The Boston Wine Expo is the largest consumer wine event in the United States. Held annually in the World Trade Center in Boston, MA, the Expo consists of a large main tasting (with hundreds of wineries represented), seminars on specific wine topics and chef demonstrations, along with a few other wine and food related events. This page began as a temporary information source for the Boston Wine Expo, as a result of many email requests. Due to its popularity, I have decided to maintain it as a permanent general information page for Expo visitors.
Also, for tips about how to make the most of large wine tasting events like the Expo, check out Vintage Voice's January, 2001 Wines of the Month article, "Tasting Tactics."
The 2003 Boston Wine Expo will take place on February 1 and 2 at the World Trade Center on Northern Avenue in Boston (MapsOnUs map). Public tastings run from 1pm - 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday. The official Boston Wine Expo website generally contains details on the exhibitions and seminars as they become available. In addition, the organizers of the Boston Wine Expo are staging a similar show in Washington, DC on February 22 and 23, 2003. See their website for details.
Prices for 2003 are as follows:
Tickets cost $70 for a single day and $92 for two days (prices have remained steady for the last two years). If you purchase your tickets before January 24, 2003, you will receive a $10 discount on each type of ticket. Although the website is unclear on this point (misleadingly so, in my opinion), shipping and handling is $2.50 per Grand Tasting ticket per day (meaning that a two-day ticket incurs a $5 charge); seminar tickets do not incur a charge. At the last two expos, single-day ticket purchasers were required to specify at the time of purchase which day they would attend. This year, I saw no indication of this requirement.
The individual seminars run from $25 ($5 higher than last year's minimum price) to a wallet-emptying $100 for an Dominus vertical tasting with Edouard Moueix (more reasonable than 2002's $125 Opus One vertical). In previous years, you had to purchase an Expo ticket to gain admission to the seminars. However, in 2002, for the first time, you could purchase tickets for the seminars without purchasing one for the Grand Tasting. Usually, around half sell out before the Expo, so I recommend ordering tickets well in advance if you are particularly interested in a specific seminar.
The deadline for online ticket orders is January 30 (two days before the Expo). You can also order by phone at: 1-877-WINEXPO (1-877-946-3976).
In addition, many wine retailers in the Boston area sell tickets each year. Click here for the Boston Wine Expo's list of participating merchants.
Some words of caution: You must be 21 in order to enter the Expo. Also, Massachusetts law, at least as interpreted by the local police, prohibits the resale of tickets to events by individuals, even at face value or less. So if you have an extra ticket, and decide you want to sell it, be aware that you may have the ticket confiscated and can be fined.
The Anthony Spinazzola Gala Festival of Food and Wine is a black-tie event (proceeds to benefit the Anthony Spinazzola Foundation) held the night before the Expo. Details are available on the Spinazzola Foundation site or by calling (781) 344-4413. Prices are $175 per person ($125 is tax-deductible).
Other events connected to the 2003 Expo include an Austrian Vintner's Dinner ($150 per person, a $15 bump from last year) at Aura in the Seaport Hotel and a Sunday Brunch. In 2002, the brunch cost $70 per person, or $120 when you include a Sunday tasting ticket; however, current prices and tickets are not yet available online (1/5/03).
How to Get There:
If you want to take public transportation to the Expo, which can be a good idea both to avoid worries about drinking and driving as well as to avoid the huge downtown construction mess (the "Big Dig"), there is a complimentary shuttle bus from South Station (actually about 1 block from the main entrance, on Summer St. and Dorchester Ave.). South Station is served by the MBTA (Red Line subway, commuter rail) and Amtrak, as well as being the major Boston terminal for inter-city bus lines (e.g. Greyhound, Peter Pan, Bonanza). If you are driving into Boston, the MBTA has many convenient parking lots at outlying subway stations (Braintree, Alewife and Riverside, just to name a few). The base fare for MBTA subway trains is $1, and the base bus fare is 75 cents. Some outlying stations and special buses have higher fares; check the MBTA website for details.
The World Trade Center is approximately a 10-15 minute walk from South Station, which can be a good option if the buses are too crowded. It is also a short (and inexpensive) cab ride from many downtown hotels.
If you want to drive, several parking lots are available near the World Trade Center. The parking structure underneath the Seaport Hotel is the most convenient, but cost $15 during the 2002 Expo, while other nearby outdoor lots only charged $7. Driving directions can be obtained from Mapquest, MapsOnUs or your favorite source. The address of the Expo is:
Boston Wine Expo
World Trade Center Boston
200 Seaport Boulevard, Suite 125
Boston, MA 02210
Where to Stay:
If you are visiting Boston, you may notice that hotel prices are very high. While prices have been stabilizing, or even falling, over the past couple of years, due to an influx of new hotel rooms and the economic situation, you'll still pay more here than in most U.S. cities. Since late January and early February is the low season in Boston, so prices should be a little lower and rooms should be more easily available. However, I still recommend reserving well in advance if you want to stay downtown.
The Expo offers special rates at the Seaport Hotel ($181 single or double; must be booked by 12/30/02). These rates are not necessarily the lowest available, however, so I suggest shopping around. For example, just trying the hotel website directly, I was able to get a price of $118/night (price as of 11/23/02).
If you are selecting hotels on your own, the most convenient hotel is the Seaport Hotel (which is right across the street from the Expo, and has a special rate). Le Meridien and The Boston Harbor Hotel are also fairly close. Of course, Boston is not particularly large, so any of the downtown hotels would be reasonable choices. The traffic in Boston can be fierce though , especially with the Big Dig construction project, so proximity on a map doesn't necessarily translate into a short commute.
But where are the affordable hotels? Well, you might find something from one of the many discount booking agencies. When using any of these agencies, make sure that you check the cancellation policies, as they may be much more restrictive than normal hotel policies. Also, you should shop around, as no one agency has all the best prices for all the hotels, and you may even get a better price by calling a hotel directly. Some agencies include: Citywide (a local Boston agency), Bostonhotels.net (formerly Meegan Reservations; another local agency), Quikbook, and Hotel Reservations Network. The large travel reservation websites have also started to offer discount hotel rooms. In my experience, the best deals seem to be on American Express/ITN, but Expedia and Travelocity are worth checking out. I have no connections to these businesses, so use them at your own risk. However, I have been a satisfied customer of Quikbook, American Express/ITN, Expedia, and Travelocity; I haven't used the other services. I have also heard of people getting excellent deals from Priceline.com, which may be a good option if you're willing to abide by their restrictions and fees.
You can also try looking for Bed and Breakfasts or small inns. There are a few reservation services in the Boston area, including Bed and Breakfast Agency of Boston, Bed and Breakfast Associates Bay Colony Limited, Bed and Breakfast Reservations, Greater Boston Hospitality and Bed and Breakfast Cambridge and Greater Boston (1-800-888-0178, 617-262-1155). The Open Directory Project lists quite a few B&B's in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline.
If you can't find anything in Boston, Cambridge or Brookline, you might try looking outside the city. Hotels around I-95/MA 128 tend to be cheaper than those in town, and hotels in the suburbs south of the city have the cheapest rates on average. However, you would need to have a car, reducing your savings, especially when you factor parking costs into the equation. You can also find many links to various types of lodging in the Greater Boston area here.
Where to Eat:
At the Expo, I find that food choices are limited at best, and the lines tend to be very long. I always bring my own baguette and a bottle of water -- I can wait until dinner to eat something substantive, but there is never enough water, despite the staff's best efforts. In 2002 there weren't even any crackers to be found, unlike some previous years. As a result, I highly recommend bringing your own supply of bread.
After the Expo, though, you can enjoy one of Boston's many excellent restaurants. You can find fairly good recommendations from the Zagat Guide (if you subscribe), but the Boston Phoenix Dining Guide is probably the most reliable source of reviews in the city. However, some of the Phoenix reviews are dated; for the best results, stick to the ones from the last year or so. The Boston Globe also has reviews, but they aren't as easy to use; nor are they as reliable, in my opinion. You can also find reviews in Boston Magazine and the Boston Herald. If you want to ask the locals about their favorite restaurants, you can try the ne.food Usenet newsgroup.
What are some restaurants that might particularly interest wine enthusiasts? Of course you can go to the big, expensive, famous restaurants, which all tend to have at least some worthwhile wines, but I also have a few less-well-known suggestions. Les Zygomates is close to the Expo (near South Station), and has a very good, fairly-priced wine list, with extensive selections by the glass. The food is good French bistro fare. Troquet is a hot destination for wine enthusiasts. The owner's previous venture (Uva) was well-known among wine enthusiasts in Boston (and beyond) for his carefully-chosen selection of wines, and the extremely reasonable pricing policy. He has kept the idea of reasonable wine prices, and reportedly has upgraded the food. I haven't tried it out yet, but I'm sure I will before long. Another new wine-friendly place, Meritage, in the Boston Harbor Hotel, boasts a long list of wines by the glass and the cuisine of Daniel Bruce, who ran the hotel's previous restaurant, Rowes Wharf. Tapeo (Newbury St., Back Bay) has a good selection of Spanish wines and Sherries, often at reasonable prices. The tapas are quite good, though the entrees can be uneven (except the salt-baked fish, which is excellent). Some people prefer their sister restaurant, Dali (on the Cambridge/Somerville line), which does have a more interesting atmosphere. In the North End (Boston's "Little Italy"), Taranta has some interesting food and wines, focusing on Southern Italy (but don't expect red sauce and checkered tablecloths).
If you're on a budget, you might consider going a bit farther afield, to Cambridge's Atasca (the original location, on Broadway St.). It offers a short list of reasonably-priced Portugese wines, along with simple, well-prepared food (I haven't gone wrong with any seafood dish).
If you are planning to bring a special bottle along to a restaurant, you will probably be out of luck. Few restaurants in Boston allow you to bring your own wine, even for a fee. It is illegal for a Massachusetts restaurant with any type of alcohol license to allow BYO.
Where to Buy Wine:
So you're visiting Boston, and you've tasted a bunch of wines. Now you want to know where to buy a souvenir bottle or two... One thing to keep in mind is that you can't buy a bottle from the Expo, and you can't even take a bottle out of the Expo if someone gives you one. Massachusetts State Police are always around to make sure that Massachusetts laws are enforced. Another thing to remember is that Massachusetts liquor stores are not allowed to open on Sunday (with a few exceptions in some towns near the New Hampshire border), so if you want a souvenir, you should get your shopping done on Saturday.
A couple of years ago, Thor Iverson wrote an excellent guide to Boston wine shops in the Boston Phoenix. I agree with everything he wrote (except that I'm less enthused about Best Cellars than he is), so if you're interested in shopping for wine in Boston, I highly recommend reading his article. If you really must buy wine on Sunday, you can head up to New Hampshire. Most of the NH State Liquor Stores are overrated (more expensive than their discount reputation would suggest, mediocre selection and poor staff). However, the store located off Exit 6 of US 3 in Nashua (Store #69, 27 Coliseum Ave, Nashua, NH 03063) often has some real gems; it's by far the best NH Liquor Store I've found.
I have no connection to the Boston Wine Expo or any other business mentioned on this page, and can make no promises regarding their policies or service. I am providing this information as a public service, in response to many email requests. I have made every effort to ensure that this information is correct, but I make no guarantees.
Email questions, corrections or comments.
Copyright 2000-2003, Marcel Lachenmann