The Expo drew 440 wineries, 15 food-related exhibits and 65 other exhibitors. Attendees sampled wines at the grand tasting or chose from 30 concurrent seminars on a wide variety of wine topics. Others enjoyed cooking demonstrations by New England chefs and a tasting of top non-Cuban cigars.
The weekend-long event kicked off with the 14th annual Anthony Spinazzola Foundation "Gala Festival of Food & Wine," a black-tie fund-raiser featuring Boston's top restaurants and chefs, along with wines donated by many of the wineries participating in the Expo. Upwards of 4,000 revelers paid $125 a ticket, with proceeds enriching the Spinazzola Foundation, which provides scholarships for culinary students, among other charitable donations. The grand tasting and seminar program grew out of the Spinazzola gala.
The importance of the Expo has grown in recent years. Wineries and importers from around the world enjoy the exposure to the sophisticated audience they say the event delivers. "Of all the events around the U.S., you get a large consumer crowd genuinely interested in learning about wine, as well as a strong trade element," enthused Nancy Rugus of Vias Imports, a major Italian wine importer. Vias offered a new Tuscan Syrah, called Varramista, from the 1995 vintage.
The Expo also provides a chance to gauge the pulse of consumers, according to Jodi Stern of Chicago's Vin Divino, an importer of Austrian and Italian wines. "We've gone through so much Riesling, I can't believe it. Last year nobody wanted to taste it."
Not surprisingly, California fielded the largest proportion of wineries and winemakers, giving consumers an opportunity to sample new wines and new vintages. Shafer Vineyards unveiled its 1997 Chardonnay Carneros Red Shoulder Ranch, while Oakville Ranch Vineyards introduced a 1997 Chardonnay, a '97 Pinot Noir and a '96 Cabernet Sauvignon under the new Miner label.
A contingent of 25 New Zealand wineries -- the largest yet -- made the Expo a stop on a tour of the eastern United States. Judging by the two- to three-deep throng of wine lovers surrounding its exhibit, the country's wines scored a big hit.
Proceeds from the Boston Wine Expo benefit the New England Medical Center's Summer Camp Program for Children with Disabilities.
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