Birthday girl Jodi Jacobsen hit the Smuggler Racquet Club tennis courts to ring in the start to her next decade with a party for friends and family on Sunday, May 21. Her mom, Ruth Jacobson, and sister, Jamie Cygeilman, came to town to help her celebrate and honor her dad, who slipped away 30 years prior and would have loved the tradition. “He always made special occasions extra special for our family,” said Jodi. Her birthday fête was a fun-filled day with food and drink, tennis and pickle ball, music, and quality time with loved ones. “Thanks to Atlas Pizza on-the-road for the savory bites, Matsuhisa for the delicious sushi-to-go, Mendy for the green juice for gardener cocktails, Chris Kelly for working way too hard before, during and after, and everyone for coming.”
Mountain Mayhem: Tennis anyone?
WineInk: The Little Nell pours it on this summer
It’s summer, and the culinary and wine teams at Aspen’s Little Nell hotel are gearing up for some serious events.
It all begins with the Aspen Food & Wine Classic when they pair the wines of France’s Krug Champagne house with the cuisine of guest chef Nathan Rich of Vermont’s standout Relais & Château property, Twin Farms. The special dinner will take place on Friday night, June 16, and is sure to be a highlight of the 40th anniversary edition of the Classic.
Then, in July, the five-diamond, five-star property will present the third annual Little Nell Culinary Fest featuring eight chefs from esteemed Relais & Châteaux properties throughout North America. Launched as a passion project in 2021 by the Nell’s culinary director, Matt Zubrod, as a fill in for the then postponed Food & Wine Classic, the four-day event has found footing as a celebration of the best of the Relais & Châteaux culinary teams and a singularly sensational event.
THE KRUG DINNER
When they give you lemons, you make, well, the freshest and zestiest foods for the summer season. Such is the case with the five-course meal that Chef Rich will prepare to augment the finest wines from one of the most renowned purveyors of bubbles in all of Champagne.
Founded in Reims, France, in 1843 by the German-born Joseph Krug, the House of Krug has become a beacon for Champagne connoisseurs who seek out the annual releases of the Krug Grande Cuvée, which is blended from 120 individually made lots of wines from a decade of vintages. This non-vintage gem, in their distinctive, narrow-necked bottles, is a Champagne designed to create a style of its very own and has been released every year since the inception of Krug. The unique wines sit in bottle for at least six years and are the product of decades of winemaking. They are, in fact, a work of art.
Little Nell Wine Director Chris Dunaway is looking forward to pouring the Krug wines: “We’re incredibly excited to be able to partner with our friends at Krug and Twin Farms for this phenomenal occasion during Food & Wine. Krug, to me, is a benchmark of luxury. Each selection represents the perfect combination of intensity, elegance, refinement, and extraordinary complexity. To many in the industry, the Grande Cuvée is considered one of the greatest if not the greatest multi-vintage blend on the planet.”
Each year, the House of Krug selects a humble single ingredient to honor and invites renowned Krug Ambassade chefs to create food pairings to accompany the latest editions of Krug Grande Cuvée and Krug Rosé. In 2023, chefs have been asked to celebrate what Krug has selected as its “beacon of generosity and vitality and the first fruit to be elected Single Ingredient: the vibrant citrus called lemon.”
So it is that Chef Rich will travel from his home in Barnard, Vermont, and celebrate lemons. As a chef who delights in the preparation of light, local, fresh, and clean cuisine, the opportunity to pair lemon-influenced dishes with the wines of the House of Krug will be a delight. On the planned menu will be a Lemon Olive Oil Poached Sturgeon, Vichyssoise, Trout Roe dish and a Summer Berry Pavlova, Yuzu, Lemon Ash dessert — all served with different releases of the Krug Grande Cuvée and the Krug Rosé, poured from magnums and jeroboam bottlings. An elegant and tasty, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you are so inclined, the Nell is the site of two more special wine-centric dinners during the Food & Wine Classic week. On the Wednesday before the Classic, California winemaker Chris Carpenter will be pouring the wines of the Jackson Family Wines Spire Collection, including wines he has overseen like La Jota, Lakoya, and Cardinale. Then on Saturday, there will be a Library Dinner with Gaia Gaja, as she brings her family’s esteemed Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello, and “Super-Tuscan” wines to the Nell from Piedmonte for a special evening.
Seats can be purchased at bit.ly/Nell-Events-June2023.
THE LITTLE NELL CULINARY FEST
The second week of July will see the third iteration of what is fast becoming a summer tradition in Aspen, as the Nell hosts its eponymous food and wine event. The fest will feature a series of food and wine focused breakfasts, lunches, and dinners over four days at the Nell — all paired with the appropriate wines, of course.
This year’s edition will see Matt Zubrod, the founder of the fest, and Oscar Carrasco, executive chef at The Little Nell, open their prestigious kitchens to host Relais & Châteaux chefs, including: Julian Eckhardt, culinary director at the revered Inn at Little Washington in Virginia; Jack Mahoney, executive chef at Magee Homestead in Wyoming; and the aforementioned Chef Nathan Rich, a mountain biker who can’t seem to get enough of Aspen.
“Since 2015, when I joined The Little Nell and the Relais & Chateaux chef community, I immediately discovered a shared commitment to quality, a passion and commitment to hospitality, and for the most part with little to no ego,” Zubrod said about the chefs who join him in Aspen for the fest.
For its part, the Nell’s wine team — including sommeliers Rachael Liggett-Draper, Jesse Libby, Jon Koch, and wine director Dunaway — will be joined by former Nell-ian Carlton McCoy, who is now a managing partner at Lawrence Wine Estates. McCoy will be presenting a Napa Valley Wine Class and Lunch at the ASPENX Mountain Club on Wednesday, July 12. He will also lead a special tasting in the Nell’s wine cellar, where he will pour wines from the Lawrence Wine Estate portfolio, including Heitz Cellar, Stony Hill, Burgess, Ink Grade, Haynes Estate, and Châteaux Lascombes.
“It’s always special when you’re able to bring home legends like Carlton,” Dunaway said about having his friend and colleague come to the fest. “His impact on our wine program’s legacy has been seismic. Just to be able to sling some bottles like old times and catch up will be a pleasure.”
In addition to a wide variety of activities, including a bike around of Aspen, mushroom foraging in the local mountains, and a delightful tour of the Nell’s amazing gardens hosted by Arabella Beavers-Kaplansky, who is the keeper of the green kingdom, there are three meals each day at the Nell for attendees who purchase the full Culinary Fest passes. There are also special dining events, including a street festival on the patio of Ajax Tavern and a gala dinner in Element 47 that will feature cuisine prepared by the chefs from the Relais & Châteaux properties.
Long before the trend of what are now called boutique hotels, the restaurants and hotels that were members of Relais & Châteaux were renowned for their high standards and individuality.
In 1954, Marcel and Nelly Tilloy, who owned a hotel and restaurant on the Right Bank of the Rhône called La Cardinale, came up with the idea of branding related properties under the slogan “La Route du Bonheur,” or the “Road of Happiness.” The different houses, or hotels, each with their own distinct character, lined the road from Paris to Nice, united by shared values of the finest of amenities, outstanding fine dining and wine service, and individual interpretations of the art of living.
Today, the Relais & Châteaux is a confederation of 580 uniquely authentic hotel and restaurant properties, including The Little Nell, that remain committed to providing guests the finest in wine, gastronomy, and a taste of the local culture.
Three years into the Little Nell’s Culinary Festival history, Zubrod is pleased with the progress he has seen: “The Little Nell Culinary Fest has exceeded my expectations. It’s like inviting your childhood heroes to your house to cook dinner with you. Entering our third year, it’s getting harder as so many chefs want to come to Aspen, so the first five that reply to me in time get the nod!”
A la carte tickets are available to the public for the individual events ranging from $100 to $250 per seat. There is also a Culinary Fest package with bundled pricing starting at $1,500 per person. Guests who purchase the full Culinary Fest package will receive 40% off accommodations at The Little Nell. Registration is now open, and seats at the table are going fast. To register, go to bit.ly/Nell-Events-June2023.
Summer is here, and the living is easy.
Asher on Aspen: All in a New York minute
Stepping out into the smoggy late-night streets while hailing down a cab from LaGuardia Airport, I knew I was a long way from home. The bright lights and bustling city noise kept me alert after a long day of travel. It was almost as if I had been shaken awake from the snow-globe dream I was living in after what felt like a never-ending winter in Aspen. We pulled up to my sister’s apartment in Astoria, and I was immediately welcomed by a familiar face.
My sister gave me a tour of her apartment with her impressive rooftop views, and instantly, I could feel the energy of the city. After just a few hours out and about in Queens, I was exhausted in the best way. I fell asleep to the subtle sirens and honking in the distance and fantasized about what our next day would look like.
It’s true what they say: Everything is faster in New York City — the nightlife, the people, the conversations, the walking. Quite literally, New York is the city that never sleeps. The subway runs 24 hours a day, bars are open until 4 a.m., and the lights are always on in Times Square.
As soon as we stepped off the subway at the Fifth Avenue–59th Street station, I was wide-eyed and over-stimulated as I scanned my surroundings. I could almost feel different parts of my personality emerging that I hadn’t tapped for years. Walking out into a sea of skyscrapers, buzzing crowds, and traffic commotion — it felt like I had just slammed a few shots of tequila without having drank anything at all. I was drunk on the energy of it all, and I loved it.
The first experience was afternoon tea at The Plaza Hotel. The fancy teapots, decadent tiers of petite pastries and finger sandwiches, and the excuse to get a little dressed up for the occasion? Yes, please! The posh interior of the restaurant featured high ceilings, Roman statues, and lush greenery. The Plaza has so beautifully perfected this time-honored tradition of afternoon tea, and it was the ideal outing to set the vibe for the weekend.
From the finest of restaurants to the most luxurious of shops, NYC is known for its extravagance and sophistication. Seeing as how my sister and I were already dressed to the nines in cocktail dresses and high heels from our tea date at The Plaza, we decided it would be fun to mosey into Tiffany’s (the flagship store on 5th Avenue). With scenes from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” running through my mind, I was excited to see the building remodel and dive into the full Audrey Hepburn experience.
Eventually, we found ourselves at Da Marino, an authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of the theater district. It was a delightful little place that served up traditional Italian fare and live music. Looming in the corner sat a mysterious piano man who kept the guests entertained throughout their dining experience. He belted out lyrics to “Light My Fire,” by The Doors, while we sipped cabernet and devoured our delicious pasta dishes.
Conveniently located, Da Marino was just a block away from the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Here, we had tickets to see “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” As a big fan of Baz Luhrmann’s revolutionary film, my sister and I were impressed with how they brought the film to life onstage. The three-hour performance led us into a world of splendor and romance, eye-popping excess, and luxurious enchantment.
Saturday evening, we stumbled upon a trendy SoHo restaurant on the corner of Prince and Sullivan Streets called The Dutch. Known for its well-stocked oyster bar, The Dutch served up Southern comfort food like hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits and slaw. This was the ideal spot to have a nice meal and catch up with my sister.
After dinner, we walked a couple blocks to explore the famous Washington Square Park. All I could think about was that scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” For those who know the film, it’s when Harry and Sally first arrive in New York after their road trip together from Chicago. She looks at him and says, “Well, have a nice life.”
Even though Times Square was filled with an overflow of tourists and street performers, I was still impressed by the magnitude and liveliness of it all. As Alicia Keys would say, “These streets will make you feel brand-new. Big lights will inspire you.” Our trip wrapped up on Sunday with a leisurely brunch, followed by some bar hopping around Bayside with my sister’s closest friends.
Throughout the trip, my sister and I realized that we both lead drastically different lives. To put things into perspective, I carry bear spray, while my sister carries pepper spray. I ride around town on my Vespa, while my sister travels around by means of the subway. I am on the lookout for mountain lions and bears, while my sister keeps an eye out for dangerous criminals.
As I write this piece, listening to the river run outside my bedroom window, I’m happy for my travels, but I’m also happy to be home.
Mountain Mayhem: Aspen Elementary School Dance
Maybe one of the most fun Fridays I’ve had all year was on May 19 on the playground and in the gym at Aspen Elementary School for the first-ever, end-of-year Summer Dance Party. Presented by the Parent Teacher Organization and a team of amazing moms, the evening was pure fun. A flier promoting the event indicated all families, teachers, staff, and siblings were invited — and they all came!
The one caveat was all children needed to be accompanied by an adult, which created a safe and supportive environment and encouraged even more participation. DJ Naka G played from 5-7 p.m. to a packed dance floor while kids also played on the playground and Rolling Rock and El Yaqui food trucks offered great food options and for a reasonable rate of $10 per adult and $5 per child.
Drinks and ice cream were hosted, and special thanks goes to the sponsors including Alpine Bank, Aspen Elks Lodge 224, and the Welgos family. And a very sincere thank you goes to the team behind the scenes — Emily Farrell, Vanessa Adam, Lauren Waldron, Stacy Vidamour, Mae Bory, Anne Johnston, Kristen Firman, Izzi Wagner, Vanessa Leighton, and Principal Ashley Bodkins. Happy Summer!
WineInk: Winemaking is freedom
One thing about this town: If you are looking to attend a fundraiser in the support of a good cause, you certainly have your choice of options.
But few events on the philanthropic calendar have as enlightening and compatible premise as that being offered at a fundraiser the night before the Food & Wine Classic to benefit our own Aspen Public Radio. Winemaking is Freedom is a special wine-tasting event and dinner that will welcome noted Washington, D.C., restaurateur Rose Previte and her husband, David Greene, formerly of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” They are the founders of Go There Wines, an organization intent on not just selling great wine, but also on disrupting and expanding the current paradigm of the wine world.
A perfect way to kick off the Classic, the fundraiser takes place on Thursday, June 15, starting with a wine tasting from 4-6 p.m. ($250/person), followed by an exclusive, limited-seat dinner at 7 p.m. ($500/person), hosted by Marsha and David Dowler on the grounds of their beautiful home in Aspen’s West End. You can purchase tickets by contacting Aspen Public Radio Membership Coordinator Lauri Jackson at 970-920-9000 or go to aspenpublicradio.org for more information.
As Aspen Public Radio takes us on a daily journey around the globe telling important stories through programs like “All things Considered” and “BBC World Service,” Go There Wines uses wine to convey equally important stories of talented winemakers who make wines in off-the-beaten-track places and often challenging regions. Rather than a traditional selection of wines from tried-and-true regions or producers, Go There Wines sources delicious wines from passionate winemakers with deeper stories to tell. Or, as they describe it, “bringing to market trailblazing wines made by women and other underrepresented winemakers from lesser-known wine-making regions around the world.”
Launched last year, the company is a passion project created by Previte, the owner of acclaimed restaurants in Washington, D.C. (including Compass Rose, the Michelin-starred Maydan, and the recently opened Kirby Club) and Greene, who we all used to wake up to when he hosted NPR’s “Morning Edition” for a decade before stepping away in 2021. A third partner, Chandler Arnold, is an innovator in social philanthropy.
Go There Wines introduces the world to winemakers who may have been marginalized or excluded in the past, especially women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other groups. Many of the wines hail from regions that, though historic, have also been marginalized by war, politics, and poverty. Previte and Greene hope they can expand the opportunities for these determined winemakers as well as the palates of discerning consumers who are looking for meaning — along with great taste — in their wines.
The company sells their wines online at Gotherewines.com, and the bottles are labeled with different social messages that come from direct quotes from winemakers.
“The winemakers are the stars of the show,” Previte said about the focus. Go There Wines have QR codes on the bottles that link to video messages from the winemakers. And the company has incorporated a unique business model that allows winemakers to name their own prices — equal or better than market rates — receive payments up front and participate in a profit-sharing program.
Breeze Richardson, executive director of Aspen Public Radio, is excited about the opportunity to host this event with Go There Wines.
“From the first conversation I had with Rose and David, I was really impressed with the passion and care they have for these wines and winemakers,” she said.
Included among the seven wines to be poured at the Winemaking is Freedom fundraising event are those made by sisters Gvantsa and Baia Abuladze in the Republic of Georgia (the “cradle of wine”), who use huge earthenware vessels called Qvevri in their production process. There is a wine from Lebanon made by a Syrian refugee, Abdullah Richi, who is living in exile due to the devastating war in his homeland. A Syrah from the renowned Santa Rita Hills appellation of California made by a Native American winemaker from the region’s indigenous Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash Indians and her wife, a native of Spain, will be on offer. And there is a Pinotage from Nondumiso Pikashe, a winemaker in the Paarl region of South Africa.
Compelling stories indeed.
Previte and Greene bring incredible backstories of their own to the project, which is inspired by their world view that includes immersive experiences in the cuisines of dozens of countries and exposure to many of the most difficult geopolitical issues on the planet.
Prior to his stint on “Morning Edition,” Greene was NPR’s Moscow bureau chief. He was the recipient of the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for his work in war torn Libya and spent much of last year in Ukraine covering the conflict and creating an audio podcast project called “Ukraine Stories” for his company, Fearless Media. Hardly the resume of your traditional wine entrepreneur.
For her part, Previte traveled to over 30 countries during her three years with Greene in Moscow and was captivated by the cuisines and wines of many diverse cultures. In 2014, returning to Washington, she opened Compass Rose. She followed that up in 2017 with Maydan, which earned a place on many “Best New Restaurants in America” lists, including Bon Appétit and Food & Wine, and was named a James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant 2018. Maydan showcases the foods of the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Middle East, which had inspired Previte in her travels. The wine list includes wines produced in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, Bethlehem in Palestine, and the ancient winemaking country of Georgia.
Joining Previte and Greene in Aspen for the special fundraiser will be Eritrea Mehary, the Washington, D.C.-based owner and executive chef of the Solomunna Supper Club. She will prepare a collection of foods providing a taste of re-imagined Eritrean cuisine from her native East African nation. And pouring the seven wine selections will be Drew Hairston, Maydan’s knowledgeable wine and beverage director. “Drew has been to many of these vineyards and knows these wines well,” Previte said.
“Every wine has a story” is the refrain and guiding principle that informs the Go There Wines website, where beautiful videos and winemaker bios prove the premise. And a look at the wines that will be poured in Aspen during the fundraiser are rich in character and story. I have not had the opportunity to taste any of these wines, but from the reputation of the presenters and the reviews in previous stories, they should be as rewarding as the stories themselves.
Great wines. Inclusive and innovative philosophies. A beautiful location. An opportunity to support a local institution in Aspen Public Radio. See you there.
Open Range Horse Heaven Hills Barbera 2021
So here is something you don’t see or taste every day: An Italian grape (Barbera) grown in Washington (the Horse Heaven Hills appellation) and made in Colorado. We profiled Old Snowmass resident Mark Harvey’s Open Range wines last month but did not get a chance to taste this wine. Well, the Wine Enthusiast did and labeled it a “hidden gem,” awarding it a 94-point rating. In fact, four of Harvey’s Open Ranges received scores of 93 or 94 points including his Red Blend, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Well done!
Foodstuff: It’s grilling time
It’s officially time to crack open the grills and enjoy the splendors of summer cooking (at least until the next inevitable, soul-crushing blizzard in June)!
Alas, grilling time is not to be, for me, due to the following situation on my patio:
You might have read about the Great Recycling Fiasco of 2022 in a previous Foodstuff column. My Homeowners’ Association is back at it again, with drama surrounding an exterior painting project. My doors, windows, outdoor furniture, and basically every other surface, which I might use now that the weather is warmer, is currently covered in plastic — including my incredibly fancy Everdure grill, another food-related gift from my brother and his family (Christmas 2018 was one for the books!).
While I myself can’t yet enjoy the spoils of it’s-almost-summer-let’s-cook-with-fire fun, that shouldn’t stop YOU, dear reader, from trying one of my favorite summer specialties: chicken spiedini. This recipe is a combination of my grandmother’s, my brother’s, and Tom Jackson from All Things Barbecue (His great demo can be found on YouTube). Easy, fast, and fantastic with pasta, a mixed-green salad or grilled vegetables on the side. I like a salad and asparagus myself.
1lb. chicken breasts
1c Italian dressing*
2T olive oil
1/2c Italian style breadcrumbs
1/2c panko breadcrumbs
2T freshy grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Butterfly chicken breasts by cutting a slit in each breast at the thickest part at the top, then slicing vertically, being careful not to cut the chicken completely in half crosswise. Open the chicken at the slit, and pound to an even thickness (about half an inch).
Place the chicken breasts in a glass baking dish, piercing each a few times with a fork, so they better absorb the marinade. Pour the dressing over the top of the chicken, turning to coat. Let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes or up to two hours.
Once the chicken is done marinating, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. While the grill is heating, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese, seasoning with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs into the meat.
With the long side of the breast facing you, roll the chicken away from you into a tight bundle. Cut in half, then cut the two halves in half, making four pinwheels of chicken. Take two skewers**, and tightly pack the four chicken pieces on to the two skewers.***
Once the grill is hot, rub the grates of your grill with a cloth or paper towel soaked in olive oil. Grill chicken for five minutes on one side, covered.
While the chicken cooks, zest and juice the lemon, and melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, combine it with the zest and juice. Flip the chicken, and either brush or spoon the lemon butter over the cooked side of the chicken, being careful of flare ups. Cook the chicken for five more minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°. If the breadcrumbs get too brown, move to indirect heat until the chicken reaches temperature. Finish with remaining lemon butter.
*I like Newman’s Own myself.
**Metal if you have them, wooden pre-soaked in water if you don’t. Two skewers are better than one here, as they prevent the chicken from spinning on the skewer.
***Pierce the chicken through the seam side, otherwise it will unroll.
You can see from my photo that I allllmost burned the breadcrumbs, so be careful here, but know that these were still delicious. I can’t wait to eat them again once my HOA stops fighting over door, garage, and trim colors (red or brown, in case you were wondering). Riveting stuff. Here’s to summer cooking!
Katherine Roberts is a midvalley-based writer and marketing professional who can’t currently use her grill, but she has no problem roasting her neighbors. She can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Mayhem: Scenes from the season
This spring saw a flurry of food and wine experiences, dance performances, art and architecture lectures, shorts film screenings, and more.
Catching up on several such occasions this week, I’ll start with the Women in Wine Dinner at The Snow Lodge on March 1, coinciding with Women’s History Month. Allie Pyke with The Snow Lodge and Jen Beloz, GM of Flowers & Faust, were the hosts for a long table adorned with vases of pastel peonies and seating for 20 or so guests. Chef Robert Sieber prepared a multi-course dinner with wines from Flowers Vineyards in Healdsburg, Calif., and Faust from St Helena, Calif., paired by Beloz who spoke to producing Cabernet Sauvignons for which the region is best known. According to Beloz, “Winemaking offers a great balance of mental and physical challenges that keep me on my toes.”
DanceAspen hosted a VIP reception and performance at the Jewish Community Center on March 2, inviting patrons for drinks, light bites, and a glimpse into what goes into their rehearsals. Laurel Winton, who founded the thriving resident dance company less than two years ago, welcomed all and spoke to the work that the dancers go through as they guide one another through their routines, which was followed by real life rehearsals for their performance that took place later that month at The Wheeler Opera House.
Next up: DanceAspen’s first collaboration with the Aspen Music Festival is set for the Fourth of July at the Benedict Music Tent with in-house choreographer Matthew Gilmore premiering a new work set to the scores of Leonard Bernstein. On July 14, join DanceAspen for their Aspen Bandstand Gala at Hotel Jerome with the theme of Dirty Dancing, serving as their primary fundraising event of the year. I had the pleasure of going last summer and can attest to it being worth every cent to attend.
Aspen Film’s popular spring program, Shortfest, returned from April 10-16, with screenings at The Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theatre. The festival kicked off with a members/VIP opening reception on April 11 at the Public House and included events all over town at PonyBoy, Mountain Chalet, Mi Chola, Silver City, Hooch, and Unravel Coffee — making it a truly well-rounded program and an opportunity for filmmakers to meet and mingle with filmgoers and patrons.
On April 7, the Aspen Art Museum presented a lecture on the rooftop with architect Chad Oppenheim, who guided guests on an immersive journey through his firm’s work and philosophy that aims to realign and reconnect us to the world around us, followed by a Q&A with Sarah Broughton with Rowland + Broughton Architecture, Urban Design, and Interior Design.
From April 7-11, LuxuryLab Global, the leading luxury brand and travel summit in Latin America, hosted a familiarization trip to Aspen, bringing in media and travel advisors from the luxury sectors of Latin America to learn about the destination and all that it offers.
Also in mid-April, Nantucket-based artist Meredith Hanson visited Aspen for a scouting trip in anticipation of a watercolor workshop here this summer. Details are forthcoming while plans are in progress. While here, Mer wore a Powder Puff pullover on the slopes, featuring a watercolor she painted of the Maroon Bells in fall, serving as a stylish neck gaiter inspired by Aspen’s natural beauty.
Asher on Aspen: An evening with Gary Clark Jr.
It’s a quarter past midnight, but Gary Clark Jr. wants to keep going.
The guitar-slinging blues-rocker is standing in the center of a darkened Belly Up stage on a recent Friday night in Aspen. Never wanting it to end, the crowded venue went wild for the encore. Clark strolled across the stage with his laid-back, stylish demeanor and wailing electric guitar. The audience couldn’t help but close their eyes and sway their hips to his melodic grooves while embracing the last few songs of the evening. Enamored by his presence, it felt like everyone was on the same page, and no one wanted it to end.
Originally from Austin, Texas, the 39-year-old headliner is celebrated for his style of fusing blues, rock, and soul while adding elements of hip hop. Many fans would consider him the closest thing we have to a modern-day Hendrix. Music enthusiasts consider him to be one of the last real rock gods, along with fellow master guitarists like Jack White, John Mayer, or the late, great Prince.
It’s pretty incredible that a musician of this magnitude is still playing an intimate, 450-person venue while he is simultaneously selling out stadiums and world tours. Just the other week, I had the privilege of seeing him at the Hollywood Bowl for Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday, where he performed with Leon Bridges to a crowd of 17,000.
Clearly, there’s something about Belly Up that has stuck with him. Maybe it’s the close connection with the crowd, the way the acoustics sound in that room, or maybe it’s the people he’s met in Aspen along the way. Regardless, it’s obvious he’s a fan of the venue. This show marked his 10th performance on the Belly Up stage, with his first show dating back to July 2014.
The audience was fired up from the start, and Clark wasted no time in giving the crowd exactly what they came for. For roughly the first five minutes of the show, the lights stayed low as he passionately poured his heart out into his guitar while making it look effortless.
He and his four-piece band took the stage and tore into what is considered his signature song, “Bright Lights,” with many in the crowd holding up their phones to capture the moment. This was followed by a couple rowdier crowd pleasers, “Keep it Up Now” and “Travis County Line.” As the set moved along, he shuffled around the stage, revealing his guitar skills and interacting with the fans. He and his band worked together like a well-oiled machine, and it was exciting to watch their chemistry onstage.
The venue’s cozy, intimate atmosphere prompted a moment of authenticity in the crowd. Clark spotted a woman on the dance floor and stared her up and down. With his left hand on his hip and a baffled face expression, he looked down and pointed at her T-shirt. “I’m going to show up the next time you’re fly fishing, and wear a shirt that says, ‘I’d rather be on stage right now,'” he said as he chuckled at his own joke. The audience broke out in laughter, and I think everyone appreciated the organic moment.
He broke from his possession, “How you feeling, Belly Up? It’s good to be here. It’s good to be back,” he said while casting a grin. It was at some point during the second half when he slowed the tempo for “I Walk Along,” from his 2019 album “This Land,” and the romantic slow jam “Our Love” soon followed. The deep-pitted, emotional soul-cleansing continued, and I never wanted it to end. He continued to impress the audience with “Church,” where he showcased his impressive vocal range. I slowly grew hypnotized by his falsetto. Looking around, I was relieved to see that it wasn’t just me. Everyone was completely transfixed by his talent. I put my hand to my chest and closed my eyes while moving back and forth with the vibrations.
Clark and his band were electric from the moment they hit the stage at 10:15 p.m. They delivered a lively, two-hour show that displayed the range of the native Austinite’s ample talents and his compelling presence as a live performer. While it was a gift seeing him perform at the Hollywood Bowl, watching him perform at Belly Up in a venue with such close proximity was a different experience entirely.
WineInk: The magic of the Classic
As it is the middle of the offseason here in the Rockies, it is a perfect time to consider the coming summer of wine and to glance back at some summer memories gone by.
Summer is the best of seasons in Wine Country. It is the time when the grapes do all the work. Hopes are high for a bountiful harvest, and there is a little time to rest a bit and let nature do its thing. For wine drinkers, it is the season for sipping lighter-style wines. Rosé rules under the summer sun, and this year, it seems that Sauvignon Blanc will also have a moment. Bucket-cooled sparkling wines always refresh in the heat of the day or for sunset contemplation and celebration. For those who just want to keep drinking red wine, the lighter style, cool-climate Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast or the fresh and fruity Gamay wines from Beaujolais can do the trick.
I have a couple of West Coast wine trips coming up — to the Pacific Northwest and to California’s Central Coast — and will be looking to indulge and report back on wines that are new to me and hopefully of interest to you. Summer wine travel is a blessing, as the days are long and the vibe is mellow.
But it is the 40th anniversary edition of the Food & Wine Classic that is circled in red on my calendar. Yes, that circle around June 16-18 came from the stained foot of a glass. I have been attending the Classic for three decades of those years, and I doubt that without it being such an integral part of the Aspen summer season this column would exist.
When WineInk debuted in 2007, an initiative offered up by then-Aspen Times Editor Bob Ward, it was based on the correct premise that Aspen is a significant wine town. Much of that thinking had to do with the annual presence of America’s foremost culinary and wine event. He knew that Aspen had a world-class collection of sommeliers, collectors, and wine lists, but he also recognized the importance of the Food & Wine Classic to the community. The Aspen Daily News at that time already had a wine column written by Brenda Francis, and it was an honor to begin the process of chronicling the wine scene in this town and writing more broadly about all things wine.
Since that time, I have not have missed a Classic and have embraced the opportunities it provides each summer. You see, instead of having to actually travel to visit winemakers and taste their wines on their turf, the most esteemed wine producers in the world come here for three days each year and bring their best stuff to, well, my turf. It has always been a compressed and challenging three days in many ways, but the chance to meet so many legends and taste and talk through their wines has been a privilege and an education.
So many people and so many wines, it is actually hard to know where to begin. I guess the tents may be the best place. I have never toured the great wine regions of Spain, something on the must-do list; but thanks to the annual Wines of Spain activation that is a staple in the Grand Tasting Pavilion, I can tell my Albariño from my Mencía. That’s pronounced “Men-thee-ah” and is an aromatic red wine that comes from the northwest corner of Spain. Each year, I try to spend the best part of an hour tasting the top and absorbing as much knowledge as I can from those who pour the wines in my glass.
For many summers, I have been lucky to spend time at the Classic with winemakers who became not just friends, but also in some cases, ski buddies as well.
Donald Ziraldo is a Canadian winemaker who produced what is arguably the most famous wines ever to come from up north. The Inniskillin late-harvest Ice wines that he founded were my first experience with Canadian juice. Well, other than Labbats. And tasting the wines made me think different, as the saying goes, about the passion winemakers can have for producing niche wines. I have spent many hours since with the Donald on chairlifts talking about the extraordinary nectar that are Canadian Ice wines.
I’ve also had the chance, during the Classic in 2019, to make turns on Aspen Mountain with the team from Jackson Family Wines, headed by their illustrious and esteemed winemaker Randy Ullom. Ullom, one of the most recognizable personalities in wine, has a big job overseeing the production of the global vineyards of Kendall Jackson, but that didn’t keep him away from the slopes of Aspen mountain that June Sunday after it opened for the Classic weekend, thanks to prodigious snowfall. Ullom has been coming to pour wines at the Classic for close to 30 years and is an example of a winemaker who has become part of the fabric of the Classic.
And then there are the characters. The story of Charles Bieler taking a tour of the country in a 1966 Pink Cadillac de Ville to promote his Rosé was priceless — even if the car burned before it could make it down Aspen’s Main Street. And how about Italy’s Gianluca Bisol, the best-dressed man in any and every tent, who produces some of the finest Prosecco on the planet? He brought his Venissa wines produced from an ancient and nearly extinct grape called Dorona to Aspen for an epic debut. He makes this wine on an island off of Venice and labels it with a sheet of gold leaf. Amazing stuff.
I’ll never forget time spent sipping aged wines with Marin County winemaker Terry Leighton of Kalin Cellars. For years, he came to the Classic with his wife, Frances, to pour their minuscule production of white wines that spent years aging before release, as they believed that time made better wine. “Wine is a journey,” Terry liked to say as he poured just a bit of a 20-year-old Chardonnay into a glass of a novice taster. He passed away this past February, but his spirit will hover over the Grand Pavilion.
And that’s just from the Grand Tasting. There have been extraordinary seminars and wine dinners and visits to the Mine and pig pulls … I could go on and may well do so in a future column. But as we sit here in the middle of offseason, I reflect back on the first line in that first WineInk in 2007 that read: “I’m a lucky guy.” And I am, especially during the summer.
It was around 2009 that I first remember seeing the pink-hued wines behind the labels that featured cherubic angels. Of all the things that I have witnessed in my time attending the Classic, nothing has been as amazing as the rise of Whispering Angel and other Rosé wines in the public consciousness.
“I used to have to beg people to try Rosé at the Food & Wine Classic,” said Paul Chevalier, then with a company called Shaw-Ross Imports, who represented the wines. “Now we are amongst the most popular wines under the tent.”
Make that the world. Whispering Angel literally came of age over successive summers at the Classic.
Mountain Mayhem: Family Feud
The annual spring benefit for the Aspen Youth Center took place on March 10 at the Hotel Jerome, starting with a cocktail reception and silent auction in the Antler Bar, followed by dinner and a fun “Family Feud”-themed competition in the ballroom.
The game show-style gala featured 10 teams of eight people each who went head-to-head to answer survey questions like “What’s something you do before bed” (with the No. 1 answer surprisingly being “read”). The past two years, “Family Feud” was held virtually, so this year was a welcome return to an in-person event and friendly competition onstage. “Family Feud Aspen” was officially presented “on air,” thanks to Six Productions and Aspen82.
All proceeds from the evening support the youth center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit youth organization founded in 1991. Aspen Youth Center offers free, supervised, all-day after-school and summer programs to over 2,100 youth in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“We were so happy to be back in person to celebrate the center, our kids” and the community, said Executive Director Michaela Idhammar-Ketpura. “We raised 35% more than we had hoped and are super thankful to everyone who joined. This was the fifth and final ‘Family Feud,’ and we will be creating a new and exciting game show next year.”
Congratulations to Low Expectations, the 2023 Family Feud Gala winning team who took home the championship belt and rings, as well as bragging rights.
Aspen Youth Center has already begun brainstorming for next year’s event and an exciting new format and theme. For those interested in taking part in the planning process, contact Michaela at email@example.com.