Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival a feast for local economy

As much as the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival has established itself as one of the most sophisticated and anticipated events on the East Coast, if not in the country, this year’s 12th edition, from Sept. 21-24, will have a distinct local flavor.

At the festival’s numerous venues, including Rosecliff, The Elms, The Breakers and Marble House, there will be fine wines, award-winning chefs, choice spirits, live music and dancing. The wines and spirits are being brought from all over the world – literally. As an example, representatives of the Italian government trade commission appeared at the Mansions executive offices before Labor Day with samples of wines, cheeses, coffee and other foods to pique the interest and tempt the palates of the festival producers.

Signature events include the opening gala “Wine and Rosecliff,” a Burgundy dinner at The Elms, a vintner’s dinner at Rosecliff, a Sunday jazz brunch on the terrace of Marble House and seminars in The Breakers stable and carriage house on topics, ranging from cheeses to bourbon, to Champagne to caviar throughout the weekend.

FINE WINE: The Wine and Rosecliff Gala, featuring an evening of fine wines, live music and dancing, is one of several signature events of the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, which will be held Sept. 21-24. Pictured, attendees sample a white wine during a previous Wine and Rosecliff Gala. / COURTESY PRESERVATION SOCIETY OF NEWPORT COUNTY
FINE WINE: The Wine and Rosecliff Gala, featuring an evening of fine wines, live music and dancing, is one of several signature events of the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, which will be held Sept. 21-24. Pictured, attendees sample a white wine during a previous Wine and Rosecliff Gala. / COURTESY PRESERVATION SOCIETY OF NEWPORT COUNTY

But the signature event, the one that pulls in wine aficionados from around the world, is the Grand Tasting under the great tents on the rolling lawn of Marble House. There are hundreds of wineries represented and over 30 participating restaurants and chefs for the weekend, with the majority from Rhode Island. It marks both a full-circle return and an elevation to the next level for the festival, which in the past has hosted celebrity chefs, including Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart.

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This year’s lineup is rich with name recognition, as well as culinary talent. There are chefs who have moved here from Boston restaurants, such as Rachel Klein of Red Stripe and Robert Sisca of Providence G. There are chefs who have made their names in state, such as Thomas Duffy of the Spiced Pear, Brian Kingsford of Bacaro and Tim Kelly of Chapel Grille. Emcees will be Annie Copps, who has written for the likes of Boston and Yankee magazines, and Food Network Star finalist Linkie Marais.

Most all the bells and whistles that go with tasting and experiencing fine wines and spirits will be covered. For example, the Rosé Grill Garden featuring Château D’Esclans, which is the winery that produces the semi-official and ubiquitous drink of this past summer, Whispering Angel. Some local landmarks are lending their names to must-stops at the Grand Tasting, such as the Castle Hill Inn Seaside Café.

Proceeds from the festival benefit the nonprofit Preservation Society of Newport County, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes and decorative arts.

Director of Museum Experience John Rodman explained how the festival is an outward and visible sign of one of the biggest economic engines in the state.

“We are a Newport and Rhode Island brand-building event,” he said.

During the rest of the year, the mansions are a force to be reckoned with, employing nearly 500 local people and attracting again this year a million visitors.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.NewportMansionsWineAndFood.org.

Bruce Newbury’s Dining Out radio talk show is heard Saturdays at 11 a.m. on 1540 AM WADK and through the TuneIn mobile app. Email Bruce at Bruce@brucenewbury.com.