NOT SO FAST: Denis Toner

A quick chat with Wine Fest founder, Denis Toner.

N MAGAZINE: What was your inspiration behind bringing a wine festival to Nantucket?
TONER: My twenty-five years of experience in the wine trade told me that Nantucket was a perfect site for a wine festival: great restaurants, culinary history, and a clientele with the wherewithal and the passion for great wine.

Not So FastN MAGAZINE: Do you have any secrets or funny stories from Wine Festivals past?
TONER: The first year, we saved money by buying cardboard painter’s buckets at Marine Lumber to use as spit buckets at the Grand Tastings at the Sconset Casino. By the middle of the afternoon, they were decomposing, and none of the volunteers would touch them.

N MAGAZINE: If you were asked to put together a time capsule so that people would be able to understand what the Wine Festival is all about twenty years from now, what would you put in it?
TONER: A cocktail napkin with red wine stains — a scratch and sniff remembrance! (My wife Susan’s idea is: The bodies of 25 over-worked volunteers.)

N MAGAZINE: What advice did you give Mark Goldweitz when passing the Wine Festival torch?
TONER: Be true to Nantucket.

N MAGAZINE: What are your thoughts about the festival as it exists today?
TONER: I’m pleased with the emphasis that Mark and Nancy Bean have put on programs to benefit the young people of Nantucket.

N MAGAZINE: What’s the greatest sip of wine you’ve ever taken at the festival?
TONER: Easy: 1961 Château Latour en magnum. An unearthly pleasure.

N MAGAZINE: What’s the biggest misconception people have about wine?
TONER: They over intellectualize it. Wine is simply a great sensory adventure.

N MAGAZINE: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
TONER: That I was a single father.

N MAGAZINE: What meal would you request before the electric chair?
TONER: First of all, I’m not guilty. But why not braised electric eel?

N MAGAZINE: When did you take your first sip of wine?
TONER: It was Lancers Rosé at the Café Rouge in downtown Boston, served by my parents on the occasion of my high school graduation.

N MAGAZINE: Do you know of any good hangover cures?
TONER: Hangovers are caused by guilt. There is no cure.

N MAGAZINE: Are there any wines out there that you’re still dying to try?
TONER: Many. That’s what keeps me so enthralled by the wine game.

N MAGAZINE: What wine regions should people pay more attention to?
TONER: In France, I would look to the wines from the Languedoc. In America, many good things are happening on the Sonoma Coast.

N MAGAZINE: Do you have a philosophy behind how you live your life? What’s most important to you?
TONER: I love people, and I love the fact that wine can bring people together. It’s a very civilizing beverage.