The North End and the Mediterranean may seem half a world apart, but Il Villaggio closes that distance a bit by bringing the flavors of the Old World to Boston. According to the Travel Channel's list of Boston's Local Eats, "it’s hard to imagine a more authentic Italian dining experience than what you’ll get at Il Villaggio." This sense of authenticity stems from the chefs' unwavering commitment to Mediterranean culinary traditions.
In addition to making their own buffalo mozzarella in-house, they also toast their bruschetta over a puddle of magma imported from Mount Vesuvius. These small, yet significant commitments help create faithful renditions of classic Italian dishes, including savory veal marsala, sautéed shrimp and linguini in a spicy fra diavolo sauce, and semolina gnocchi with creamy pesto.
With its faux-plaster walls, simple tile floors, and intimate size, Il Villaggio's dining room feels more like a home than a restaurant. Chandeliers resembling bundles of twigs dangle above the white linen-draped tables and cast a warm glow across the slanted shelves, which are lined with bottles of Italian wine from grape-growing regions throughout the country.
The Boston Wine Expo’s Grand Tasting event unites varietals from nearly 200 wineries around the world with cuisine from more than 40 local eateries during four hours of culinary harmony. Attendees can sip more than 1,000 red and white elixirs culled from the grape-producing and wild-cork-taming regions of North America, Europe, the Southern Hemisphere, and the Mediterranean. Samples from Boston-area restaurants such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Sandrine’s Bistro complement each swig as vintners enlighten enophiles on current winemaking trends. Throughout the afternoon, top gastronomic maestros tread two stages during live demonstrations that divulge recipes and directions for finding the secret compartment hidden inside every wine bottle. Lifestyle exhibits and a full schedule of seminars enlighten guests on topics ranging from cheese-and-wine matching to the diversity of Italian varietals (not included with this Groupon). A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit local charities.
Winemaking began as a hobby for Sweet Baby Vineyard founder Lewis Eaton. In the summer, he and his family found themselves travelling to local farms to pick fresh strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and apples, which later made it into Lewis’ wines. Those creations later became the foundation for Sweet Baby Vineyard's now-expansive wine varieties. Today, the winery grows four grape varietals and the tasting room welcomes visitors for complimentary tastings of many of Sweet Baby’s creations, such as bartlett pear wine, the eternally embarrassed blush, and dry red.
With three basic ingredients—honey, water, and yeast—the making of mead is misleadingly simple. Michael Fairbrother has spent the last 17 years perfecting his recipes for the ancient drink, first tinkering in his own garage as an amateur mead maker for many years before opening Moonlight Meadery. Here, Michael fine-tunes the fermentation process to craft batches of mead from ethically sourced, unpasteurized honey, which imparts each sip with rich color, volatile aromatics, and a faint buzzing sound. Michael’s traditional mead rests side by side with fruit-tinged cups and spiced varieties that rejoin flavors such as tart rhubarb and Madagascar-bourbon vanilla beans with New Hampshire wildflower honey.
The inspiration for Zorvino Vineyards came to Jim and Cheryl Zanello in the same way it does for many American vintners—from a trip to Italy. Taken by the contrast in the quality of the wines and the pace of life between the two countries, the Zanellos brought over their own taste of the old country to an 80-acre New England estate. With grapes sourced both from their own vineyard and such regions as Tuscany, Chile, and California, the pair crafts a suite of red, white, and fruit wines that they sell on site and proffer to local restaurants and merchants. However, the winery itself is worth a trip, with its wrought-iron gate, lantern posts that seem to grow out of empty casks, and swarms of fireflies that send Morse code recommendations for the best wine to pair with salmon. Inside the tasting room, guests lean on hardwood banisters as they sip samples of the winery’s creations.
At ShelaLara Vineyards & Winery, vintners work with modern equipment to produce more than 20 different wines. Using grapes and fruit imported from California and other sun-soaked regions, the enophiles fill tanks with sweet elixirs including their in-house specialty wine slush. The glacier wines, fruit essences, and vintage wines run a colorful gamut from the off purple of the sky just after sunset to the hue of warm honey. ShelaLara’s winemaking process, including fermentation, bottling, and 21-gun salutes following spills, all takes place in Rhode Island.
Carol Russell comes from a long line of winemakers—her father, Herbert, and grandfather, Max, crafted sparkling wine at their vineyard in New York. After dreaming of rebooting the family tradition for quite some time, she moved to farmland in Westport, Massachusetts, in 1982 and her family planted their first vines four years later. Today, the winery family cultivates 80 acres of grapes including chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot noir, and riesling.
Made through a combination of old-timey and contemporary techniques, the sparkling wines, table wines, and aperitifs have earned more than 20 gold medals and twice-filled glasses at the White House. Wine flows year-round at the Westport Rivers’ store, which hosts tastings, an art gallery, and autumnal hayride vineyard tours where guests meet the giants who squash the grapes with a single stomp once a year.