Jeanne McGovern

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June 17, 2011
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Local dethrones icon as 'Iron Sommelier' at Aspen Food & Wine

ASPEN - Taking a cue from Food Network's "Iron Chef," the Food & Wine Classic turned Paepcke Park into "cellar stadium" Friday for the first-ever "Iron Sommelier." It was a battle worthy of its namesake."We're doing something that's never been done in the history of the Aspen classic," said wine expert Joshua Wesson, the self-proclaimed Iron Sommelier and emcee for the morning seminar. "Today, we will experience 'Iron Sommelier' ... as these three try to dethrone me."Wesson's competition: Master Sommelier Laura DePasquale, Palm Bay International; Master Sommelier-in-training Vilma Mazaite, The Little Nell; and Master Sommelier Mark Oldman, Brave New World of Wine.With background music from the popular "Iron Chef" television show blaring, the battle began. First up, a pairing with Daniel Boulud's Melon Salad with Lemongrass Shrimp. The four sommeliers made their pitches, presenting wines from Italy, California, France and Germany."Forget these wine geeks. I am all about pleasure," said Oldman, aka Mark "Diggler," who dressed the part of the "Boogie Nights" porn star. "This is not about what they say; what they're passionate about."This is about your choice. And I say it's a Sauvignon Blanc from the good ol' U.S. of A."Wesson rebuffed Oldman's choice of a Flora Springs "Soliloquy," however, touting his own selection."I have a 'V' in my wine selection for 'victory,'" he said, explaining the logic of pairing a sweet wine with a sweet dish like Boulud's salad.Oldman disagreed: "If I wanted Bubble Yum, I'd go to the five-and-dime store."But in the end - judged by rounds of applause from the audience - Wesson prevailed with the Johannishof Johannisberger "V" Reisling Kabinett 2009 (Rhinegau, Germany).His Iron Sommelier designation was still place. It would not last long.In Round 2, the sommeliers paired reds - three from Italy and an Argentinean Malbec - with Mario Batali's Orecchiette with Sweet Sausage and Broccoli. It was a duel that got both technical - words like "minerality," "nose" and "undertones" were bandied about - and tawdry."If Andrew Weiner argued for neutral wood, he'd still be a congressman," joked Wesson.The tame won out, however, with the soft-spoken Mazaite dethroning Wesson with her choice of a Renato Ratti Dolcetto d'Alba 2010 (Piedmont, Italy)."Indulge," said Wesson, sheepishly relinquishing his title of Iron Sommelier. "These are all great wines. This is the truth, whatever that means."

"Iron Sommelier" has a repeat performance - with potentially new results - at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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The Aspen Times Updated Jun 18, 2011 09:51AM Published Jun 17, 2011 11:00PM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.