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."firstname.lastname@example.org
"Iron Sommelier" has a repeat performance - with potentially new results - at 10 a.m. Saturday.