Cellardoor Winery Presents Vinfest 2012

Cellardoor Winery’s Vinfest event is both elegant and over the top. Having never been to the Lincolnville estate or an event hosted by owner Bettina Doulton, I have no idea what to expect. What I experience is beyond my imagination, and I know I’m not alone in my amazement as I see the same expression of wonder on faces of other guests—even from those who attend the event each year.

From the moment I park my car, I am whisked into a world of generosity and decadence. A shuttle immediately appears and I am out of the rain and at the entrance of a white tent. Once there a beautiful woman in a silver dress—Bettina herself, greets me. As I make my way to the lounge area for the cocktail hour, all that I see takes me aback.

The room is a dazzling vision of silver, white, and glitter. Huge vases are filled with white plumes, crystal chandeliers drip jewels over the bar area, and white leather couches offer a place to chat. Liberace’s famous rhinestone piano twinkles on stage while the band Swing Shift fills the room with smooth jazz. Showgirls dressed in white feathers and silver beads pose for photos with guests, and purple and fuchsia lights play off the silver and white walls.

The passed hors d’oeuvres are as impeccable and glamorous as the decor and I don’t hesitate to sample them all—oysters Rockefeller, bacon wrapped Gorgonzola stuffed dates, caviar topped smoked salmon crepes, and polenta cakes with pancetta and seasoned apples. I try the soup shooters too—borscht and vichyssoise.

My pineapple cocktail with a pink sugared rim is a fun way to kick off the night, but I look forward to trying the featured Cellardoor wines. The chablis-style chardonnay has minimal oak, while the pinot gris is bright with citrus notes. The off-dry Perfect Stranger is made with Cayuga grapes and teases me into thinking it’s both sweet and spicy. For reds, the dolcetto is rich and reminiscent of mocha, and the trilogy—a blend of grenache, syrah and mouvedre—has a distinct black pepper kick.

When the silver curtain rises to reveal an enormous dining room, I lose my breath. Over-sized white chandeliers dripping with crystals are suspended over tables covered in silver and white place settings. I search for my seat and notice each table is topped with a mirror—Bettina tells me later this mirrored tabletop is the sole inspiration for the party’s decor. When I find my table, I discover the first course prepared by chef Michael Salmon of the Hartstone Inn in Camden is awaiting my arrival.

His creative appetizer is Maine lobster, butternut squash, and lightly dressed arugula. Autumn flavors are playfully represented by a piece of bread shaped like an oak leaf. The trilogy blanc, a balanced blend of roussanne, marsanne, and viognier, pairs beautifully with the rich and peppery flavors in the dish.

Chef Melissa Kelly of Rockland’s Primo makes her first appearance at Vinfest this year and prepares a hearty ravioli and fall vegetable course. When I cut into the ravioli, a perfectly runny egg yolk mixes with the other elements of the dish—roasted cauliflower, bitter radicchio, and salty pancetta. The paired wine is grenache, which complements the pasta with its soft, warm spice.

The third course is prepared by chef David Turin of David’s Monument Square in Portland, David’s 388, and soon-to-be-opened David’s Opus 10 —butter poached lobster and herb crusted hake with an earthy chanterelle mushroom risotto cake and citrus truffle dressed micro greens. Cellardoor’s crisp pinot gris not only cuts through the buttery richness of the seafood, but emulates the citrus dressing.

To finish the meal, chef Geoffroy Deconinck of Natalie’s at the Camden Harbor Inn prepares the biggest, most luscious braised beef short rib I have ever eaten. With its hearty fall vegetables, smooth and tangy celeriac puree, and rich sauce bordelaise, this dish is meant to be paired with Prince Valiant, a blend of full-bodied malbec, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon.

After the final course, guests start to gravitate toward the dessert buffet. There I find an astonishing assortment of chocolates, salted caramel cupcakes, cake, pie, cookies, and panna cotta. The equally sweet sound of Jesse Campbell from NBC’s The Voice draws guests to the dance floor. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, we are invited back to the dining room to find it has been transformed once again, and through a smoky haze, the Commodores take the stage.

Walking back to my car I wonder if any party can top this experience. From the quality of food and caliber of the chefs, to the wine, decor, and entertainment, the 2012 Vinfest is a night to remember. I’m already looking forward to next year, anticipating another awe-inspiring evening.

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