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WineInk: Space Wine

International space station with astronauts. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

It was inevitable, right? Wine in space. If there is going to be an effort to colonize the galaxy beyond the stratosphere then arrangements must be made to provide wine for those doing the colonization.

This past month word came that a case, 12 bottles of Bordeaux, stored in steel cylinders had returned from an epic space mission. The bottles came floating to Earth inside a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule that landed in the waters off the Gulf of Mexico just west of Tampa, Florida, on a late January evening. And nary a drop was spilled.

The bottles had spent 438 days and 19 hours at zero gravity, aboard the International Space Station as it circled the Earth at a distance of 250 miles above the vineyards where the grapes were grown. In those 14 plus months, the bottles traveled more than 180,000,000 miles at speeds averaging 17,000 miles an hour.

Give or take.

Also on the return flight, that dropped so neatly into the sea, were 320 grape vines, half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Merlot, both Bordeaux varietals, which had spent a little less time – 312 days to be precise – in the heavens. And who says the space program doesn’t have practical value?

All kidding aside, this was a wondrous achievement for WISE, or the Wine In Space Experiment program that was undertaken by the Europe-based Space Cargo Unlimited in association with the University of Bordeaux and assorted French wine interests to study the effects of space travel and weightlessness on wine. Upon arrival, the wines and the vines were sent to ISVV (Institut Superieur de la Science et du Vin in Bordeaux, France) for analysis and at the end of this month there will be a “private organoleptic wine tasting held under the auspices of oenologist and agronomist Franck Dubourdieu” to gauge what affect the journey had on the wines.

Yes, “organoleptic” was a word new to me as well. It is defined as “the assessment of flavour, odour, appearance and mouth feel of a food product.” Big word. Simple meaning.

Monsieur Dubourdieu will be the first to taste these, the most travelled wines in history. But, oddly, the names of the wines and who made them have yet to be revealed publicly. Will they be wines from the esteemed First Growth Château, like Latour or Haut Brion, or will they be vin ordinaire as the French refer to their everyday-drinking table wines? My guess is somewhere in the middle, leaning towards the top end. It is assumed that once the tasting takes place, the house, or houses, that produced them will get their moment in the sun, as it were.

Make no mistake; the WISE undertaking is as important as it is progressive. Not just in terms of wine but in a broader agricultural context as well. With commercial space flight finding its way forward, it is obvious that the production of viable agricultural products in space will one day be, well, a thing. So why not begin with wine?

Still, the image of wine in space, to me, holds a bit more romance than simply a cylinder along for the ride for test purposes. Rather, I imagine one day sitting on the deck of an opulent space ship staring out at the rings of Saturn on my left and the known galaxy on my right, as a robotic sommelier, towel folded neatly over one arm, pours a glass of 2050 Bordeaux. How it flows from the bottle into the glass in a weightless environment is a question for the scientists.

Stranger than fiction.

AND BACK HERE ON EARTH…

The Little Nell announced this week that the much-anticipated Little Nell Wine Academy gathering has been canceled for the second straight year due to concerns regarding COVID-19. This comes on the heels of the successful virtual online tasting that saw the sommeliers — who were scheduled to be expert instructors at this year’s Academy — take participants through both old and new world wines as a precursor of the April event.

“We initially designed our virtual tasting in January to be a preview of our Little Nell Wine Academy in the spring, following the same theme,” said a spokesperson for the Nell. “But we came to the decision to cancel the 2021 Wine Academy due to restrictions around travel, events and gatherings this year.”

But never fear. Plans are afoot for continuing the Academy both in person and in potential online events.

“Since the virtual tasting was a success measured by the number of participants that registered, the positive comments from those who (attended), in person and remotely, and the enjoyment by our sommeliers leading it, we are discussing offering more.”

Check here for news about future events.

High Country: How one young entrepreneur turned a college project into a budding cannabis design company

SHOP

Find Z’s Life locally at Silverpeak (520 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-4372), online at zs.life and socially @zs.papers.

My mother, who’s celebrating her 66th birthday this week, is, in my humble opinion, the greatest joint roller in the world. I didn’t know it until after my college years when we started partaking together and still have yet to perfect her quick pinner technique.

The post-legalization lifestyle, where single pre-rolls, electronic cone-fillers and branded packs are easy to find, discourages the good old fashioned ritual of rolling your own. But when Izaak Cohen reached out to introduce me to his recently-launched accessories line, I was inspired to revisit my spliff studies.

Based in Brooklyn, Z’s Life is a cannabis design company “dedicated to the art of developing elegant objects that enhance the overall smoking experience” and debuted in 2020 with a colorful collection of rolling papers (ZBooks), brass tampers (ZTamps), cast resin trays (ZTrays) and lighters in collaboration with Tsubota Pearl (ZFlames).

Cohen conceived his idea in 2016 as a then-18-year-old freshman at Skidmore College. In the four years that followed, he competed in a Shark Tank-like business competition — ultimately winning second place in both his junior and senior years. The total prize money amounted in $20,000, which was enough to get Z’s Life off the ground upon graduation last May.

Now 22 at at the helm of Z’s Life full-time, Cohen reflected: “I will never forget the genesis of Z’s Life. During my gap year, I was working with my older brother Max in his studio (he’s the founder of the leather goods company Maximum Henry). I had just rolled a joint using some OCBs. As I looked around the studio, I was moved by all the attention to detail that went into making a belt and was suddenly hit with a burning question … ‘If I can put so much care into the creation of a belt, why can’t I do the same with rolling papers?’”

Experiencing the creative career path his brother took motivated Cohen to want to do the same.

“Thus the journey began. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of possibility and eagerly sat at my desk for hours drawing, measuring, cutting, folding and assembling prototypes for my first booklet,” added Cohen. “I then went to college to pursue an education.”

Like the Shapiros, cannabis is a family affair for the Cohens.

“I rolled my first joint when I was 16,” Cohen shared. “Max engrained a high standard. If I rolled an ugly joint, he would tell me to re-roll it until it was an acceptable smoke. After some practice, I got it down to a science and one night we even had a joint-rolling Olympics with our mom. I started by rolling an inside out joint blindfolded. My next challenge was to roll a joint completely upside down on her inversion table, which I somehow pulled it off. Ever since I started smoking, joint rolling was more than half the fun.”

Cohen’s family was obviously supportive of his still-stigma-attached endeavor early on, but when he arrived at Skidmore as a studio art major, he did receive some pushback from faculty.

“I was an art student enamored by the art of smoking. This passion led me to create different sculptural objects that enhanced the smoking experience,” said Cohen. “I had some professors who didn’t understand my vision. But their confusion only fortified that I was on the right track. If you’re making people uncomfortable, you might be onto something.”

His conviction was right — beyond its own e-commerce site, Z’s Life is currently carried in 12 stores nationwide including Silverpeak in Aspen and other design-focused smoke shops like Village Grannies in the East Village and Garden Party in Asheville, North Carolina with more stockists on the way in 2021. Cohen also unveiled a permanent “Roll Z’s, Plant Trees” campaign in partnership with One Tree Planted intended to offset the burning of rolling papers during consumption. Z’s Life has already planted more than 2,000 trees in California with plans to expand to additional states as the company grows.

All ZBooks are certified-organic, free of pesticides and include 50 papers with 50 perforated filters — each delicately handcrafted by expert artisans in Europe, assembled and embossed with the Z’s Life logo, then carefully bound together with a gold-plated magnetic clasp.

“I believe it is my duty to give back and raise awareness for climate change,” said Cohen. “Instilling my values into my company with the potential to make a difference, however small it may be, is more gratifying than the numbers on the bottom line.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

Mountain Mayhem: Spontaneity

Great friends Gerard Butler and Ross King celebrate Ross’s birthday at an impromptu and unforgettable evening at The Wine Bar at The Little Nell.
Todd Campbell of Telluride on an Aspen Mountain shrine tour.
Dr. Barbara Sturm and her daughter, Charly, in town for a ski getaway.
Wyatt, Paula and Barney Eaton on Valentine’s Day. Just missing from the family photo is Wyatt’s little brother Barnes.
Marla Meridith and Sean Wells of Telluride road tripped to Aspen for a wintry weekend visit.
Après-ski at The Sundeck on a chilly February day.
Charlie Lucarelli and Rebecca Mirsky at the Sundeck walk-up window.
Todd Campbell, Tara Seracka and Beth Mills meet up in the John Denver shrine.

With so much uncertainty still around travel, events, celebrations and plans in general, spontaneity has taken on a whole new meaning.

For example, friends will say they’re coming to town on a last minute road trip just for a change of scenery and to see what’s happening in Aspen. Or I’ll find myself often going out for a casual dinner with friends and then it winds up being one of the more memorable moments of the month by virtue of surprise encounters or fascinating conversations. Another frequent occurrence is bumping into friends on the slopes and then forming new ski groups to tour the shrines or discover new lines. I love the open mindedness of today’s day and age. The saying “variety is the spice of life” now leans more towards “spontaneity is the spice of life!”

Food Matters: Recipe for Success

IF YOU GO …

“The Art of Food Writing”

Aspen Winter Words

Online: March 16 at 6-7 p.m.

$10

Register: aspenwords.org

Picture the last great meal you ate: Which foods are on the plate and what do they look like, smell like, taste like, feel like on the tongue? Are you eating alone or with others and on what occasion? What does the experience say about this moment in your life? No matter how you might answer these questions, others will likely be able to relate.

“We all eat, and food is such a personal and revealing thing about our comfort,” explains Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur. “It’s so fundamental to who we are, and it tells so much about us, too.”

It wasn’t until Brodeur published her memoir, “Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me” (2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), that readers began labeling the longtime book editor and novelist as a food writer. But Brodeur doesn’t make a distinction: Good writing is good writing. Food is just a universal access point. “You learned a lot about Malabar, about the types of things she cooked, and this angle into her love story through wild game,” says the author, whose descriptions of lavish meals prepared by her food-writer mother, Malabar Hornblower, are woven throughout the Cape Cod-based narrative. “It is an intimate, personal, and descriptive way to enter any scene and a geography.”

On March 16, Aspen Words presents “The Art of Food Writing,” an online panel discussion among luminary writers who make sense of the world through food. As if curating a dynamic dinner party, Aspen Words invites authors Padma Lakshmi, Ronni Lundy, and Toni Tipton-Martin into conversation with Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Dawn Davis. In collaboration with Aspen Institute’s solutions-based Food and Society Program — led by Corby Kummer, himself a respected magazine editor, restaurant critic, food policy columnist, and author of the first book in English on the Slow Food movement—the online event ($10) aims to “focus on breaking the bubble of food writing and cultivating diverse stories.” (See sidebar for an Aspen Words-approved reading list.)

This is the first Aspen Words panel on food writing, specifically, and the second to last in the 2021 Winter Words series, which shares talks by writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and more. Though the coronavirus has shaken up cultural programming and canceled in-person events, the online format allows Winter Words to draw from a broader pool of participants who won’t have to make the costly trip to Aspen this year.

Viewers will likely recognize Lakshmi as one of the faces of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” as she has served as a head judge for all 18 (and counting) seasons of the Emmy Award-winning series. Lakshmi is also the author of three cookbooks, as well as “Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir,” which, through recipes, explores her journey from childhood in South India to international renown as a food expert, model, and TV personality in America. (The latest season of “Top Chef,” which draws an Aspen chef to the competition for the first time, premieres April 1. See an upcoming “Food Matters” column for more.)

Ronni Lundy is the author of the 2017 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year award-winning “Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, With Recipes,” among other cookbooks that weave together the history of food and music from the American South.

Noted food and nutrition journalist Toni Tipton-Martin earned a second James Beard Award in 2020 for her latest masterpiece, “Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking.” Sam Sifton of the New York Times calls it, “An instructional companion to Tipton-Martin’s indispensable 2015 bibliography of black cooking in America, ‘The Jemima Code.’” In “Jubilee,” the author draws from her collection of nearly 400 cookbooks, many of them rare, “to upend segregationist narratives about African-American cooking, showing how throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, black cooks were central to the development of American cuisine, taking influences from immigrant groups from coast to coast.”

Brodeur quips that nabbing Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Dawn Davis as moderator for this Winter Words panel is “a huge treat.” Formerly a vice president at Simon & Schuster, where she ran the 37 Ink imprint, which publishes works by historically marginalized authors, Davis participated in the Aspen Summer Words literary gathering as an editor in 2018. She’s the author of “If You Can Stand the Heat: Tales from Chefs and Restaurateurs,” (1999, Penguin USA), which delves into the nitty gritty of working as a kitchen professional through anecdotes from wisened pros including Rick Bayless and Bobby Flay. Since Davis assumed leadership of Bon Appétit this past August as the magazine’s first Black editor, she’s worked to incorporate fresh voices into the mix. (Her debut issue is out in March.)

“They all write about food and the connectivity of food issues — food as it relates to equity and the environment and family, and how it forges a sense of place and home,” Brodeur explains of the panelists. “Some of my favorite memoirs, when I think about it — ‘Kitchen Confidential’ (by Anthony Bourdain); ‘Blood, Bones & Butter’ (by Gabrielle Hamilton); ‘Tender at the Bone’ (by Ruth Reichl) — they’re about food. But, honestly, they’re about the lives these people led.”

So, Aspen Words invites aspiring writers, readers, and anyone who enjoys a delicious story to gather round and settle in from home.

“Someone signed up from Paris!” Brodeur says, noting that Winter Words viewership has expanded its global reach this past season. “People have tuned in from 40 states and five or six countries. It’s a whole different program this year and what’s interesting is what it will be in the future.”

amandaraewashere@gmail.com

PANELIST BOOKS

Summarized by Adrienne Brodeur:

•Padma Lakshmi: “Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir” (2016, Ecco)

“A startlingly personal and revealing memoir that traces the author’s unlikely path from her grandmother’s kitchen in India to her celebrity life in America.”

•Ronni Lundy: “Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes” (2016, Clarkson Potter)

“Each chapter opens with an essay about a particular aspect of Appalachian culinary tradition such as seed saving or salt making, which sheds light on the region and the vibrancy of its people.”

•Toni Tipton-Martin: “Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking” (2019, Clarkson Potter)

“Equal parts American history and American recipes, this book is a brilliant celebration of Black cooking and Black chefs spanning from the Colonial era to present day.”

• More Aspen Words-approved picks: “Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner (Knopf, April 2021); “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” by Tembi Locke (Simon & Schuster, 2019); “Notes from a Young Black Chef” by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein (Knopf, 2019)

Life, Rewired: Mark Howard chronicles a life of change across five decades in Aspen


Mark Howard has embraced change since he moved to Aspen, at 22, in 1973. He was a ski bum and restaurant server who rewired to become a 9-to-5 white-collar guy and family man. He he was a financial advisor who, at age 57, took a 90% paycut to teach English at Basalt High School. Now retired, he’s published a nontraditional memoir about his concept of periodically “rewiring” one’s life. The new book, “A Rewiring Life,” is excerpted here.

I arrived in Aspen on September 13, 1973 and the first few years in Aspen I pursued the ski-bum life. After a year at a ski shop, I worked on the night crew at the local grocery store. My days were filled with skiing, playing softball, tennis, going too fast on my dirt bike, and enjoying life. I dated and partied. Life was carefree. I started teaching skiing at Snowmass, got married in 1977, and four years later became a father with the birth of Erin. It changed my world, as fatherhood does. Erin was the first baby I had ever held in my arms, and I adored her. A life of risk-taking with my dirt bike and skiing out of bounds ended abruptly.

Along with teaching skiing in the winter, I got a waiter’s job at a new Chinese restaurant called Eastern Winds. Over the next two years it became one of the most popular restaurants in town, and I became the headwaiter and manager. My wife and I purchased a condo downvalley. I was starting to live the American Dream. I was a husband, father and owned my own place to live.

At Eastern Winds it was common for us to have an hour wait for a table in the winter. We did have a private room for famous guests, since autograph seekers would bother our famous diners; another change in the transformation of town. I’ll never forget the night O. J. Simpson came in with Nicole Brown Simpson, insisted on sitting in the most high-profile table facing the sidewalk, and got so rowdy, banging on the windows and waving to strangers on the sidewalk, that I had to ask them to leave.

Sometimes life is fortuitous, and you are in the right place at the right time for where you are in life. The next-door neighbor at our condo was an insurance salesperson. I was teaching skiing in the winter, and then off to Eastern Winds the rest of the year. I didn’t get home until around midnight most nights, riding the bus home exhausted.

“Mark are you ready to do something different?” she asked. “Have you ever considered the insurance business?”

He worked for Bankers Life and Casualty out of Chicago, serving clients from Carbondale to Aspen. Leaving the valley, he needed to replace himself.

I was ready for a big change again and a regular 9-to-5 job. I said yes, got my state insurance license, and dove in. It was November 1983, and Mark W. Howard Insurance began. I quit teaching skiing immediately, and Eastern Winds that April.

I worked for Bankers for two years and soon was a broker with a lot of options for my clients and prospects. I had a small office in downtown Aspen and moved to a bigger one. It was still just me but I was growing and loved what I was doing. I was able to be home in the evenings. Life was going well.


MY REWIRE

In the history of mankind, retirement is certainly a new concept. When you are hunting and gathering, you certainly do not retire. Running from saber-toothed tigers (did we actually do that?), you did not retire. Agrarian farmers didn’t retire and let the land take care of itself. Social programs such as Social Security gave birth to the concept; you paid in and finally collected toward the end of your life.

I once had the dream of retiring to Hawaii and living out my days in a golfing paradise, but my path took me in a different direction. After 25 years in the financial services business, I felt the passion for it was gone.

“What do you want to do about it?” my second wife, Danielle, asked.

“I want to teach high school English.”

“Well, I guess you need to find out how to make that happen,” she replied.


I still marvel at that response, as our income would certainly take a major hit if I would make such a move.

Colorado, along with many other states, has something called an Alternative Teaching License. If you are offered a position, you can earn your license in the first year and a half while you begin teaching. The philosophy is that there are people who have “real world” experience who can bring in another perspective that a 22-year-old with a teaching certificate cannot.

I had found my calling.

I took and passed exams. Licensed toteach English, history, and business, my strategy was to be a substitute teacher at the three local high schools and determine where I would like to work if given the chance. I taught skiing at Snowmass as well, mostly over the holidays.

It was a new and fresh beginning, and I felt liberated from the confines of the office.

I began the life of a substitute teacher and found it was quite different from what I had envisioned. Many times I wasn’t teaching at all. I was simply giving a test to the class or showing a movie. Teachers didn’t believe that a substitiute could teach a lesson, but gradually they were hearing that we were having good discussions in class. I began to get requested and became quite busy.

Then something happened that changed my life. Basalt High teacher Ben Bohmfalk called and said that he had received a grant to teach in Romania for two weeks and wanted me to take his classes over while he was gone. A real teaching job complete with lesson plans! Over the next ten school days I was on fire. I knew what I wanted to do next in life. I followed the lesson plans, but added my own life experiences and perspectives. One class was on World War II. I told them about my father, who as a 19-year-old was on the beaches of Iwo Jima. The principal and vice principal started to regularly come into the classroom and observe me. When Ben returned from Romania, he reported that he did not have to reteach anything – the ultimate compliment.

I heard that the school had an opening in the English department for the following year. This is going to be a storybook ending! I interviewed for the position and thought I did really well. I finished second. I had hit a roadblock. A door I thought was open had just closed.

Summer came, and I had no job. Danielle was running quite well what was now her business. I went to the Roaring Fork Club and asked for a job from the head pro Dexter Pettit, whom I had known for many years. I became the course marshal, starter and had a fun season.

As the summer ended the owner of the club came to me and said he had learned I had left my office. I told him what had happened with teaching and he said, “Come work for me. We are starting a private club at the Snowmass Ski Area.”

As a certified ski instructor I took new members and prospects out onto the mountain.With two salespeople, we sold out the membership in three months.

I had proven myself to the club owners and now came the next big project, to create a new club in Cabo San Lucas. My job was showing the properties to our existing members in Colorado and California. There I was in “my” private jet, flying from Aspen to Sonoma to Cabo. I was living the dream of a jet-setter: eating great food, drinking expensive wine, and playing golf at private clubs. I had forgotten the dream of being a high school teacher.

Then one of the owners said I had to move to Sonoma for a couple of months to arrange trips for the Sonoma members – not a hard thing to do (“Want to go to Aspen and Cabo on our private jet?”). I occasionally went home for a few days, but felt disconnected with my family as a glorified traveling salesman.

As the summer of 2007 went on and the Great Recession began, the project quickly was gone along with my job.

Then my phone rang. Tim Root, the vice principal of Basalt High School called to say that the teacher that I had finished second to the previous year had quit.

“I don’t really want to interview again, Tim,” I said. “You know what you are getting with me”.

“You don’t understand Mark, I’m offering you the job!”

My dream of being a teacher was resurrected. I was going to be a 57-year-old first-year high school teacher. I felt a comfort inside. I was going to do what I was destined for. Then it hit me, in a few weeks I would be teaching six classes and facing around 150 teenagers.

What had I gotten myself into? I was rewiring again!


YOUR PERSONAL ESSAY

I taught from 2008 to 2017 and each school year I asked my students to write a personal essay. More than a few have come back after graduation and said it was the most important assignment they did in their high school years.

The rule was to write at least four pages on something that happened in your life that changed who you are.

Some students argued that they had nothing in their lives that was life-changing.

“Come on,” I’d say, “as a 16-year-old I know you can think of something. It doesn’t need to be Earth-shattering. I sent them back to keep digging into their past.

I would be stopped in the halls, “Mr. Howard I know what I’m writing about!”

“Okay, let’s talk.” It felt like it was something they needed and wanted to do.

The first year I did the assignment I was stunned. Coming from a relatively vanilla adolescence, I was not prepared for the topics of my students. Both females and males told how they were molested by family members, how they moved on in their lives. Others told of the day parents said they were losing their houses because of the Great Recession and the shame they felt with their friends. A common story was sneaking out of the house to go to a party and getting caught. These were powerful, too, as they described what it felt like losing the trust of their parents.

One student recalled as an 8-year-old, wading into the cold, turbulent waters of the Rio Grande River, ready to swim across the U.S. border the next day. That night their “coyote” raped one of the girls in the group. The men of the group delivered immediate justice that night.

“The next morning I looked at the dead, beaten body of the man who was to lead us across the river. It was the first time I had seen someone dead.”

His journey had brought him to my classroom to tell his story. He didn’t take his education and opportunities for granted. I knew why. I hated to destroy that paper when I was done, but I had promised.

I challenge you to complete the assignment that I gave my students. Think of the one day that changed your life and influenced who you are today. You might not have such a dramatic story, but take the time to remember, and it will be yours. Share it. Keep it. Burn it if you wish, but write it. “A Rewiring Life” is my personal essay.

NOTEWORTHY


‘A Rewiring Life’

By Mark W. Howard

142 pages, $17.99

arewiringlife.com

A Rooftop Takeover


Summer 2021 in Aspen is still filled with question marks – nothing on the normally glutted arts calendar is written in ink.

But the Aspen Art Museum, in partnership with Anderson Ranch Arts Center, recently unveiled a creative solution that will harness nature itself with a garden exhibition that will welcome visitors, fill the rooftop sculpture garden for a year-and-a-half and is poised to be a centerpiece of Aspen’s post-pandemic arts scene.

The museum has commissioned poet, playwright and artist Precious Okoyomon, whose groundbreaking work on experiential food-based art with Spiral Theory Test Kitchen has drawn international attention, for what will be Okoyomon’s first solo museum exhibition in the U.S.

The show, to include live plants, edible features, music, sculptures made at Anderson Ranch and multimedia, multi-sensory events, will run from June 2021 to October 2022.

Okoyomon’s installations will include sculptures and a garden of organic matter – selected and tended in collaboration with local growers – and the work will transform over the run of the show, when the artist will be in residence to work on it, ”making it a live and responsive commission that will literally grow and replenish over time.”

Themed around pleasure, abundance and desire, the plants are expected to include so-called “invasive species” and indigenous ones as a way of exploring ideas around colonization and slavery.

“By combining invasive plants such as Kudzu, Japanese knotweed, and honeysuckle with indigenous dandelions, mugwort, and milk thistle, Okoyomon will further their ongoing investigation of the racialization of the natural world,” reads a museum announcement. “They will cross-pollinate these plants to rebuild the soil, forming a new abundant biosphere.”

Okoyomon plans to populate the garden with large sculptures made of soil, clay and faux stone, which they have dubbed “angel protectors.”

Musician collaborators are also creating organic seasonal soundtracks with Okoyomon for the garden, using external samples and sounds recorded from within the garden to compose responses to it. In addition, Okoyomon will bring in artists, poets, theorists, filmmakers and performers for activations and live performances in the garden. Okyomon will also host services on the solstices to mark the passing seasons.

“These services will focus on Black feminism, self-fragilization, and queerness and will ask participants to chant, meditate, and dream new worlds,” the announcement reads. “A poetry retreat will also take place in Summer 2022 that highlights Okoyomon’s beginnings as a poet as well as the long and vivid history of exchange between artists and poets.”

The utopian ideals at the heart of this conceptual work are the driving force for Okoyomon’s work as an artist and as a next step from her acclaimed sculpture- and wool- and kudzu-based 2020 show “Earthseed” at the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, Germany.

In a 2019 panel at Art Basel with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, Okoyomon talked about her work with food, calling her elaborate meal preparatons “a kind of praxis of care work.”

Okoyomon said the work aimed toward “queer futurities,” an unknown but radically hopeful future destination: “We want to go there and presently live in it constantly and to be entangled in new rebirths of self that have endless limits.”

The Aspen installation and communal events are in line with Okoyomon’s experiential and personal approach, where a meal or an “invasive” garden or a performance might be an act of hope or a bridge to a better world.

“You have to create a whole new space of thinking,” Okoyomon said in the Art Basel panel, “like, ‘What is time and what is this world?”

atravers@aspentimes.com

Asher on Aspen: Sledding Off the Grid


 

Lost in a sea of Rudolph-red noses, an authoritative voice caught my attention. It was an early, brisk Saturday morning and I had yet to drink my coffee. I slowly turned my focus to a group of men in red vests with official-looking walkie talkies strapped to their chests. They rallied the group in attempts to make an announcement. We stood outside at the main entrance of T-Lazy-7 Ranch where we eagerly anticipated further instruction.

After a brief introduction, we were each assigned to our designated snowmobiles and I promptly worried about what I had just signed up for. Having never done this before, I didn’t know quite what to expect. My friend who was riding tandem on my sled asked me to drive first, and I willingly agreed. She looked at me nervously and asked, “You know what you’re doing?” I secured my helmet, took a breath, looked her square in the eye and said, “No. But let’s do this!”

A few snow-loving friends and I decided to participate in a ten-person guided group tour where we would explore the vast winter wonderlands of the White River National Forest on snowmobiles — a safe, all-outdoor pandemic outing. The original intent was to ride to the Maroon Bells, but due to recent snowfall and unsafe avalanche conditions, the trail was closed. Our guide switched us to the Pyramid Peak route instead, and it proved to be equally as beautiful and thrilling of a ride.

We were given a quick tutorial on how to operate the sled from an apple-cheeked, cheerful guide named Caleb. He gave us a mittened thumbs-up and motioned for us to follow him. I pressed my thumb down on the gas and without thinking, we flew off into the snowy woods. My nerves quickly subsided when the cold wind hit my face and abruptly woke me up. My eyes began to water due to the frigid temps and I noticed my eyelashes starting to freeze together. Luckily, the adrenaline took over and I barely noticed the cold after we began ripping it up.

The trail was wide and open in some parts, and narrow and twisting in others. We flew through the glistening trees, and it felt like we had the forest completely to ourselves. The sparkling white snow gave off a dreamy, whimsical vibe that appeared postcard perfect. There was so much beauty to take in, and the ride itself was a total thrill. I yelled back to my friend to ensure she was capturing the essence of this moment in a video. Luckily, she already had her phone out and I could tell she was just as impressed as I was.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the couple behind us following especially close. Without warning, they quickly zipped past us with childlike delight. Though this passing totally took me by surprise, we couldn’t help but smile at how excited they were to “win” in that moment. They flew over the snow with dramatic speed as they hooted and hollered their way past us.

Suddenly, Caleb raised his mitten and called a halt. Confused by this sudden stop, everyone looked around for a clue as to why we were stopping. The riders shut off their engines and Caleb gestured toward a group of large brown blobs across the valley. Squinting my eyes, I could vaguely recognize the outline of what I thought might be moose. I was impressed.

“It’s not every day you see a moose!” I shouted over to my friends. I always get overly excited when I unexpectedly see wildlife. Even the slightest glimpse of a fox or an elk arouses me. So, you can imagine my joy when a group of the tallest mammals in North America were standing right in front of our eyes. We stopped and ogled for a moment at their massive, majestic glory.

Caleb’s enthusiasm was infectious. He impressed us all with fun facts about moose and wildlife in the area. It was clear at that moment that this was someone who really loved their job. He went on to teach us about the Maroon Creek Valley’s vast history while we explored miles of groomed trails through thick aspen groves and wild, luscious meadows.

Once we neared the end of our excursion, Caleb led us over to a small cozy cabin where he served us hot cocoa and apple cider. I took one sip, and then glanced over at my friends. Their cheeks were chafed red with cold and their smiles were bright. The brisk morning air was now overshadowed with this warm, sweet drink. I thought to myself, “Does it get any better than this?”

To me, this was the epitome of a quality Saturday morning in the mountains.

Aspen History: Snowpiercer

Photo Credit: History Colorado

“The Midland train due here at 9:45 yesterday morning, came rumbling into the Aspen depot 12 hours late almost to the minute,” noted the Aspen Daily Chronicle on February 25, 1891. “The delay was occasioned by a very heavy fall of snow on the main line of the road. Passengers who arrived on the train say they were detained at Leadville ten hours, and did not leave there until the belated train from Salt Lake had made its way through on its way East. The great rotary snow plow of the Midland road has been brought into requisition, and behind it three powerful locomotives are hitched together to push it through the massive snow drifts. Such tremendous power would appear to be sufficient to plow the way through towering mountains of snow. They ran ahead of the passenger trains, then followed another engine performing an independent mission of its own. That is to clear the rails of ice and make still better a passage way for the engine which pulls its precious load of human freight. The Midland train out did not depart from the Aspen depot until 6 o’clock last evening, and no difficulty in making good time east was anticipated. It is likely, however, that the snow plows will have a steady job for some little time yet, whether the storm abates or not.” This image shows the Colorado Midland’s rotary snowplow clearing the tracks on Hagerman Pass, circa 1900. (Photo Credit: History Colorado)

High Country: Behind the design of Dalwhinnie Farms, downtown’s newest (and fanciest) dispensary

A $14,700 crystal saddle by Aspen-based artist James Vilona is available for purchase. Dalwhinnie Farms plans to rotate its roster of showpieces seasonally.
Courtesy Dalwhinnie Farms

In rural Ridgway, Colorado, what was once a dressage riding arena on a 230-acre equestrian ranch transformed into a 30,000-square-foot indoor cannabis cultivation in 2019. Two years later and a few hours north, Dalwhinnie Farms debuted a retail extension — a fancy, flagship boutique in the downtown core.

Dalwhinnie Farms is deliberately extravagant. It’s why the family-owned company chose Aspen over nearby Telluride.

Dalwhinnie Farms-branded cashmere blankets, candles, apparel, accouterments and equestrian-style leather goods compliment its cannabis.
Courtesy Dalwhinnie Farms

“Our roots are very much in Colorado, and few towns are more Colorado than Aspen. You can be luxe without being snooty, and that’s part of the ethos that inspires the Dalwhinnie Farms brand,” shared Dalwhinnie Farms CEO Terrence Mendez. “We grow and sell premiere flower, absolutely, but we also have a lot of fun while doing so. We also felt that Aspen needed a cannabis boutique that fit alongside iconic businesses like the Hotel Jerome, St. Regis or The Little Nell. We designed the store to be unlike any other cannabis dispensary on Earth.”

But it was a long road (pun very intended) to get here. The pandemic and construction delays (working closely with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission) pushed the grand opening from spring to fall last year, with its doors originally opening in September. Before that, the Dalwhinnie name made headlines for a Clean Colorado roadway sponsorship. What was intended to be a generous community-building gesture resulted in an attempt to censor cannabis with an official complaint from Pitkin County sent to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The signs are legal and remain in place on its designated stretch of Highway 82.

As the eighth (yes, eighth) cannabis dispensary in town, Dalwhinnie Farms stands apart from mostly basement-dwelling, green cross-stamped competitors with a grand, ground-level storefront. Inside, a team of “Cannasseurs” (a welcome departure from “budtenders”) guides guests through “connoisseur-grade cannabis” of its own and other products from leading Colorado brands like Coda Signature, Binske, 1906 and Ripple by Stillwater Brands. Concentrates and wax come from its Shift Genuine Cannabis line, which Dalwhinnie Farms acquired in 2020 and processes at an extraction lab in Denver.

Dalwhinnie Farms flower is available in 1/8 jars for $60; Summerland's Chongo bong in glossy white.
Courtesy Dalwhinnie Farms

But it’s everything else they’re stocking that’s making a statement. Think: Jacquie Aiche’s beloved Sweet Leaf line (custom vintage Rolexes included), Rogue Paq carrying cases, Pasotti umbrellas, Badash crystal ashtrays, home goods from Jonathan Adler and handmade pipes and bongs by Summerland and Stonedware. Dalwhinnie Farms-branded cashmere blankets, candles, apparel, accouterments and equestrian-style leather goods are also on hand.

A Jacquie Aiche custom-adorned Sweet Leaf vintage Rolex retails for $15,000.
Courtesy Dalwhinnie Farms

“We’ve curated a selection of designer apparel, jewelry and home goods in addition to top-of-the-line cannabis showpiece accessories from all over the world—with the traveler, entertainer and aesthete in mind,” explained Dalwhinnie Farms CRO Ashley Grace, who was a founding marketing executive with Charlotte’s Web. “This building dates back to 1890 and housed general stores, coffee shops, beauty parlors and diners throughout the ages, so it was inspiring to create a space to also sell Dalwhinnie Farms dry goods and sundries to continue that heritage.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

SHOP

Dalwhinnie Farms

108 S. Mill St., Aspen

970-429-8830

dalwhinnie.com

@dalwhinniefarms

 

WineInk: Cornas Steep and Deep

Sometimes in wine, as in life, there are coincidences. And when things happen in threes, it’s best that you pay attention. Such has been the case for me this winter with the Cornas wines produced by Vincent Paris.

The trail began with a query I sent to some local sommeliers asking them to recommend four wines, one for each of the seasons. Steve Humble, who, with his wife Robin, runs Free Range Kitchen, the excellent Basalt based wine-centric restaurant, offered his suggestion for a winter wine, a 2015 Domaine Vincent Paris “Granit 60” Cornas, Rhône Valley, France.

“Raw powerful syrah from Cornas” is how he described it. “The flavors are cracked pepper, blueberries, raspberries, raw meat, iron. A powerhouse of a wine calling to be consumed with a hearty, soul-warming stew!” That was enough to get my attention.

Then, not long after that article was published an invite came to attend an online virtual tasting touting the upcoming Little Nell Wine Academy. Dustin Wilson, former Nell sommelier and current owner of the Verve Wine shops in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, hosted the event to compare and contrast wines produced from the same grapes from the new world, with those of the old world. As noted in this space at the time, a syrah pairing squared off a 2015 Lower East Columbia Valley Syrah against a 2017 Domaine Vincent Paris “Granit 30”Cornas. While I was unable to attend the tasting, I did receive a bottle of each for personal contemplation.

The third occurrence, and the impetus for this column, came this past week when a FedEx arrived with a Valentine’s Day gift. It was from the noted wine and cheese authority, and my dear friend, Laura Werlin, a half-Aspenite who is hunkered down in San Francisco. The gift? Why, a bottle of the 2018 Domaine Vincent Paris “Granit 60” Cornas, of course.

Three friends, one west, one east and the third from beyond the roundabout all recommending a single winemaker from the Rhône Valley of France? Who could ignore that? As a lover of syrah, certainly not I.

Vincent Paris is an emerging master of old vine syrah who has developed a reputation as one of the leading quality producers in the tiny, picturesque village of Cornas in the southern end of the Northern Rhône. The region is the ancestral home of syrah which is a progeny of the coupling of Duress and Mondeuse Blanche, two obscure grapes from southeastern France. It has made its way around the globe and is planted in places as far flung as the Barossa Valley in Australia and Red Mountain in Washington state. But syrah’s finest footing can still be found in vines firmly planted in the Rhône.

Paris acquired a plot of prime land from his uncle Robert Michel in the late 1990s and began his quest to produce the wines born in the vineyards of the rocky, steep hillsides of a natural amphitheater that sits above the village of Cornas. His land sits cheek-to-jowl with Clape and Allemand, two producers whose wines are synonymous with collectable Cornas. He produces less than 3,000 cases a year, and only about half of that under the “Granit” motif.

The Granit 30 and Granit 60 designations reference both the geologic composition of the soils, granite, and the gradient, in degrees, of the terraced hillsides where the grapes are sourced. The Granit 30 comes from younger vines, lower in the bowl, on 30-degree slopes. While the Granit 60 is made with grapes harvested higher on slopes that are as much as 60 degrees steep, from vines that are 60 years old. Consider that the steepest run of Highland Bowl, Be One, right down the middle tops out at 45 degrees. Obviously, with slopes that steep, the vines are tended by hand and the challenge is in the farming.

All of this – the terroir, the history, the labor – make it into each sip of the Vincent Paris wines and when you taste them there is a raw, but refined, style. The minerality of the stone, the chewy, meaty texture, the deep aromas of the darkest berries. These are wines of power and dignity. And, if you can find them they will not break the proverbial bank. The Granit 30 is in the $30 range and the Granit 60, appropriately is the $60 range.

While I initially believed that my three friends suggestions were coincidental, after thinking about it, and tasting the wines, I realized that this was kismet. A magical confluence of great palates coming together and sharing the same conclusion at the same time.

I was just a receptacle for their generosity. Lucky Me.