Category Archives: wine

Great Deal on Denver Winefest Tix

Metro area wine festival for a song.

DenverWineFest2015-dealI plan to be at the upcoming Denver International Wine Festival for several events. I am again honored to be a judge at the October 29 Parisine wine/food pairing competition, when 10 leading regional chefs will vie for honors in their creativity in preparing dishes to pair with 20 gold medal-winning wines from 2015 Denver International Wine Competition. I’m always blown away by the creativity these chefs exhibit.

The Grand Tasting is the highlight of every wine festival, and organizers of the metro Denver event have dropped the price on entry to the Grand Tasting on October 30 — more than 400 wines, beers and spirits, plus small food samples and food for sale —  for three indulgent hours, 6 to 9 p.m. To buy tickets for just $45 each — regularly $75, including a logo glass, go to <> .

The Festival takes place at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, conveniently just off US 36 whose upgrade is almost complete. Spend the night at the Omni for only $99, take a taxi,  use Uber or have a designated driver so you can fully enjoy the evening.

Don’t-Miss Food & Wine Events

Denver, Broomfield & Boulder host three very different events.

Denver Harvest Week, October 5-9

Harvest-Week-logoGrowHaus, a multi-pronged attack on north Denver’s food desert,  an educational enterprise and a supplier of sustainable foods, again hosts Harvest Week. Each night, a group chefs from independent restaurants come together to create pop-up parties (four dinners, one brunch at the GrowHaus, the city’s ultimate urban garden. Every day includes a full bar, copious amounts of food, and endless amounts of fun. All the festivities of the week go to support EatDenver and the Growhaus. Click here for details and tickets.

Flatirons Food Film Festival, October 19-24

FlatironsFoodFilmFest-logoSix days of films (six features plus shorts), special events, talks, a sushi walk and more taking place in several Boulder venues. The Films page contains descriptions and trailers for all of feature-length films, plus information about short films and events. The new Tickets page contains information about individual films and events, plus different types of passes. The big name is James Beard Award-winning chef Andy Ricker of the Pok Pok restaurant empire in Portland, Oregon, who appears Friday, October 23. He is supporting of “Farang,” a documentary chronicling his search for authentic flavor. He has appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s television series, No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and introduces the film and participates in a Q&A session after the screening.

Denver International Wine Festival, October 28-30

Pairsine-logo3The Denver International Wine Festival drops anchor at the Omni Interlocken in Broomfield with a packed schedule of tastings and seminars. Highlights are the Grand Vinters Dinner at the Omni’s Meritrage Restaurant on Wednesday, the Pairsine wine-pairing competition where top regional chefs prepare dishes to pair with gold medal award-winning wines from an earlier wine competition and the Grand Tasting on Friday. This year’s honorary host is Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. Click here to purchase tickets.

Everything’s Coming Up Rosé

Celebrating a favorite wine for the warm months.

RoseWinesWhen my husband and I visited Greece last year, I started drinking the country’s rosé wines. It started a summer of drinking these light and lovely wines almost every evening. Therefore, I’m cheered that the first-ever Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival is coming to the Omni Interlocken Resort’s Outdoor Pavilion in Broomfield on Thursday, June 11.

Chris and Darcy Davies, the fine folks who run the Denver International Wine Festival and other events celebrating adult beverages and interesting food, are presenting Drink Pink Vino. Davies clears up a common misconception of what rosés are: “Far from being a diluted red, rosés are produced from the same grapes as more full-bodied reds, but the juice is only allowed to ferment with the grape skins for a few days, giving rosés their delicate pink color.  Rosé wine consumption in the U.S. is growing by double digits. More and more producers are releasing their versions of incredibly food-friendly Rosés. The Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival offers wine enthusiasts the chance to sample over sixty new releases right before the summer Rosé drinking season.”

Rosé brands committed to pour at the event include Ponzi Vineyards, Chêne Bleu, Presuqu’ile, Buglioni, Schramsberg, Scharffenberger and Henri Gaillard Rosé Côtes, Barton & Guestier, Saved, Rosatella , Mouton Cadet, Simi, Wild Horse and Creekside Cellars.

Celebrity hosts will include Top Chef Season 5 Winner Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Market and Restaurant and Madeleine de Jean (aka, “Madame Champagne”). Participating restaurants include Blackbelly, Oceanaire Seafood Room and Big Mac & Little Lu’s Seafood Room.

Click here to purchase general admission or VIP tickets.

Well-Priced Wine Pairing with Master Somm’

1515 Restaurant’s May 27 dinner promises great food & wines to match for $65.

1515Restaurant-logoI don’t usually post news about wine-pairing dinners because there are so many, But this one caught my eye for two reasons. First, the wines will be introduced by Emily Papach, the 19th woman in the nation to have earned the title of Master Sommelier (out of 21 total). She will lead a very special wine dinner (menu below) at 1515 Restaurant in Denver on Wednesday, May 27 at 6:00 p.m.  Second was the price. The dinner including paired wines is only $65 per person (plus tax and gratuity).  Believe me when I say that this is a helluva a deal for such a dinner. Food alone at wine-pairing dinners is often that much, with the wines additional.

1515 Restaurant is a fine-dining restaurant known for modern American cuisine in a relaxed yet elegant setting. “This is a rare opportunity to get to know one of the most respected wine experts in the US and taste wines paired with food she recommends,” said restaurateur Gene Tang. himself a First Level sommelier.  “We’re going to have a lot of fun with this event. I’m sure there will be some spirited debates over which ones go best with each course.” I’m really looking forward to this evening.

This splendid disk of roast duck with mixed greens and duck cracklings on mac-and-cheese is not on the Chappalette dinner menu. I offer it here only to show a 1515 Restaurant presentation.
Roast duck with mixed greens and duck cracklings on mac-and-cheese is not on the Chappellet dinner menu. I offer it here only to show a 1515 Restaurant presentation.

About the Sommelier


Emily Papach got on the fast track to Master Sommelier certification, sometimes called the toughest education in the world. After graduating from the University of Virignia in 2044, she started working at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern in New York City. She was a wine captain and cellar assistant, while completing the Diploma studies for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.  In 2008, she relocated to her home state of Virginia, to become a salesperson for specialty importer and Master Sommelier, Fran Kysela.  Emily then enrolled in the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Course in 2009 and completed the Certified Exam that same year.  In the spring of 2010, she passed the Advanced Exam in Anaheim on her first attempt. Not many Master Somms pass the first time. She is currently the national sales analyst and wine educator at Chappellet Vineyard, a family-owned Napa Valley winery that was founded in 1967.

Below is the menu that Gene Tang has planned and the wines Emily Papach has selected to pair with it. A bonus: Each guest at Wednesday’s dinner will be entered into a drawing to win a 1.5-liter bottle of Cambria wine.

The Menu

First Course

Crispy Fried Hen Egg | Frog Leg ragout, Spring Pea, Ramp, Vin Juane
Wine: Cambria “Tepusquet Vineyard’ Viognier 2013

Second Course

Roasted Sturgeon | Lemon Beurre Blanc, Fiddlehead Fern, Caper
Wine: Cambria “Katherine’s Vineyard” Chardonnay

Third Course

Seared Beef Tenderloin | Bone Marrow Crusted, Rainbow Chard, Wild Mushroom Bordeaulaise
Wine: Freemark Abbey “Sycamore Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Fourth Course

Chocolate and Sea Salt  – Cocoa Nib Tuiles, Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Wine: Cambria “Tequsquet Vinyard” Syrah 2012

Reservations can still be made by calling the restaurant at 303-571-0011 or online.

Cortez Could Anchor Colorado’s Next Big Wine Region

Plenty of potential acreage in Four Corners area.

ColoWine-logoWe’ve all heard about the Hatfields and the McCoys, a couple of eternally feuding families on West Virginia-Kentucky line. Southwestern Colorado, specifically McElmo Canyon near Cortez, has its equivalent in the wine biz. Guy Drew and John Sutcliffe are neighboring wine-growers and wine-makers there, but they reportedly get along as well as the Hatfields and the McCoys. I don’t know why, and I don’t really care, but it seems that if they could smoke a peace pipe, they could create a fantastic wine region to both rival and complement Colorado’s two existing American Viticultural Areas, the Grand Valley (i.e., Palisade area) and West Elk AVAs.

A New AVA in the Future?

Godot Communications, a Boulder agency with wine accounts, hosted an intimate tasting the other evening. We sampled wines from just two producers: the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City and the Guy Drew Vineyards in Cortez. And we talked about vineyards and wineries and wines. I learned that there are roughly 1,000 acres planted in wine grapes in Colorado, 85% of that in the Palisade area. Drew and his wife, Ruth, moved from the Denver area not to the Grand River Valley but to Cortez and began transforming a former hay farm into a vineyard, creating a winery and building a straw bale home under the big skies of the southwestern Colorado.


McElmo Canyon presents vintners unique challenges, and Guy Drew for one has addressed them. The vineyards on the 155-acre property are sited to preserve the high desert piñon-juniper landscape, riparian wildlife areas and also the Ancient Puebloan ruins. Land stewardship, thoughtful growing practices, thrifty use of natural resources and respect for cultural resources allow Guy Drew Vineyards to continue crafting fine Colorado wine while safeguarding the future of its historic surroundings. In addition to his own land, Drew has a handful of growers tending 4- to 8-acre vineyards for him. He works with members of the Ute Mountain Utes to grow outside of the tribal park,

Godot’s Jacob Harkins, a friend of Guy Drew, told me that the winemaker has been crunching numbers and  believes that there are up to 40,0o0 acres suitable for vinifera in the Cortez/McElmo area. Think about it: that’s a potential of four times the current state-wide acreage. Once there were apple trees, but when the juice processing plant closed some time in the distant past, growers stopped maintaining the orchards. Just like the Palisade area with its abundant orchards is hospitable to grapes, so is this part of Colorado.

Guy Drew Vineyards has a new tasting room at Mesa Indian Trading Company & Gallery (which locals call “The Pottery”) on US Highway 160 just outside of Cortez. At this time of year, it is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. There is also a tasting room at the winery, where visitors are likely to meet Guy, Ruth or both. The address is 19891 Road G, which is about 1 mil southwest of town. Take l160/491 to the first traffic light and turn right. FoMoInfo, call 970-565-9211.

SmileWink-emoticonAnd if you are of a mind to visit Sutcliffe Vineyards too, the winery and tasting room are at 12174 Road G. FoMoInfo, call 970-565-0825. Just don’t tell either that you visited the other.

2015 Wine & Food Festivals in the Colorado Rockies

ColoradoFlagDurango, Telluride & Steamboat put on really good wine and food fests.

Most of us don’t have the budget for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen (June 19-21 this year), an annual see-and-be-seen extravaganza in Aspen, but smaller events are both more affordable and more manageable. Here are a few of Colorado’s upcoming festivals in the high country. Expect to find such components as a grand tasting of hundreds of wines and perhaps other adult beverages, wine-pairing dinners in local restaurants, tastings guided by top sommeliers, cooking demonstrations by local or visiting chefs and other food/wine options. Click on the links for price and ticketing info. When it comes to events in mountain towns, consider that lodging is always at low-season prices in spring and still affordable in summer.

April 23-25 and May 19

DurangoWineExperience-logoComing right up is the ninth annual Durango Wine Experience in Historic Downtown Durango that starts with a special VIP welcome reception on the evening of April 23 that is followed by public tastings, more than seven educational wine, craft beer and spirit seminars and multiple wine dinners. The multi-location “Walk-About” on Friday, April 24 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. features tastings in downtown galleries, shops and such delightful outdoor venues as the Rochester Hotel Courtyard and Steamworks Brewing Company’s Patio. It benefits the United Way of Southwest Colorado.

A few short weeks later, on May 19, Main Street is shut down for the Taste of Durango, a one-day event to benefit the Manna Soup Kitchen. Featuring local craft breweries, artisan cocktails and countless samples of the interesting and high-quality cuisine that Durango’s top restaurants offer. In addition to food and drink, guests enjoy a fantastic selection of music, dancing, fun and friends, old and new.

June 25-28

The Telluride Wine Festival benefits from timing, coming on the heels of the Food and Wine Classic. A number of vendors/exhibitors/chefs customarily stick around and do both. At this writing (late April), the schedule of classes and small-batch tastings, list of exhibitors and roster of guest chefs and sommeliers was not yet available. But traditionally, more than 1,000 guests attend the large tastings, which include wine, spirits and unique foods.

August 5-9

The Steamboat Wine Festival is noteworthy for its mix of wine, food and outdoor activities on the mountain, in restaurants, classrooms, and around town. Seminars and tastings increase knowledge, and enjoyment of food and wine, and other activities including hikes, bike rides and standup paddling. To stay informed on all the happenings, check out the website. And FWIW, the Farm to Barn dinner on August 8 is already sold out.

Colorado Has a New Master Sommelier

Mea culpa. Make that “Colorado almost has a New Master Sommelier.”

Master Sommelier Nick Barb.
Master Sommelier Nick Barb.

Yesterday I posted the following:

“Nicholas Barb, sommelier at The Little Nell Hotel’s Element 47  in Aspen, was one of 18 candidates who just passed the grueling Master Sommelier examination. If you saw the movie, “Somm,” you might have an inkling of what a triumph it is to pass this odyssey of deep knowledge about wine, super-human tasting skills and exemplary service set forth by the Court of Master Sommeliers. He follows in the footsteps of Richard Betts, who gained the honor in 2003 when he was with the Little Nell.”

And I did it in good faith, thanks to incomplete information I found on Facebook — not posted by the Little Nell but by someone else. Turns out that Barb passed the Advanced Sommelier exam, one step below Master Somm, which the Little’s PR spokeswoman May Selby “is the likely next goal.” I jumped the gun, I hope my mistake foretells Barb’s future. I really do know better, but it also explains why 18 names appeared on the list — a number never achieved in one year at the Master Somm level. It should have been a red flag, and it is a reminder to me not to take half-baked info for gospel.
Barb’s bio on the hotel website reads:

“Like many culinary professionals, Nick Barb made his debut with a high school job in a local kitchen. Smitten, he later traded international business and economics studies for a place at the Culinary Institute of America. While there, he took an internship at the Larkspur Restaurant and Market in Vail, where he was once more smitten, this time by the Rockies. In 2009, Nick joined the team at Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan, where he spent five years honing his wine knowledge and his craft of impeccable but relaxed service. During his tenure, the restaurant received three Michelin stars and was rated the fifth-best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino. But the mountains were calling, and we’re happy to claim Nick as one of our own now. With the ability to interact with guests from around the world, study for his master sommelier exam with our world-famous team and ski – Nick’s happy too.”

Congratulations are in order.