The newest name in award-winning wine has Nantucket roots.
While the Nantucket Wine Festival might have been forced to postpone its annual bacchanal due to the coronavirus, one winemaker with island roots has only continued to thrive heading into the spring. Mark Wentworth, who has summered on the island since he was a kid, has achieved an uncommon level of success for a first-time winemaker. Since launching his 2018 vintage this spring, both of Wentworth’s debut pinot noirs scored in the nineties in Wine Enthusiast—an impressive accolade for any winemaker, let alone a novice.
The Wentworth men have been known to make headlines. Many will recall when Mark’s brother, Grant, became the first person to swim from Cape Cod to Nantucket, raising more than $150,000 for the Nantucket Cottage Hospital. Mark accompanied Grant for all thirty-three miles in a kayak to monitor his stroke and fend off great whites. Some three thousand miles to the west of Nantucket, Mark trades his paddles for farming equipment as he and wife Katie tend to their remote property on Mendocino Ridge in Elk, California.
A largely self-taught winemaker, Mark’s hard work and dedication have yieled high-scoring pinot noirs that critics have lauded as “lively, complex, charming and vibrant.” Much of his experience came from collaborating with award-winning winemaker Jason Drew, his neighbor on Mendocino Ridge who has served as his mentor on viticulture and winemaking. “I wear many hats—handling everything from strategy to aspects of vineyard maintenance, working on winemaking, marketing, sales and general administrative needs,” Mark says. “Thankfully, I have my wife Katie to help with raising our daughter and to weigh in on all the big decisions we make.”
Originally from New Jersey, Mark took a circuitous route on his journey into the world of wine. After graduating from St. Andrews University in Scotland and working on Obama’s 2008 campaign, Mark pursued a series of corporate jobs before working in New England breweries. After a year helping tend to a small organic farm in Vermont, Mark decided to pursue a finer craft outdoors. “I always wanted to get into agriculture and winemaking,” he says. “The idea originated as a small kid when I was influenced by my grandmother who grew up in France and came to the United States after World War II. She had a love of wine, a love of life, infectious happiness, and always had a glass of wine in her hand. I dreamed of someday having a vineyard.”
On a ridgetop less than four miles away from the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by towering redwoods and Douglas firs, Mark is fulfilling his childhood dream. Wentworth Vineyard is planted on the grounds of an old horse farm, which enriched the soil with years of natural fertilizer. He has been dedicated to using organic and biodynamic farming methods in creating wine that is vibrant, balanced and perfect for sipping on a summer night. Moreover, he and his wife Katie have committed the fruits of their labors to a greater cause by joining 1% for the Planet, whereby 1 percent of their annual sales are donated to the Save the Redwoods League.
Though Mark and Katie now make their home on the picturesque Mendocino Ridge, they return to the island each summer where their wines offer a perfect pairing. “Nantucket is such a beautiful place with some of the best seafood in the world,” Mark says. “Having spent a lot of time there over the years, I can think of few things better than getting together with some friends on a summer evening, opening a bottle or two of bright, balanced, energetic Wentworth Pinot Noir, grilling a nice piece of fresh fish along with some Bartlett’s veggies, and watching the sunset.” Indeed, we can all toast to that.
To explore Wentworth Vineyard’s complete selection of wines, click here.