NEWPORT, R.I. — Shaded beneath a fluttering white tent on Sunday, chef Peter Kelly raised his glass to Newport WineFest 2011: “Great food, booze and a beautiful view. It doesn’t get better than this,” he said.
During WineFest’s Celebrity Chefs and Prosecco Brunch on Sunday morning, Kelly, president of the renowned Xaviars restaurant group in New York’s Hudson Valley, served up his favorite “locavore” brunch specialty of grilled corn cakes with smoked salmon and chives picked fresh from his garden.
As Kelly griddled furiously, an intimate crowd of 50 wandered from his station to the next, pausing momentarily to gaze out at the sparkling Newport harbor and smell the fresh cut sunflower arrangements. Other brunch offerings on Sunday included continental choices from the Copper Beech Inn in Connecticut and, naturally, an ever-flowing prosecco station.
“It’s a beautiful spot,” Kelly said. “I was a part of this last year, and this is a return engagement for us.”
Mike Guinan, president of 360 Marketing & Events, said he first got the idea for WineFest about 10 years ago in Connecticut. The Connecticut WineFest was well received by our neighbors to the south, so Guinan decided to bring the event up to Newport for the first time last year.
“The Yachting Center site is amazing for a wine and food festival,” he said. “It’s proving to be a recipe for success.”
Guinan said the turnout this past weekend reached nearly 12,000 people, a jump from last year’s 7,000 attendees.
“We’ve gotten fairly close to total capacity here this weekend,” he said.
Although the brunch tent on Sunday morning was as tranquil as the harbor waters below, Guinan said the food and wine grand tasting sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons brought in large crowds. Attendees were eager to taste hundreds of wine and spirits samplings, as well as culinary creations by celebrity chefs like chef Todd Winer of the MET Restaurant Group in Boston, chef Kevin Cottle of “Hell’s Kitchen: Season 6″ and chef Walter Potenza of Walter’s Ristorante d’ Italia in Providence.
While lounging in Adirondack chairs alongside the harbor sipping on Mionetta mimosas, attendees Adam and Leslie Cooper soaked in Sunday’s summer sun and enjoyed the last few moments of WineFest.
“My wife and I purchased passes for the weekend, and it’s definitely been worth it,” said Adam Cooper, of Westerly, R.I. “We’ve had a lot of fun and tasted some things that we might not have gotten to try in Rhode Island before. We’re not really ready for it to end yet.”
The third annual Newport WineFest will take place on Aug. 17, 18 and 19, 2012. Keep an eye out for next year’s WineFest line-up at www.newportwinefest.com.