Denver and Aspen are over; Telluride is yet to come
Colorado is now lauded as one of the country’s micro-brewing Meccas. It’s so slouch in the wine department either, which is great for me, because I’m not much of a beer-drinker. Of the two concluded and one upcoming major events in the state on three consecutive weekends, I just made it to one, last weekend’s first annual Colorado Wine Fest — at least a part of it. I got to the tasting. In my mind, I divide the tastings at wine festivals into two categories: indoor tastings where each winery sets up a table indoors to pour and indoor tastings where each one occupies a table in a small wine tent lining a street or set up in a park. Just an observation.
Colorado Winefest, June 9-11
The Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade has been going for two decades in the agricultural hamlet of Palisade near Grand Junction. The first one took place back in 1991, a modest event in the town park when the Colorado wine industry was in its infancy. It is now a robust adolescent with nearly 100 wineries, more than 50 of which are expected at the September festival. The Colorado Mountain Winefest begat the Colorado Winefest which debuted in Denver last weekend. As popular as the original in Palisade has become, there’s a lot to be said for bringing the product to the state’s big population center. Both are fundraisers for the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE), a 501(c)6 non-profit organization of grape growers and winemakers of Colorado. Funds go toward education, seminars, research and equipment purchases to improve the grape growing and winemaking of Colorado wines.
Only Colorado wines (and a few meads) are poured at both last weekend’s Colorado Winefest and the the 20th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest, scheduled for September 15-18 in Palisade’s Riverbend Park. That distinguishes from every other wine festival in the state. Last weekend, at an outdoor tasting at Northfield/Stapleton, I tasted the output of some of Colorado’s pioneer wine-makers and some of the newest. I also met Bob and Mary Stahl who are developing a winery in Fort Lupton and expect to have wines next year. Fort Lupton!
Food and wine go together like, well, food and wine. I watched two chef demonstrations, one by Jean-Luc Voegele, a perennial top finisher in local culinary competitions. For those, he creates elaborate dishes to wow judges and attendees who vote for People’s Choice awards. For the audience at the Colorado Winefest, he prepared a simple dish — herb-roasted lamb, potatoes and ratatouille prepared to French perfection.
This was an impressive premier of a new wine event — one that already was one of the largest on the Front Range right out of the starting blocks.
Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 17-19
I’ve often called the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen the Big Kahuna of food and wine events in Colorado – and one of America’s most prestigious. Everybody who is anybody in the culinary and wine world is there, but I guess I’m nobody because I wasn’t. Unless the pace has changed since I last attended, the first two days are intense, frenetic and dramatic – and on Sunday, today, things calm down considerably. There is a packed calendar of wine and other beverage seminars (some for the general public, some for the trade), cooking demonstrations by big-name celebrity chefs (the audiences don’t get to taste, however, just watch and drool), a phenomenal Grand Tasting in two huge tents and several smaller connecting tents and private parties galore.
The headline event is the introduction of Food and Wine magazines’ Best New Chefs of the year.
The 2011 winners are:
- Bowman Brown & Viet Pham, Forage, Salt Lake City
- Jason Franey, Canlis, Seattle
- Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine and Odd Duck Farm to Trailer, Austin
- Stephanie Izard, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
- James Lewis, Bettola, Birmingham, Alabama
- George Mendes, Aldea, New York
- Carlo Mirarchi, Roberta’s, Brooklyn
- Joshua Skenes, Saison, San Francisco
- Kevin Willmann, Farmhaus, St. Louis
- Ricardo Zarate, Mo-Chica, Los Angeles
No Colorado chefs this year, but at least one from neighboring Utah, one from St. Louis, one from Alabama and only two from New York. A breakthrough year, I’d say.
Telluride Wine Festival, June 22-26
Telluride is one of my favorite towns, and its wine festival — the 30th annual this year — is a terrific event. More foodies, wine-lovers and industry folk than you might imagine hang around for a few days after Food and Wine in Aspen and head down to this enchanted town in southwestern Colorado. New to the Telluride Wine Festival this year are chef and Food Network personality Aarón Sánchez, chef Sue Torres and master sommelier Andrea Robinson.
Returning master somms are Doug Frost, Steve Olson and Greg Harrington. Master sommeliers Ken Fredrickson who used to be in Colorado and Bobby Stuckey who is a fixture on the Colorado wine and restaurant scene are on the roster too. This might just make it the greatest concentration of master sommeliers ever in a town of 2.200 people. Not surprising since this is a wine festival and not billed as a food and wine event.
Of the three festivals on three consecutive weekends in this one state, Telluride is the only one that hasn’t happened yet in 2011. Click here for ticket information. FWIW, the Grand Tasting will be indoors at The Peaks in Mountain Village, and that means tables but no little tents.