Sea and Be Scene

Nantucket goes from prep to glam.

Photograph by Tom Olcott

Photograph by Tom Olcott

For as long as East Coast preppies and tycoons have been donning whale belts on weekends, Nantucket has been the place where the uptight go to unwind. And lately it’s been upping its glitz factor, becoming as international as it is fusty Yankee  —  this season, possibly more than ever. Things kick off most uproariously with the Nantucket Wine Festival. What started 14 years ago as a low-key shindig spotlighting a few area chefs and a handful of wineries now pulls in the big guns from Napa, Argentina, and Europe.

“This year we have a visiting exposition from Bordeaux — 12 of the very best winemakers from the famous winemaking village of St. Emilion in France,” says festival founder Denis Toner. “These guys never travel, and they banded together to come join us on our little sandbar for the first time this year.” Attendees journey from equally far away — for the schmoozing, sure, but also for some bona fide education. In addition to the harborside tastings, they line up for seminars featuring experts on everything from rare cheeses to barbecue.

Between imbibing sessions, there are plenty of splashy new places on the island at which to decompress. By the time of the festival, chefs Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon will have just opened Ventuno, with an Italian menu best enjoyed on the high-energy patio they’re creating. The White Elephant, where the festival takes place, now offers marble-lined residences in six separate buildings just steps from the fray. Bigger groups can book at Harborview Place which has just-renovated villas available for rent and will happily stock your fridge with groceries — or secure hard-to-get dining reservations.

Which brings us to the ideal way to leave the island on Sunday: after brunch at Corazón del Mar. Co-owners Angela and Seth Raynor have made the pan-Latin joint a must-reserve for dinner, and now they’ve added a midday meal to be reckoned with. Grab a seat at the bar, order a bloody mary, and gaze through the window as tout Nantucket strolls by.

> Nantucket Wine Festival, May 18 – May 22; for schedules and tickets, go to

> Ventuno, 21 Federal St.
> The White Elephant, 50 Easton St., 800-445-6574,
> Harborview Place, 24 Washington St., 800-495-9961,
> Corazón del Mar [ 21 s. Water St., 508-228-0815,