical region anymore.
Matthew for EDGE: I like to be prepared. Can you recommend a wine for all seasons?
Jonathon: For a summer barbecue I’d suggest a South African pinotage - very smoky, earthy, wild and rugged - perfect! For fall I like Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine from the current harvest. It’s not serious or complicated and gives you something to look forward to. My favorite winter wines are from southern France in the Rhone Valley - great with a fire and lamb shank that’s been roasting for eight hours. For spring I need a pick-me-up, a flowery white wine like a Gewurztraminer or a Vino Verde - light, bright sunny wines.
Matthew for EDGE: I’m terrible at spitting, can you help?
Jonathon: Have you looked up spitting in the Oxford Dictionary? There’s nothing positive to say. That being said: practice, practice, practice. Get your head down there close to the bucket. Spit discipline is essential.
Matthew for EDGE: I was invited to a drag queen’s birthday party. What should I bring?
Jonathon: Seven Deadly Zins by Lodi Vineyards or a Little Black Dress wine (there are 6 varietals).
Matthew for EDGE: There are some foods that I love like asparagus and artichokes, but experts say they are difficult to pair. Do you have any funky food fixes?
Jonathon: I myself have not experienced this. There are so many wine ideas that don’t seem to have any basis in reality and this is just another one of them. I’ve never found these foods to be a problem.
Matthew for EDGE: I have to buy something for a gift-exchange at work and I pulled the name of someone I can’t stand. Any cheapies that won’t make me look like one?
Jonathon: If you want affordable but impressive, I’d go for a wine from Portugal. Port producers are starting to produce great reds. Portugal was under fascist dictatorship until a few decades ago, so when you hand over the bottle, you can be thinking "you little fascist".
Matthew for EDGE: Your wine knowledge has convinced me to take a wine-inspired vacation. Ideas?
Jonathon: In North America, I’d suggest the northwest: British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Another one of the best, undiscovered wine and food parts of the world is Apulia, in the heal of Italy. They’re producing fantastic, rugged reds.
Matthew for EDGE: I’m sold. Any other parting words about your wine philosophy?
Jonathon: Everything in moderation, especially moderation. Do not allow your moderation to become excessive.
If you want to learn more about Jonathon Alsop’s wine philosophy, be sure to pick up a copy of his brand new book, Wine Lover’s Devotional: 365 Days of Knowledge, Advice, and Lore for the Ardent Aficionado.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT NEWPORT WINEFEST, VISIT: