Indulge at Food and Wine Fest this weekend

Helen and Leroy Rieselbach toast to each other at a Black Sheep vineyard tasting at last year's Food and Wine Festival. —Lisa Vanderhoop

Celebrity chefs, TV personalities, and some of the nation’s top wine and food experts will be on hand this weekend for the ninth annual Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival. But the four-day event is not just for wine snobs. “I think the festival’s appeal runs the gamut from serious wine enthusiasts to the casual drinker who’s curious but doesn’t know a lot,” event organizer Dawn Curtis Hanley said.

With 14 unique events, ranging from an heirloom apple tasting to celebrity chef– and sommelier-led wine dinners, the annual festival offers something for everybody (everybody over 21, that is), even those who are more interested in the food than the wine.

The food-centric events this year will include a fudge and port pairing, a local oyster tasting, and a cheese and charcuterie sampling, each led by experts and local providers.

Of course, there’s also the wine. Vintners, sommeliers, and other wine experts will be introducing hundreds of wines from around the world to guests. This year, for the first time, the festival will also host two bourbon-tasting events featuring Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey, one of the nation’s oldest and smallest working distilleries.

One of the festival’s signature events, Fresh Off the Farm, will kick off the festivities on

Thursday night. Held at the Ag Hall, the community gathering will celebrate the bounty of the Vineyard. Locally grown food prepared by Island chefs will be paired with pours from small family-run vineyards for a celebration of sustainability. Homegrown band Good Night Louise will provide the entertainment for this popular opening-night party.

Friday and Saturday will be fully booked with Edgartown-based events. The festival will conclude on Sunday with a new feature: a champagne and Bloody Mary brunch at the Harbor View.

As always, the highlight of the festival will be the Grand Tasting, featuring over 300 winemakers, spirits, breweries, gourmet foods, restaurants, and chef demonstrations. This year, the tasting has moved from downtown Edgartown to the lawn of the Harbor View Hotel, which will add a scenic element to the popular party.

Other perennial favorites include the Somm Throwdown, featuring three wine personalities pairing 12 wines with small plates, and “Oh, Shucks!” which features local oysters and a variety of wines.

There will be four distinct wine dinners this year. On Friday night, guests can attend either a limited-seating bourbon dinner prepared by Shane Tank of Premier Chef Services, or a four-course dinner, Island Fare with a French Flair, prepared by chef, author, and farmer Matthew Delisle of Boston’s famed L’Espalier, a French restaurant that is consistently given top ratings by Zagat’s and Wine Spectator.

On Saturday night, diners will have an equally difficult choice between two dinners hosted

by legendary wine producers. Joseph Carr will be pairing wines at a “local-as-it-gets dinner” at the Terrace at the Charlotte Inn, and South African winemaker Ken Forrester (a.k.a. Mr. Chenin) will introduce some of his awardwinning wines paired with a modern Greek dinner at the Harbor View’s Lighthouse Grill. Hell’s Kitchen contestant and Improper Bostonian best rising chef awardwinner Brendan Pelley will be the guest chef.

The festival is about a lot more than noshing and sipping. All of the events offer an educational aspect, many with a focus on sustainability. “Oh, Shucks!” will feature local oyster farmers sharing tales of farming the sea. At the Sunday brunch, Jenny Johnson, co-host of NESN’s Dining Playbook, will lead an engaging conversation about the Vineyard’s flourishing Resilient Food Initiative with Noli Taylor, program director of Island Grown Schools; Ali Berlow, author of “The Food Activist Handbook” and founder of Edible Vineyard; Jefferson Monroe, owner and founder of the GOOD Farm; and Rick Karney from the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group.

There is even a guided tour of Edgartown by architect Patrick Ahearn, who will share the behind-the-scenes history of Martha’s Vineyard architecture and talk about the early development of the town.

The Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival was launched nine years ago by the Edgartown Board of Trade. “Their motivation to do these kinds of events is to support the members and the various hospitality industries on the Island,” Ms. Hanley said. The timing was determined to help extend the fall shoulder season.

For tickets and more information, visit mvfoodandwine.com.