| AspenTimes.com

WineInk: Sonoma Spring

UNDER THE INFLUENCE


2017 Flowers Moon Select Chardonnay

To me, no grape variety signifies spring more than Chardonnay. And in April there is no wine I would rather open than a Flowers Chardonnay. One of the most beautiful locations in all of Sonoma is the Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard. Over 1,000 feet high and less than two miles from the Pacific, this vineyard basks in ocean breezes and slumbers under coastal fog. The wine tastes of its origins and brings a basket of the fruits of spring. Meyer lemon, honey, and a slightly herbaceous green scent of lemon grass make a chilled pour seem like a spring day. This is the best of the Flowers.

This one came on April Fool’s Day. Aspen’s Queen of Cannabis, Katie Shapiro, had forwarded a missive from the Sonoma County Vintners association about how April was to be named Sonoma County Wine Month. Now, as this came on a date known for hoopla from a weed-y source, it took a minute to make sure I was not being hoodwinked.

Sure ‘nuff, Katie was right. April has been decreed, for the first time, as “Sonoma County Wine Month” by the vintners and it is a righteous idea, one that should have legs long into the future. To celebrate, many of Sonoma County’s wineries will be hosting special experiences and offering both in-person and virtual specials, in addition to shipping promotions. The idea, of course, is to sell wines, but the real benefit may be to bring some attention to one of the most beautiful and varied wine regions on earth. And it does so during one of the most beautiful months of the year.

When it comes to global recognition as a wine region, Sonoma long lagged in the shadow of the adjacent Napa Valley. Napa’s marketing muscle and laser focus on the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, the world’s most popular wine, have placed it at the pinnacle of American wine. But for those who value diversity of varietals, varied weather and geographic conditions, the things that make for what the French call terroir, then it is Sonoma that may be at the top of the heap.

MY SONOMA AWAKENING


As a consumer, my earliest Sonoma awakenings came in the form of Chardonnay. I remember falling hard for the Chateau St. Jean “Robert Young Vineyard” Chardonnay in the 1980s. The wines were oaky, buttery with hints of vanilla, all of the things that eventually created the ABC, or “Anything But Chardonnay” movement. But oh, what wonderful wines they were to my emerging palate.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that these were “single vineyard wines.” That is to say the “Robert Young” designation on the bottle was an announcement that these wines came exclusively from one place, a family-owned, -grown and -raised vineyard in the Alexander Valley. Later, on a my first Sonoma winery visit, I traveled to Kenwood to visit Chateau St. Jean expecting to see the vineyards that gave birth to my chardonnay, only to be told no, the vines lived 35 miles away. It was the beginning of a geographic understanding of the vastness that Sonoma is known for as well as the notion that grapes are sourced for particular reasons, not just proximity.

Three decades later, the Sonoma AVA, which encompasses the county, has eighteen sub-appellations, or areas that are designated to possess characteristics so unique that they make each special in their own way. There are over 425 individual wineries in Sonoma County, and while chardonnay — much of it made in different styles from the aforementioned Robert Young of my youth — is still a cornerstone, it is pinot noir that is the showstopper these days.

Places like the Russian River Valley, just outside of the trendy town of Healdsburg, Carneros near the San Pablo Bay, and the Sonoma Coast, have become go-to appellations for those who love wines made from the often finicky and thin-skinned grapes. While each location is geographically different, they all benefit from moderating cooling influences. The Russian River gets a healthy helping of evening fog that settles around the vines in the valley. Carneros, relatively flat, gets breezes off the bay and the rugged Sonoma Coast gets both fog and winds across their vineyards. It is these different kinds of climatological occurrences that make the wines different.

TRAVELING SONOMA

A trip to Sonoma (Alaska Airlines has flights into Sonoma County Airport-STS) can provide myriad possibilities for wine lovers. Large wineries like Kendall-Jackson near Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma, have spectacular gardens, restaurants and tasting options.

Stopping in Carneros the attraction may be the architecturally significant Ram’s Gate winery. Up north in Healdsburg, the charming downtown square is filled with shops, hotels, restaurants and wine tasting rooms with the Dry Creek Kitchen, and Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar amongst the staples. And there, Kyle Connaughton and his wife Katina’s Single Thread farm, inn and restaurant have earned Michelin recognition. The eleven course-tasting menu is a luxury rooted in nature.

Go further afield to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville in the northern reaches of the County and you’ll find a winery filled with film memorabilia from the director’s personal collection and a series of poolside cabanas overlooking vineyards.


But for me the beauty of Sonoma is best found on the windy roads that cross the county and lead to the sea. Try Route 116 from Sebastopol to Graton, then along the Russian River out to Jenner. Once you hit the coast, the drive up Highway 1 to Sea Ranch is amongst the rugged and most beautiful sections of the entire West Coast

In recent years, fires have ravaged Sonoma County. Last fall it was the Glass Fire, in 2019 the Kincade Fire, and in 2017 the Sonoma Complex or Tubbs fire. All created havoc and destroyed large numbers of homes. And while the community is still struggling to rebuild and return, the county is so vast that it is easy to find areas that were not touched by flame.

While I always love a visit to Napa, the trips are a little bit structured. Winery visits are planned, dinner reservations are made in advance. Slacks and a blazer are packed. With Sonoma, there is a little more serendipity. Unexpected discoveries can be made. Lunch happens when you come upon a roadside food truck or a tacqueria. Jeans or shorts are encouraged.

The vibe is just a bit more laid back.

SONOMA WINE MONTH

As I said, the point of this piece is that we are in the early stages of the inaugural Sonoma Wine Month festivities. If you can’t get to the coast, you can bring some of the happenings — or at least some wine.— here.

Many wineries are celebrating the month by offering discounts on wine shipping with minimum purchases. Silver Oak, for example, is offering free shipping on all orders. You can get a case of Flowers Chardonnay with complimentary shipping and Chappellet will ship your purchases for just a buck. That’s just the beginning. Go to sonomawine.com/sip-from-home/#virtual

Then there are virtual experiences. Benziger Family Vineyards are hosting Virtual Private Happy Hours with hosts Chris or Jill Benziger when you order a package that includes wines and the 45-minute Happy Hour at benziger.com. They also feature a special tasting in honor of Earth Day on April 22.

Anthony Giglio, a long time presenter at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, has teamed with the Foley Food & Wine Society to discuss wines with recipes provided and prepared by Foley Food & Wine Society Chef Alec Graham. Friday nights, 6 p.m. MT @FFWSociety on Instagram.

And on April 22nd Don Wallace, Proprietor of Dry Creek Vineyard, will host a Honey & Olive Oil Virtual Tasting at 5 p.m. MT. Don will be leading a delicious exploration of K&D Mercantile (named after winery owners Kim and Don Wallace) estate olive oil and honey, while sharing his passion for biodiversity. This virtual tasting will take place via Zoom, which is free and easily downloaded to all devices.

store.drycreekvineyard.com/product/Virtual-Tasting-4/22

This is just a sampling of the virtual events that can be found this month. For more, go to https://sonomawine.com/sip-from-home/#virtual.

Zach Woods of ‘Silicon Valley’ brings new film to virtual Aspen Shortsfest

Will Ferrell in “David,” screening at the virtual Aspen Shortsfest through Sunday, April 11. Courtesy Aspen Film
IF YOU WATCH…

What: ‘David’ at Aspen Shortsfest

Where: Eventive via aspenfilm.org

When: Program Two; Streaming through April 11

How Much: $15/single program; $60/Five Program Pass; $150/Full Virtual Pass; $250/VIP Pass; $45/student pass

Tickets: aspenfilm.org

For his directorial debut, the actor Zach Woods — best known for playing uptight neurotics on “The Office” and “Silicon Valley” — called in some A-list actors for a two-day pre-pandemic film shoot.

The result is “David,” a 12-minute gem playing at the virtual Aspen Shortsfest through Sunday.

It stars the comic great Will Ferrell as a therapist, William Jackson Harper of “The Good Place” as his patient in crisis and the young Fred Hechinger (“News of the World”) as the therapist’s live-wire son. The patient and child, both named David, vie for Ferrell’s attention in a winning and bittersweet tragicomedy.

Woods himself is the son of a therapist, but he’s quick to point out that his relationship with his therapist dad doesn’t much resemble the one portrayed in “David.” The job itself fascinated him, however, and inspired this first work as a writer-director.

“There’s something interesting to me about how, beyond just professional responsibility, a therapist loves their patients,” Woods said in a recent phone interview. “A good therapist loves their patients, and a good father loves his child. The collision of those two things is interesting to me.”

It’s a very 2020 little movie about sad people trying to do their best, failing but doing so in some funny and absurd ways. “David” also accidentally anticipated the dizzying convergence of domestic and professional spaces that the pandemic’s stay-home periods forced on people the world over, making the bizarre comic swerves and raw-nerve emotions of the film relatable to anybody who has navigated the public health crisis.

As a first-time director, Woods said he called on his experience as an actor, attempting to treat his three-man cast with the compassion he always hopes a director will give him.

“My goal was just to be loving and curious, so that it sort of invited the best of them,” he said, “and it’s not hard to be loving and curious with those three because they’re so big-hearted and crazy and sensitive.”

Woods’ performing roots are in improv. He came up through Upright Citizens Brigade, where he met “David” co-writer Brandon Gardner, and fell into his Hollywood acting career through his stage work. He and Gardner wrote with improvisation and experimentation in mind.

Improv comics have often turned into outstanding directors — from Mike Nichols to Michael Showalter — and Woods found that filmmaking surprisingly called on many of the same skills and instincts that improv had: working collaboratively with a team and trying to discover something visceral and unique in the process.

“The things that I really feel like I carry forward are community, freedom from self-consciousness and the sort of endless hunt for some little moment that has some real immediacy and doesn’t just feel like a plan that you carried out,” Woods said.

He has a soulful take on filmmaking that would surprise anyone confusing him with the tightly wound characters he’s perfected on screen.

His acting coach, Anya Saffir, offered a bit of advice that became Woods’ driving philosophy for directing scenes and actors.

“She said, ‘Rather than being an outside eye, be an outside heart,’” Woods recalled. “To not intellectualize it, but to stay connected in a visceral and physical way to what’s actually happening.”

As he began thinking about directing as a mid-career actor, Woods also went out to breakfast at a Los Angeles diner with “Silicon Valley” showrunner Alec Berg and peppered him with questions. Berg told him to make sure everybody on the film feels appreciated and to speak up when something feels off.

“He said, ‘When you have that feeling that something about this doesn’t feel right, your instinct like mine will probably be to not say anything because you’re not a confrontational person you want people to feel good,’” he recalled. “But now it’s your job to speak up.”

“David” has had a successful virtual festival run through the pandemic, going back to its premiere at the virtual Cannes Film Festival in May 2020. Getting accepted to Cannes and finding positive receptions at festivals since — in the small and way off-Main Street world of short film — has been validating for Woods.

“There’s a reasonable presumption that if an actor starts directing, it’s probably some weird dilettante thing,” he said. “And maybe it is. But [Cannes] lent me credibility. … All of these other festivals have doing the same thing and given me access to all these audiences of people who really care about these shorts. I’m so lucky, and I feel so grateful to all of them.”

Expect to see more from Woods behind the camera. He recently finished a second short, a drama titled “Bud,” which he hopes will be on the festival circuit soon. The sophomore effort was shot during the pandemic in Los Angeles with a cast and crew of 60, produced through the gauntlet of the virus and the regime of industry rules and with a team of COVID-19 compliance officers.

“it gave me some perspective about the sort of tribulations of producing anything during this time,” he said. “It is extremely complicated and difficult, but that’s amazing.”

Woods is not giving up acting yet, but he does feel comfortable in the director’s chair.

“So much of acting is about just trying to pry your attention off of yourself and eliminate this natural self-consciousness that pops up when someone points a camera at you,” he said. “But when you’re directing it’s more like you’re just trying to create the ideal conditions for people to be their best and most exciting selves. It feels less ego-triggering in a way, which is nice.”

atravers@aspentimes.com

High Country: Legalization lessons learned from Arcview’s Colorado Town Hall

As it stands today, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) recognizes 17 states where cannabis is legal for adult use and 36 states for medical use.
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

In what was a monumental week in weed history, three more states moved to legalize adult-use cannabis as March turned to April. Last Wednesday, New York became the 16th state to make recreational cannabis legal for adults 21 and over, while Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called for lawmakers to amend legislation to expedite legalization and New Mexico advanced adult-use marijuana market legislation to the governor’s desk.

In between breaking news alerts, The Arcview Group, a leading investment network and market research firm servicing the cannabis industry, presented its annual Colorado Town Hall. Unintentionally timed to such progress, it examined how the first state to legalize cannabis has fared over the past seven years as the country teeters on the cusp of federal legalization.

“New York’s passing of adult-use cannabis marks a major turning point in the coast-to-coast reform of cannabis prohibition,” Kim Kovacs, CEO of The Arcview Group, shared with me via email post-event. “We’re looking forward to New York incorporating best practices and lessons learned from states that did it first, including Colorado.”

The Arcview Group, host of the Aspen High Summit in 2017 and 2018, welcomed Gov. Jared Polis for opening remarks (via a last minute recording while he attended the memorial service for Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley), who introduced a panel of Colorado’s earliest entrepreneurs: Ean Seeb, (Special Advisor on Cannabis to the Governor), Nancy Whiteman (CEO, Wana Brands), Peter Barsoom (CEO, 1906), Wanda James (CEO, Simply Pure), Diane and Jay Czarkowski (co-founders, Canna Advisors) and Brandon Banks (board member, Natural Selections). The virtual event answered participant questions live over the course of a 60-minute session.

 

As legalization spreads — bills that would legalize cannabis are also being seriously considered in Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island — Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is vowing to move forward with legislation to federally legalize marijuana, “even if President Biden resists such a move,” The Hill recently reported. Here are four key findings from the top minds in Colorado cannabis, each sharing invaluable lessons newly legal states can learn.

 

Wanda James, CEO, Simply Pure
Sergio Carrasco

Q: What role would you like to see the federal government play for the industry?

A: “It took Colorado 11 years to be able to establish any kind of social equity guidelines which, quite frankly, left very little room for anybody black or brown to get into this industry. We are a mature market, so what I really look forward to seeing as this moves forward is the idea of direct banking (and) the SBA (Small Business Administration) actually being involved, because the hardest thing for a black or brown entrepreneur, and not just in cannabis, but in anything that we do, is being able to find capital. When you look at things like systemic racism, our businesses are not valued the same as who I’m competing with — the 25-year-old white guy that just came up with an idea that somebody decided to give $25 million to. And yet, an organization such as mine is not seen as valuable. Banking should be able to give me the line of credit that (I deserve) to be able to grow my business, instead of having some predatory financier wanting 20% of my company for a $100,000 loan. I’m really looking forward to the possibilities to see where black- and brown-(owned) or women- and veteran-led businesses can go once we are able to level the playing field. But we have to be able to have more access to capital.” — Wanda James, CEO, Simply Pure, simplypure.com

 

 

 

Q: What does the cannabis consumer look like after seven years of recreational cannabis?

Peter Barsoom, CEO, 1906
Courtesy Photo

A: “We started 1906 because we believe that there’s a large and growing segment of adult consumers who are looking for alternatives to alcohol and pharmaceuticals — where it’s not about getting high and it’s not about smoking. It’s just about improving your daily life and managing (its) demands through cannabis, so I think one of the things that’s important to recognize is that there is no such thing as a cannabis consumer right now. People who consume cannabis run the gamut from 95-year-old grandmothers to children with epilepsy to folks who are dealing with pain or have trouble sleeping. What has evolved, is this notion of ‘the stoner.’ It’s no longer relevant and (now) we’re seeing cannabis as a widely accepted plant medicine, just like it was before (the year) 1906 when prohibition truly started.” — Peter Barsoom, CEO, 1906, 1906newhighs.com

 

 

 

 

Q: As operators, how would you suggest establishing a national footprint and brand after building a foundation in Colorado?

Nancy Whiteman, CEO, Wana Brands
Courtesy Photo

A: “We currently operate in 12 markets. And to oversimplify it, there’s two paths [and] there’s many variations of these paths. As an operator, you can strike partnerships in other markets with people who are license-holders and operate under their licenses — essentially using some form of a licensing agreement to license your brand. Or you can go market-by-market, get your own license and build out your own facilities [and operations] within each market. What happens in today’s environment [is that] every time we go into a new market, we essentially have to start over because every state has its own regulations — everything from the (THC warning) symbol to packaging to labeling to dosage, which means that there is no practical way for a brand or manufacturer to achieve anything that approximates national scale, because we have to go state-by-state. I would like to see the federal government standardize around these guidelines — (that) would enable us to operate much more efficiently. And let’s not forget interstate commerce — that’s going to be key (so we can start) to source biomass from states where it’s able to grow outdoors and set up transport across state lines.” — Nancy Whiteman, CEO, Wana Brands, wanabrands.com

Q: What should investors look for in a brand new market?

Ean Seeb, special advisor on cannabis, Gov. Jared Polis
Courtesy Photo

A: “Banking. It’s one of our main priorities here in Colorado as it relates to cannabis businesses, so we’ve not only permitted, but we’ve encouraged state-chartered banks and financial institutions to provide banking services. We’re getting ready to host a series of bi-weekly town halls with stakeholders and insurance groups and really are going to be digging into what types of services can be available. Most licensees in Colorado do have depository services, but that’s all that they have, and it’s one thing to be able to deposit your cash — it’s another thing to be able to have all the other services that are available (to other industries) like life insurance, mortgages and loans. So we’re trying here in Colorado, we’re proactively engaging on the state level, but again, we really need to see some federal action. The hope is that 2021 will be the year where we see cannabis banking once and for all at the federal level.” — Ean Seeb, Special Advisor on Cannabis to Gov. Jared Polis, colorado.gov/governor

Editor’s note: The above excerpts have been edited for clarity.

Tune In: To view Arcview’s complimentary Colorado Town Hall in full (plus, additional “Arcview April Takeover” 10-year anniversary content all month), visit arcviewgroup.com/replays.

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

SAVE THE DATE

420 HIGH HOLIDAY DINNER

As part of a new, ongoing series of special events, The Pullman in Glenwood Springs is paying homage to 420 with an official “High Holiday Dinner.” Chef John Little and the team will feature six gourmet courses inspired by “the attack of the munchies” and paired with libations. While certain laws and regulatory authorities frown on the use of cannabis in restaurants, The Pullman will not be serving any infused dishes or allow consumption on site. Rather, guests are encouraged to get high at home beforehand and have a designated driver.

Tuesday, April 20, 7 p.m., $75 per person (advance reservation required)

THE PULLMAN

330 Seventh St., Glenwood Springs 970-230-9234, thepullmangws.com

 

An online veteran community showcases the art of war (and peace)

When the pandemic wiped clean the in-person calendar for the Basalt-based military veterans nonprofit Challenge America, and canceled its music therapy retreats for the foreseeable future, the organization’s small team got to work on new solutions and virtual ways to connect vets.

The result is the free vets-only Challenge America Veteran Arts Community (CAVARTS), a private social media ecosystem. It launched in mid-March and is now connecting veterans nationally in a safe and supportive online space where they can pursue creative passions and discover new ones.

The forum allows vets to share their works in visual and graphic arts, performing arts, music and creative writing while also providing instruction and connections to creative organizations and events. But the heart of the program is its veteran-to-veteran network.

“The pandemic forced us to reevaluate what we’re doing, because we weren’t able to do the in-person music therapy retreats that we had done in the past,” said Challenge America executive director Dallas Blaney. “So we got together and thought, ‘Well, what can we do?’ ‘How can we connect vets and make it better than what it was before?’ That’s what gave rise to this program.”

Inside CAVARTS

The platform went live online on March 15. In its first week it drew about 350 active users. Organizers are hopeful that in coming months that number will grow into the hundreds of thousands. It is built to scale up to that level.

“It’s exciting to see,” Blaney said. “I don’t anticipate any scaling problems.”

The Veterans Affairs Administration — a longtime supporter and partner in Challenge America initiatives — is expected to begin promoting CAVARTS on its Vantage Point blog and to its mailing list of 3 million veterans this week.

During a tour of the site with Blaney in early April, the CAVARTS Community page included a video upload of a recent performance of a two-man play written by a vet, shared audio of new vet-written songs and an upload of an oil-on-canvas painting by a service member of himself with his son serving together in Afghanistan.

“My visual art and writing aid in both memory processing and mindfulness,” the artist wrote.

There were lively forums with general prompts like “If you were going to describe your artwork, what three adjectives would you use?” and specific tutorials, like one on how to create a playlist for self-care.

“Anyone who sees themselves as a visual artist can go into this group, have a more focused discussion with other veterans who share that same interest and directly connect,” Blaney said while scrolling through the pages of discussion.

Most of the posts we saw drew engagement and conversation, constructive criticism and support.

“Online programs like ours democratize access to services and information, which is what we have all hoped the internet would do,” Blaney said. “That there has been a boom in virtual programming for veterans is a particularly good thing, especially when you consider that one in three veterans live in a rural area like the Roaring Fork Valley. We believe all veterans should have access to high quality arts programming and we can’t imagine any better way to make this belief a reality. “

The site includes a Creative Communities section that allows vets to chat on various creative topics, a CAVARTS Academy for courses on specific art forms and an Artists’ Resource Library that functions as a clearinghouse for arts organizations and services.

“Water is Life” by veteran and painter Phyllis Thomas.

There is also a searchable events calendar that includes arts events across the U.S. so that vets can easily engage in their own communities (most of those listings so far are for virtual events, due to the pandemic).

“We made an early decision not to just narrow our focus to veterans specific organizations,” Blaney explained.

For now, Challenge America is not producing original courses of their own for the Academy curriculum, but instead is relying on partner organizations to provide courses. The explosion in virtual art-making classes over the past year, Blaney hopes, will fuel these early days of for the Academy classes.

Blaney and his team built CAVARTS as a forum to fuel vets’ passions. You can meet people, seek and give feedback on your work, dig into music and art that others share, as well as resources for wellness (a breathing tutorial was among the first things added to the CAVARTS Academy). It aims to give veterans tools for creativity as well as healing.

Blaney is hoping to also create a public-facing virtual art gallery on the site, where the general public could view, and potentially buy, works by the vets in the CAVARTS community, fueling the careers of new or established artists.

CAVARTS is open only to veterans. But Blaney and his team are also trying to spread the word among arts organizations to add their programs to its events calendars, to bring more veterans into the fold with creative people in their own communities. These aren’t siloed, vets-only programs. They’re places where CAVARTS members can be artists among artists and integrate into those circles. For example, here in its backyard Challenge America is hoping to connect vets with programs at places like the Art Base, Anderson Ranch Arts Center and Aspen Art Museum.

“We made an early decision not to just narrow our focus to veterans specific organizations,” Blaney said.

Arts in the DNA

Challenge America, launched in 2009, built its veterans-focused mission on a foundation of the arts.

The organization began with a star-studded benefit concert that June at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., hosted by the country singers and sometime-Aspenites Vince Gill and Amy Grant – who became honorary co-founders of Challenge America and performed on a bill that included Alison Krauss, Michael McDonald, Darius Rucker and others.

Challenge America’s overarching goal then, as now, was to connect military veterans and their families to resources in their communities while transitioning to civilian life. Programs have since extended into the design and tech sectors and a wider scope of the arts, but they started with music.

“The arts are part of our DNA and always have been,” said Blaney.

Its first program was a series of music therapy retreats for vets with post-traumatic stress – staging in Nashville, Cleveland and here in Colorado.

While the retreats provided inspiration and memorable experiences, Challenge America struggled to keep vets connected and provide a continuum of care after the gatherings ended and everyone went home. Based here on the Western Slope, Blaney and Challenge America leaders are attuned to the needs of rural vets and the particular set of challenges they face, as isolation is common and can exacerbate mental heath and substance abuse issues.

“Veterans afterward drifted off on their own,” Blaney said of the music retreats. “That was a challenge for us.”

Blaney and his team are hopeful that CAVARTS will provide more sustained connection for vets in the virtual space.

“It’s hard-wired to connect veterans nationwide who have an interest in or share a passion for the arts,” Blaney said.

Challenge America’s Military Sisterhood Initiative also paved the way for this moment. That program, launched in 2018 with volunteers from the tech company Acumen Solutions, created a national peer-to-peer support network for women in the military using a similar private social media interface as CAVARTS.

Its membership boomed with the pandemic.

“When we thought about what we wanted to do in the arts, we instinctively gravitated toward that same platform because it improved so fast,” Blaney said.

The CAVARTS initiative was launched with seed funding from the HeartStrings Foundation, an Arizona-based nonprofit that provides guitars to vets. It joined a mix of corporate, government, nonprofit and individual supporters — from Google to the National Endowment for the Arts to the Goldrich Family Foundation — that fuel Challenge America.

“Kiskadee” by veteran and painter Selina Jackson

Blaney is hopeful that, as the number of vets on the platform grows, CAVARTS may be a candidate for more federal funding and support from Veterans Affairs.

Running with a current staff of three — two based in the Roaring Fork Valley, one in Los Angeles — all of Challenge America operates on a $468,000 annual budget, according to tax returns from fiscal year 2018.

The organization has gradually incorporated visual art into its programs in recent years, beginning with a veterans’ art show at Gallery 8K in downtown Aspen in 2017. That show, curating national veteran artists, included recorded music, essays and visual art including sculpture, painting and photography.

Each of the works in that show included a statement from the artist, aiming to spark dialogue and created a smaller, in-person version of what CAVARTS is now doing online.

Vet artist Dan Figueroa made a painting of two pairs of boots, one military issue, the other Doc Martens. “I wanted to depict the polarity between regimented and laissez faire,” he wrote. “The painting is also meant to capture visually the truth of me then and now.”

Aspen’s own Dan Glidden shared photo landscapes and portraits he made while serving in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War, including a group of children he met in 1969, about whom he wrote, “I look at these faces and wonder what happened to these children. Where are they now?”

The organization now has the stated mission of leveraging technology and the creative arts to improve the lives of military service members, which has extended beyond the fine and performing arts that CAVARTS focuses on and has included programs like last summer’s COVID-19 Maker Challenge, which funded solutions by veterans to help frontline workers during the PPE shortage.

This spring’s launch for the new online community marks a new beginning for the organization and, Blaney hopes, the beginning of a new era for veterans in the arts.

“What success would look like for me is that CAVARTS eventually emerges as a recognized national hub for the creative arts for veterans,” Blaney said. “There’s nothing else out there like this, so I think we stumbled onto something here. I’m excited about our potential.”

atravers@aspentimes.com

LEARN MORE

LEARN MORE

Donate, add events and register:

Web: cavarts.org; challengeamerica.com

Facebook: Challenge America

Instagram: @cavarts

970-279-1323

 

Aspen Shortsfest: After freedom

Sarah Jackson and Oliver at Casa de Paz in the documentary “Welcome Strangers,” playing at the virtual Aspen Shortsfest through Sunday. Courtesy Aspen Film
IF YOU WATCH…

What: ‘Welcome Strangers’ at Aspen Shortsfest

Where: Eventive via aspenfilm.org

When: Program Nine; Streaming through April 11

How Much: $15/single program; $60/Five Program Pass; $150/Full Virtual Pass; $250/VIP Pass; $45/student pass

Tickets: aspenfilm.org

More info: A livestream Q&A with filmmakers from Program Nine will run Saturday, April 10 at 3 p.m.

So much of what we see about contemporary U.S. immigration is centered on the halls of power in Washington or on the people crossing at the southern border. The eye-opening and inspiring short documentary “Welcome Strangers” instead trains its compassionate focus on a moment you might not have previously thought about.

The 21-minute film, screening at Aspen Shortsfest though Sunday, is about the first minutes, hours and days after people are released from an ICE detention center in Aurora.

It brings the viewer into this industrial stretch of the Denver area, where people – most of them asylum-seekers – walk out of the barbed-wire-topped fences of the prison and into the streets, disoriented and often with little idea of how to find their family, how to restart their life.

The film follows Sarah Jackson and the volunteers from Casa de Paz as they pick up the newly released, offer them some hospitality, bring them to the Casa and begin trying to reunite families.

The instructions for Casa voluneers on pick-up duty, delivered somewhat comically in the film by Jackson, are: “Go to a prison and pick up the people that you find and don’t scare them so much that they run away.”

The service offers the immigrants a simple welcome and a helping hand. At the Casa, they can shower, rest, have some good meals, meet other newcomers and get basics like clothes and toiletries.

Guards and ICE administrators at the facility tell inmates about the Casa and will call the Casa to let volunteers know when people are coming out.

“One guard was like, ‘Hey, don’t worry, there’s a place where you can spend a couple of nights,” Oliver, an asylum-seeker from Cameroon, explains in the film.

Still separated from his wife three years after his release, Oliver had become one of the Casa’s chief volunteers working beside Jackson.

“Welcome Strangers” director Dia Sokol Savage first learned about Sarah Jackson and Casa de Paz in the summer of 2018, when President Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy rolled out and news reports exposed the practice of separating families at the southern border.

Sokol Savage’s mother volunteered with the Casa and told her filmmaker daughter about it.

“I had never through about that slice of moments when somebody who has been imprisoned and is then legally released,” she recalled in an interview last week, “about what that first 24 hours is like for them.”

A week after her mom’s call, Sokol Savage came to Denver to see Casa de Paz and meet Jackson.

Shot in December 2018 and January 2019, the film – in its observational style – brings viewers into those first moments of freedom as Casa de Paz volunteers search for newly released detainees, and try to help them (in one poignant moment, a newly released man named Javier assumes the volunteer is an immigration officer taking him back in) and into the Casa.

Open since 2012, Casa de Paz has operated across the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations. From her vantage point, Jackson has seen little change for people she serves at Casa de Paz.

“In the past nine years what I witnessed is people being abused in all different kinds of ways while they’re in the immigrant detention center here in Aurora, Colorado,” she said. “I haven’t necessarily seen the conditions inside be better or worse under one administration or another.”

“Welcome Strangers” has been on a festival run since last year, premiering with a pre-pandemic in-person screening at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana in February 2020. It has played virtually at many stops since then, including the Denver Film Festival and Telluride Mountainfilm, where it won Sokol Savage the Women in Film Award.

“It’s been a hard year to not be able to be enjoying it in rooms with audiences,” said Sokol Savage. “But it’s been cool to see how different festivals are handling things and nice to know that people are watching and responding.”

The filmmakers have also used it as an outreach tool, doing virtual events with immigration rights organizations and others to spread word about what Casa De Paz is doing. After the festival run, to land “Welcome Strangers” on public television or a similar national platform with the help of underwriters and sponsors.

Jackson said the film has already helped fuel new initiatives for Casa de Paz through the limitations of the pandemic.

With in-person visits barred by public health restrictions, Casa de Paz launched a pen pal program that connects Americans with inmates at the Aurora facility and other immigration detention centers. The film has propelled those efforts and created a network of hundreds of people around the U.S..

“I thought people might watch it and think, ‘Oh, that’s a nice story,” Jackson said, “But people say, ‘Oh that’s a nice story. And what can I do to help?’ Almost every single week I receive an email or a hardcopy letter or Instagram message from someone saying that they saw the film and they were moved and inspired and want to help.”

atravers@aspentimes.com

Asher on Aspen: Roads Less Taken

A thick wave of smoke rolled across just as we took our seats around the campfire. I forgot how much I loved that smell. Looking around, everyone seemed to be tapping their feet in unison to the beat. The band had just begun and I was already falling in love with the quirky little fiddle tunes that served as our soundtrack for the evening. Far removed from the glitz and glamour of Aspen, I felt calm and relaxed upon arrival.

Though Beyul Retreat is only an hour’s drive from downtown Aspen, it felt like another world. Taking over the historic Diamond J Guest Ranch at mile marker 26 on the upper Frying Pan River, this five-month-old retreat is the new, highly coveted escape from Aspen that all my friends seem to be talking about. So, given my love for Ruedi Reservoir and the therapeutic need to get away for a night, I insisted on experiencing it for myself.

We arrived on a recent Saturday afternoon, where we planned to stay the night and enjoy the last live performance of the retreat’s outdoor concert series called “Ballads at Beyul.” The lineup featured a slate of impressive artists that were all enjoyed from a COVID-safe distance. Each cabin had their own private campfire that was strategically spaced out from the other concert goers. On stage that night was The Tierro Band Trio featuring Bridget Law (of Elephant Revival), her partner Tiero, and percussionist Jonny Jyemo.

Thankfully, one of my best friends drove up from Denver to experience this peaceful oasis with me. In hindsight, I am so happy that I had someone else there to share the experience. We were both itching to get away and find a little solitude for the weekend, and this seemed like the perfect solution. All of my responsibilities and worries were pushed aside for the night. My ongoing to-do list for work was, for once, not my focus. We were literally in a utopia, in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone service, and I couldn’t have felt more at ease.

I smiled effortlessly as I noticed the scene unfolding around me. A little girl gleefully skipped around the campfire while her little brother stomped in the snow and wiggled his hips. Couples were cozied up with blankets over their laps and a warm drink in hand. A group of girlfriends swayed along to the “gypsygrass” music while sharing a bottle of wine. Dogs roamed free while ranch hands stepped in to fix any unruly fires. There was a general sense of calm in the air. I took one look around and thought, “These are my people.”

My head rolled back as I took a moment to marvel at the sky above. It was a glorious night and it just so happened to be a full moon. As the sun began to set, I noticed the clouds start to shift, revealing a stunning scene of immeasurable beauty. Chaotic and astonishing brushstrokes of pink and purple filled the sky’s canvas. The sunset and the soulful music were subtle reminders of how insignificant and tiny we are in the grand scheme of things. It was a gentle reminder that we are just tiny little specs in the middle of a great big universe, and our problems are never really as big as they first appear.

After the show, we moseyed back to our snug log cabin by the light of the moon. The cabin embodied the rich architectural traditions of the classic American ranch. A large cowhide covered the floor, a sheep-skin rug draped over the chair, a Pendleton throw lined the bottom half of the bed, and freshly chopped wood sat neatly next to the wood-burning fireplace. We had our own private bathroom and mini-fridge, and that’s really all we needed. It was cozy and quaint, and the simplicity was utterly refreshing.

Driving away the next morning, we both felt calm and enlightened. Beyul was like an illicit secret that we felt lucky to be in on. The peaceful venture made me realize that it is so important to seek out a new perspective every once in a while. We get so comfortable when we fall into a routine that it’s easy to forget how important it is to step back and look at things from a new light.

Whether that simply means changing up your daily routine, or actually escaping for a night or two to a quiet place to clear your head. When life gets to be too much for me, I find joy in the stillness and simplicity of nature. It can be a spiritual experience when you are immersed in the great cathedral of the outdoors. Like a kid driving away from summer camp, I was sad to leave. I’m already dreaming about a return visit to Beyul.

Aspen Music Festival announces in-person concert lineup, more than 150 events

Live music will return to Aspen this summer.

After a quiet 2020 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and the historic cancellation of last summer’s in-person season, the Aspen Music Festival and School on Thursday announced a 52-day, 150-event lineup for July and August.

With vaccines continuing to roll out, virus cases declining and public health restrictions loosening, the Aspen institution’s slate of summer concerts will return for its 72nd anniversary season.

“We’re very excited,” festival president and CEO Alan Fletcher said Wednesday. “We truly believe in this season. And we are monitoring, hour by hour, what health rules and best practices are across the world, in terms of being on stage, and we feel very confident about this.”

The lineup includes star soloists like Matthew Whitaker, who will open the festival July 1, and violinist Augustin Hadelich, who will close it with the Aspen Festival Orchestra on Aug. 22, with well-known works from the repertoire along with rarer pieces and music by living composers.

Concerts will revive the themes from the canceled 2020 season — “Beethoven’s Revolution” honoring the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth and “Uncommon Women of Note,” exploring works by female composers and performers — and new initiatives including a robust season-long program featuring works by composers who identify as AMELIA (Africa-American, Middle Eastern, Latin, Indigenous, and Asian) resulting from a multi-year internal process at the festival evaluating diversity, equity and inclusion in its programming and conducting new scholarship on previously overlooked works.

“We want to share our excitement and enthusiasm with our listeners — that’s how we view this work,” festival vice president for artistic administration Asadour Santourian said Wednesday.

Of the performances of works by the Black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Santourian added, “It’s finally going to come into the foreground. People will instantly ask, ‘This is beautiful music, why haven’t we heard this before?’ It’s unjustly or unjustifiably been neglected.”

ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL 2021 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

July 1: Pianist Matthew Whitaker

July 2: Aspen Chamber Orchestra performs Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

July 3, 10, 17: Opera Theater Master Classes with Renée Fleming

July 8: Pacifica Quartet

July 11: Stefan Jackiw, Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan and Aspen Festival Orchestra perform Beethoven’s “Triple” Concerto

July 13: Vocalist Julia Bullock

July 16: Renée Fleming with Aspen Chamber Orchestra

July 17: Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”

July 20: Pianist Yefim Bronfman

July 27-Aug. 15: Music on the Go mobile concert series

Aug. 5: Guitarist Sharon Isbin

Aug. 11: James Ehnes and pianist Andrew Armstrong perform Beethoven Violin Sonatas

Aug. 15: James Ehnes and Aspen Festival Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

Aug. 17: The Zukerman Trio

Aug. 20: Celllist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Aspen Chamber Orchestra

Aug. 21: Handel’s “Rodelinda”

Aug. 22: Aspen Festival Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5

Full schedule online at www.aspenmusicfestival.com

The diversity initiative includes 10 orchestral works, eight pieces to be performed by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble and 22 on recital programs. It will continue in seasons to come and will include commissions of new pieces along with an effort to revive works by living composers like Tebogo Monnakgotla (whose “Timecraft” is scheduled for a July 7 recital) as well as historic composers such as Florence Price (whose string quartets are set for July 8 and 22 performances) and William Dawson (whose “Negro Folk Symphony” will be performed by the Aspen Festival Orchestra July 18) who are less well known due to historically racist power structures in classical music.

“We’ve been digging deep into research on repertoire by composers of color, which we can now see has been underserved,” Fletcher said. “We think this is a mistake in history.”

The final three weeks of the season also will include free mobile concerts throughout the Roaring Fork Valley from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, performed from a to-go venue named The Concert Truck. The program was launched by a group of Aspen alumni and has previously brought mobile concerts to New York and Dallas.

“We can produce a short, really impactful concert experience,” Fletcher said of the mobile recitals producing multiple concerts in different locations daily. “We can maybe reach communities in the valley that wouldn’t normally come to the tent, whether it’s because of money or because it’s not familiar, it’s not part of their routine.”

Though they’re only planned for this pandemic summer, Fletcher predicts the mobile concerts will remain part of the festival program for years to come as part of local outreach efforts.

Concerts will follow a previously announced regime of modifications and safety precautions, with most events hosted in the open-air Benedict Music Tent, all performed without intermission and none exceeding 75 minutes. Audience capacity is expected to be announced when tickets and season passes go on sale to the public May 17.

With distancing protocols in mind and without shared rooms in student housing, the number of students admitted to the program was limited to 270 — down from about 690 in pre-pandemic summers — and the faculty cut in half to 101.

Fletcher said students who were admitted for 2020 were the first offered spots for 2021 and that faculty members who are not invited this summer will still be paid. He said the festival is committed to bringing back its full faculty and student body size in 2022.

“We’ve really thought this through, and we really had the right design for the festival,” Fletcher said. “As soon as we can do it again, we’re going to be in full force.”

Along with three evening concerts running at the Benedict every week, the season includes free student recitals, free panel discussions and events for kids. Reservations are expected to be required for all events, including sitting on the listening lawn at the Benedict. The complete lineup is online at aspenmusicfestival.com.

Two operas are on the bill, abridged concert versions of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (July 17) and Handel’s “Rodelinda” (Aug. 21) as the festival launches its new Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program co-directed by luminaries Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers. They will be staged at the Benedict rather than the Wheeler Opera House.

Fleming also will sing with the Aspen Chamber Symphony under conductor Robert Spano on July 16. Spano, returning as the festival’s music director, will oversee the Aspen Conducting Academy and conduct four concerts this summer.

Notable debuts include Whitaker’s opening night performance of his jazz-based work, classical singer Julia Bullock (July 13), Aspen alum Tenkgu Irfan (July 23), alum Zlatomir Fung (July 26) and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Aug. 20).

Among the returning Aspen favorites are conductor Leonard Slatkin, leading the first season performance by the Aspen Chamber Symphony on July 2 with a program including a Julia Perry composition alongside Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 and Fifth Symphony, Nicolas McGegan (July 14), Yefim Bronfman (July 18 and 20), Daniil Trifonov (July 25 and 27), Sharon Isbin (Aug. 5), Vladmir Feltsman (Aug. 10), Robert McDuffie (Aug. 12) and Jeremy Denk (Aug. 19).

Violinist Stefan Jackiw, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan join conductor Ludovic Morlot and the Aspen Festival Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s “Triple” Concerto on July 8. All three will return a week later to present an all-Beethoven program July 15 that will include Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, “Pathétique,” and the “Ghost” Trio.

Violinist Pinchas Zukerman will perform in Aspen for the first time since 2005, bringing the Zukerman Trio — with cellist Amanda Forsyth and pianist Shai Wosner — to the Benedict on Aug. 17.

Hosting smaller, distanced orchestras this summer means the festival couldn’t program larger works by Strauss, Mahler and Bruckner, and could not program anything with a chorus. But all of Beethoven’s symphonies, festival producers learned, were doable (four are scheduled). And while the festival’s iconic lemonade stand will be closed and mingling will be discouraged, Fletcher and Santourian promise Aspen audiences a celebratory and safe return to the stage this summer.

“I want to assure people that we’re working with the county board of health literally every day to ensure that we’re going to do all of this in a really responsible and safe way for the performers and for the audience,” Fletcher said. “And at the same time, we’re thinking all the time about what will make for the best concert experience.”

atravers@aspentimes.com

Aspen History: ‘Woman editor wants a million’


“Woman editor wants a million,” announced the Aspen Democrat-Times on April 12, 1912. “Mrs. F.F. Smith, editress and proprietress of the Marble Times, who was deported from Marble by order of a mass meeting of citizens some few weeks ago, is now in Gunnison and has instituted a suit against the town of Marble, the Yule Marble company and the railroad company, asking for damages in the sum of one million dollars. Mrs. Smith has declared her intention of returning to Marble and to continue the publication of her paper, and to that end she asked the protection of the sheriff of Gunnison county in which county Marble is situated. She states further that if the sheriff’s office is not big enough to protect and ensure her personal residence in Marble, she will demand that state troops be sent to Marble to guard her rights as a citizen of Colorado.” This image shows Marble in the early 1900s.

Mountain Mayhem: Easter Sunday

Easter Bunnies on Aspen Mountain.
Kat Adams and Sean Solon - always game to dress up for a holiday.
Ski bunnies Heidi Kowar, Susie Budsey, Kari Kiker and Claude Salter.
Jack Hartman and Demi Russo skiing in their Sunday best.
Easter sweets at an on-mountain picnic.
Easter Sunday = Easter Egg Hunts.
Dying eggs - one of the popular pasttimes on Easter Sunday.
An Easter Sunday ski picnic on Aspen Mountain.

April 4 served as closing day for Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, as well as the springtime holiday of Easter Sunday. While certain Easter traditions like Sunrise Service on Aspen Mountain continue to remain on hold, others like skiing and picnicking are still permitted and were a common theme over the weekend. I joined close friends for an Easter brunch on Sunday with egg dying plus egg hiding and hunting as part of the program. It felt as normal of a holiday as it could, all things considered. Dining out for breakfast and brunch was a popular option as well with prix-fixe menus offered around town and nearly all sold out and without waitlists even made available due to the high demand.

From what I gathered, most locals went to Aspen Mountain and Snowmass to ski, out of respect for the request by Skico to limit the number of visitors to Aspen Highlands for its closing day. All made the most of the sunny weather and time together, having small gatherings at places like Buckhorn Cabin and Tourtelotte Park on Aspen Mountain, at the Wine Cabin at Snowmass and at private residences around the valley.

WineInk: The Conscious Collection Auction


Hey big spender.

If you are the kind of person who appreciates once-in-a-lifetime experiences, likes to hob and nob with famous folks and has a soft spot for charitable giving – especially during these trying times – then this one is for you.

On Friday, April 9 from 4-8 p.m. Mountain Time, Wine Spectator magazine, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits — the world’s preeminent distributor of beverage alcohol — and digital wine publication Vinous will present a live internet stream titled “The Conscious Collection: A Virtual Fine Wine & Spirits Auction.”


A who’s-who of influential wine, spirits and food entities and media personalities have joined forces to host this auction of stupidly spectacular trips and one-of-a-kind wine offerings to raise money for The Barstool Fund. Started in December 2020, the fund was launched by Dave Portnoy, founder of the sports website Barstoolsports.com as a way to financially assist small businesses, especially restaurants and bars, that have been ravaged by the economic fallout of COVID-19. As of this writing The Barstool Fund has raised over $37 million and is in the process of distributing that money to businesses in need.

Zachys, the New York-based, globally centered wine and spirits auction house and purveyor of fine wines, is home to the auction and bidding is currently open on more than 100 lots. A catalogue can be found at auction.zachys.com

You can bid anytime, but the most bidding action is expected to take place during the four-hour livestream event on April 9. It will be hosted by television food celebrity and firebrand (which is to say, his brand is the hottest in the food space) Guy Fieri, along with the ever-loquacious and occasionally controversial Portnoy. Antonio Galloni, the founder of Vinous, will be the grown-up in the room bringing his extensive wine chops to bear. Jeff Zachria of Zachys will be handling the auctioneering. Expect there to be other celebrities in the mix as well.

So what’s so special about this auction you ask? How about lunch at Château Pétrus, George Clooney’s watch, or dinner with Mary J. Blige? Those are just some of the items in the catalogue of goodies.

 

 

The auction is big on both star power and authentically prestigious wine offerings. Let’s start with the stars, because, well, we all like stars.

George Clooney’s Omega watch, hand selected from his personal collection, can transfer off his regal wrist onto yours if you are so inclined to bid on lucky Lot No. 7. You also get an autographed photo of the “Michael Clayton” star wearing what will now be your watch, along with, and this is the connecting hook, a 1.75 liter bottle of Casamigos Tequila which he co-founded and sold for a billion to drinks giant Diageo. As of this writing, the lot currently has a $9,000 bid but I would expect it to ratchet up on the live-auction evening. Personally, I would prefer a Lake Como overnight with George and Amal, but time and tequila are worthy as well.

Tequila is big with celebs and it may be easier to spot a media star in the Mexican state of Jalisco, the Napa of tequila, than in Aspen right now. There are other blue agave offerings available in the Conscious Collection Auction.

If you win the bid for Lot 56, you may find yourself alongside three of your friends on the set of the new Kardashian Hulu television show. You will also be the proud owner of four bottles of Kendall Jenner’s (not to be confused with Kendall-Jackson) tequila brand, 818, named for the area code of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. Whaaat?! The current price? $950 bucks. Talk about a bargain.


Lebron James has offered up a pair of tickets to a Lakers game and, get this, a visit to a wolf sanctuary if you are the winning bidder on his Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal in Lot No. 96. Current bid: $2,400. Oh, and you can wear a signed No. 23 jersey as you commune with the big dogs.

And there are more stars of course, many making wine. Your dinner in New York City with Mary J. Blige (Lot No. 11) will be paired with her Italian wines under the Sun Goddess label. And how about a jeroboam — that’s a 3-liter bottle — of Le Chemin Du Roi Brut Champagne NV, signed by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson?

But if you really want star power, then there are the three nights at the private home of Trudie Styler and her husband, Sting, above the picturesque Tuscan town of Figiline Valdarno with a wine tasting of their Il Palagio wines with enologist Riccardo Cotarella. (Lot No. 82). Belissimo. The bidding — $36,000 — at press time was the highest of any lot.

For those who find their stars in bottles rather than in celebrity there are myriad options if you are ready to spend. This is where it gets interesting. If I had the cash to make a splash I would try to take advantage of the trips, dinners and luncheons that you can’t get anyplace else but in an auction like this.

Chateau d’Esclans Domaines Sacha Lichine La Motte en Provence, France

A visit to the South of France sounds awfully nice right about now. So how about bidding on a pair of lots from the region that is home to the finest rosé? Buy both Lot No. 37, a private visit followed by dinner for 10 at Château d’Esclans-Domaines with Sacha Lichine in Provence, catered by Michelin-starred Restaurant Chez Bruno (The Truffle King) and Lot No. 75, a visit to the vineyards and cellars of Domaines Ott’s Clos Mireille, including one night’s accommodations and dinner for 6 at the property. You’ll have to get your group of 10 there, and then send four home, but right now the bidding for both is a combined $1,400. Bring sunscreen.

The ultimate parlay at this auction may be bidding on, and winning, the aforementioned lunch at Chateau Petrus (Lot No. 77), which already has bid of $24,000, and a second lunch at the nearby Cheval Blanc Château (Lot No. 20) in Bordeaux. Follow it up with visits to a pair of First Growth houses. Château Margaux (Lot No. 65) for a private tour and dinner for eight at the Château hosted by a member of the management team and/or the Mentzelopoulos family and a visit to Château Lafite Rothschild (Lot No.60) with Saskia de Rothschild (Chairwoman). Be sure to take lots of selfies.

And remember this is all for a good cause.

NEWS FROM OUTER SPACE…

A month ago we wrote about the return to Earth of a case of Bordeaux wines that had spent over a year orbiting aboard the International Space Station. At the time, the wines were, somewhat mysteriously, unidentified. Well, last week news came of their origin. They wines were Pétrus from the 2000 vintage, one of the most esteemed and collectable wines ever produced with prices, if you can locate them, in the $6,000 to $7,000 a bottle range. Produced in Pomerol from 100% merlot grapes, the wines become the first to spend over a year aging in space. And so you know…it is pronounced Peh-troos. You would have thought they would have chosen the 2001 vintage for this space odyssey.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE


La Jota Vineyard Co. 2015 Howell Mountain Merlot Napa Valley

The Spire Collection is a group of a wineries owned by Kendall-Jackson that focuses on the production of site-driven wines from some of the most revered vineyards on earth. They are participating in the Conscious Collection: A Virtual Fine Wine & Spirits Auction (Lot No. 92) by providing large format bottles from their various vineyards along with a four-night stay at the Spire Collection Estate in Calistoga, California.

I had a bottle of 2015 merlot from La Jota Vinyard Co. , a part of the Spire Collection, and thought I should quaff it in honor of the auction. Good call. Silky and rich, this mountain-grown wine was tannic, but balanced, fruit forward with dark cherries and berries to fill the basket, and I could swear I could taste a little ash in the mix.