This weekend, July 11-14
The 5th Annual Crested Butte Wine & Food Festival returns this summer striving to enlighten and educate wine and foodie experts and novices with a variety of wine seminars, elevated dining events, and food pairings throughout the weekend of July 11-14.
Whether you’re a dedicated oenophile or someone who would just like to make it through a wine selection list at a restaurant without feeling lost, there is an event at the Wine & Food Festival for you. Whether you’re drawn to a summery melon undertone of the Chardonnay or a tobacco richness of the Syrah you will find something here to excite your palate.
Local and visiting sommeliers and chefs are the backbone. Music and a movie screening provide the entertainment. Venues are a variety of local restaurants and other downtown locales. If you thought that acquiring even a smidge of a vintner’s knowledge was only for the rich and famous—think again.
The bonus of the festival is that not only does it serve as an excellent opportunity to learn about wine and to dine on fabulous food it also garnishes funds from each event to help financially support the Center for the Arts. The center provides a home for the arts in Crested Butte with live performances in music, dance, theatre and comedy as well as classes in the visual arts and dance. With a core value of accessibility, inclusiveness and diversity to the arts, the center strives to create a facility whose doors are open to everyone.
“There was a natural synergy with the center that we saw through their Tour de Forks fundraising events,” says Jeff Hermanson (festival founder and president of Larimer Associates, which is co-sponsoring the festival), “They already have an excitement for the culinary arts so a collaboration and partnership with them is a great fit. We want this event to also benefit the community. Benefiting the Center is a part of this.”
So cheers everyone, and let the tasting begin!
Learning About Wine
One of the best ways to experience the festival is by partaking in one of the seven wine workshops spread throughout the four days at an assortment of times. You can begin with a “101” type class to initiate you to the world of wine in “Introduction to Fine Wines.” Or, if you would like to focus on a particular varietal, there is “Pinot Noir From Around the World.” You can concentrate on white wines, pairing wines with food, or working exclusively with the wines of Italy. There’s even a cocktail mixology workshop.
Each workshop is led by a certified sommelier to be a true learning experience (as well as an opportunity to taste some fine wines). Both local sommeliers such as Aaron Tomcak or Judy Byron, as well as visiting master sommeliers such as Damon Ornowski and Sean Razee will be conducting the workshops.
All workshops are held through local restaurants such as Lil’s, the Princess Wine Bar or Montanya Distillers. Workshops are $40 each, and you can take one workshop, or all seven.
What would wine be without its constant companion of fine food? To tickle your taste buds there are several foodie events at the festival as well. Saturday features “The Lighter Side of Italian” where chef Kate Ladoulis of the Bacchanale Italian Restaurant (and recent James Beard Foundation honoree), prepares a fresh and satisfying Italian multi-course meal paired with wine. Or, if you would like to luxuriate in a Sunday brunch, sign up for the “Bursting with Bubbles Brunch” for a tasting of champagnes and sparkling wines at the East Side Bistro.
Yet the crème de la crème of dining at the Wine & Food Festival are the Celebrity Chef Tour dinners. Featuring multi-course meals prepared by top chefs from around the country—including ones from Crested Butte—this is fine dining at its peak.
Friday night, at the private home of David and Bonnie Weekley, showcases chefs Jason Vernon, Soupçon; Jorel Pierce, Euclid Hall; Kelly Whitaker, Basta; Eric Jaeger, Crested Butte Mountain Resort; and Hosea Rosenberg, Blackbelly Catering.
Saturday night’s dinner is held at Maxwell’s Steakhouse spotlighting the talents of Tim Egelhoff, Maxwell’s; Alex Seidel, Fruition Restaurant; Mike Isabella, Graffiato; and Kelly Liken, Restaurant Kelly Liken.
Kick Off Party & Screening of
While workshops begin on Thursday, July 11 at 1:30 p.m., the official festival kick-off party is Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at Center for the Arts. Not only will special Merlot and Pinot Noir tastings be available with master sommeliers Damon Ornowski and Sean Razee leading the way, but the Crested Butte Film Festival will show a screening of the film Sideways. One of the best things about the kick-off is that it’s only $10 (if you have a pass it’s free), so this is your most affordable entry point to the festival.
Grand Tasting & Matt Flinner
The signature event of the festival, the Grand Tasting, features more than 25 wineries and distributors and more than 500 wines. Wineries range from family operations concocting handcrafted artisan wines in small batches, to distributors producing more than 32 million cases of wine throughout the world. The main focus, however, is on the exceptional and premium wines (many of them award-winning) of the day. Featured wineries range from Sonoma and Napa Valley in California, to Oregon, New Mexico and even Salida and Paonia. There will be imports from Chile, Italy and Australia. Some have produced wine for more than 30 years. Others are on an oenophile’s “up and coming” list. One winery may specialize in Bordeaux or Pinot, while another presents a full bouquet of the fermented grape. Peppery Zinfandels. Pinot Gris with hints of pear. Cabernet Sauvignons rich with chocolate. Honey-tipped Reislings. A Gewürztraminer lilting on lychee. Voignier wafting of peaches. There’s even local rum and Colorado vodka, just to mix it up a bit. For the connoisseur, if you crave an even more elevated experience, sign up for the preceding Premium Tasting for some truly exquisite wines.
Grammy-nominated mandolinist Matt Flinner livens up both the Premium and Grand Tastings with new twists on bluegrass and American roots music. Hailed by Downbeat Magazine as “one of the best mandolin players ever,” Flinner has established a reputation as one of the most respected composers and innovators in modern American acoustic music. His projects and collaborations range from bluegrass to jazz to classical to new acoustic music, all with the common thread of American roots music with a creative edge. He has toured and recorded with a wide variety of artists, including Tim O’Brien, the Modern Mandolin Quartet, Leftover Salmon, and Alison Brown. His current group, the Matt Flinner Trio (with guitarist Ross Martin and bassist Eric Thorin), has forged new pathways in acoustic string band music.
How to Participate
Festival events can be cherry-picked singularly or you can buy the whole farm. You can spend a little, or a lot. Start by attending the Kick Off Party to get psyched (and it’s only $10 with Pinot Noir tastings). You could attend one workshop if you like for $40, or several, but if you want to attend at least three there is a three-seminar discount for $100.
To take all the seminars is the fabulous deal of $175. The Grand Tasting and Sunday brunch will run you $75 apiece, while the lunch is $60. The fabulous Celebrity Chef Tour dinners are $250. The most popular pass might be the $350 for all the seminars, Sunday Brunch, and Premium and Grand Tastings.
And of course, there is a pass that includes it all, including the Celebrity Chef Tour dinners, for $800. Programs can be found at the Center for the Arts during Box Office Hours at 606 6th Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Reservations can be made online at www.crestedbuttearts.org, or if the any fancy hits you suddenly, you can just drop in to any event of the festival. How’s that for supporting impromptu impulses?
How very Crested Butte.