Maybe one of the most fun Fridays I’ve had all year was on May 19 on the playground and in the gym at Aspen Elementary School for the first-ever, end-of-year Summer Dance Party. Presented by the Parent Teacher Organization and a team of amazing moms, the evening was pure fun. A flier promoting the event indicated all families, teachers, staff, and siblings were invited — and they all came!
The one caveat was all children needed to be accompanied by an adult, which created a safe and supportive environment and encouraged even more participation. DJ Naka G played from 5-7 p.m. to a packed dance floor while kids also played on the playground and Rolling Rock and El Yaqui food trucks offered great food options and for a reasonable rate of $10 per adult and $5 per child.
Drinks and ice cream were hosted, and special thanks goes to the sponsors including Alpine Bank, Aspen Elks Lodge 224, and the Welgos family. And a very sincere thank you goes to the team behind the scenes — Emily Farrell, Vanessa Adam, Lauren Waldron, Stacy Vidamour, Mae Bory, Anne Johnston, Kristen Firman, Izzi Wagner, Vanessa Leighton, and Principal Ashley Bodkins. Happy Summer!
WineInk: Winemaking is freedom
One thing about this town: If you are looking to attend a fundraiser in the support of a good cause, you certainly have your choice of options.
But few events on the philanthropic calendar have as enlightening and compatible premise as that being offered at a fundraiser the night before the Food & Wine Classic to benefit our own Aspen Public Radio. Winemaking is Freedom is a special wine-tasting event and dinner that will welcome noted Washington, D.C., restaurateur Rose Previte and her husband, David Greene, formerly of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” They are the founders of Go There Wines, an organization intent on not just selling great wine, but also on disrupting and expanding the current paradigm of the wine world.
A perfect way to kick off the Classic, the fundraiser takes place on Thursday, June 15, starting with a wine tasting from 4-6 p.m. ($250/person), followed by an exclusive, limited-seat dinner at 7 p.m. ($500/person), hosted by Marsha and David Dowler on the grounds of their beautiful home in Aspen’s West End. You can purchase tickets by contacting Aspen Public Radio Membership Coordinator Lauri Jackson at 970-920-9000 or go to aspenpublicradio.org for more information.
As Aspen Public Radio takes us on a daily journey around the globe telling important stories through programs like “All things Considered” and “BBC World Service,” Go There Wines uses wine to convey equally important stories of talented winemakers who make wines in off-the-beaten-track places and often challenging regions. Rather than a traditional selection of wines from tried-and-true regions or producers, Go There Wines sources delicious wines from passionate winemakers with deeper stories to tell. Or, as they describe it, “bringing to market trailblazing wines made by women and other underrepresented winemakers from lesser-known wine-making regions around the world.”
Launched last year, the company is a passion project created by Previte, the owner of acclaimed restaurants in Washington, D.C. (including Compass Rose, the Michelin-starred Maydan, and the recently opened Kirby Club) and Greene, who we all used to wake up to when he hosted NPR’s “Morning Edition” for a decade before stepping away in 2021. A third partner, Chandler Arnold, is an innovator in social philanthropy.
Go There Wines introduces the world to winemakers who may have been marginalized or excluded in the past, especially women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other groups. Many of the wines hail from regions that, though historic, have also been marginalized by war, politics, and poverty. Previte and Greene hope they can expand the opportunities for these determined winemakers as well as the palates of discerning consumers who are looking for meaning — along with great taste — in their wines.
The company sells their wines online at Gotherewines.com, and the bottles are labeled with different social messages that come from direct quotes from winemakers.
“The winemakers are the stars of the show,” Previte said about the focus. Go There Wines have QR codes on the bottles that link to video messages from the winemakers. And the company has incorporated a unique business model that allows winemakers to name their own prices — equal or better than market rates — receive payments up front and participate in a profit-sharing program.
Breeze Richardson, executive director of Aspen Public Radio, is excited about the opportunity to host this event with Go There Wines.
“From the first conversation I had with Rose and David, I was really impressed with the passion and care they have for these wines and winemakers,” she said.
Included among the seven wines to be poured at the Winemaking is Freedom fundraising event are those made by sisters Gvantsa and Baia Abuladze in the Republic of Georgia (the “cradle of wine”), who use huge earthenware vessels called Qvevri in their production process. There is a wine from Lebanon made by a Syrian refugee, Abdullah Richi, who is living in exile due to the devastating war in his homeland. A Syrah from the renowned Santa Rita Hills appellation of California made by a Native American winemaker from the region’s indigenous Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash Indians and her wife, a native of Spain, will be on offer. And there is a Pinotage from Nondumiso Pikashe, a winemaker in the Paarl region of South Africa.
Compelling stories indeed.
Previte and Greene bring incredible backstories of their own to the project, which is inspired by their world view that includes immersive experiences in the cuisines of dozens of countries and exposure to many of the most difficult geopolitical issues on the planet.
Prior to his stint on “Morning Edition,” Greene was NPR’s Moscow bureau chief. He was the recipient of the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for his work in war torn Libya and spent much of last year in Ukraine covering the conflict and creating an audio podcast project called “Ukraine Stories” for his company, Fearless Media. Hardly the resume of your traditional wine entrepreneur.
For her part, Previte traveled to over 30 countries during her three years with Greene in Moscow and was captivated by the cuisines and wines of many diverse cultures. In 2014, returning to Washington, she opened Compass Rose. She followed that up in 2017 with Maydan, which earned a place on many “Best New Restaurants in America” lists, including Bon Appétit and Food & Wine, and was named a James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant 2018. Maydan showcases the foods of the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Middle East, which had inspired Previte in her travels. The wine list includes wines produced in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, Bethlehem in Palestine, and the ancient winemaking country of Georgia.
Joining Previte and Greene in Aspen for the special fundraiser will be Eritrea Mehary, the Washington, D.C.-based owner and executive chef of the Solomunna Supper Club. She will prepare a collection of foods providing a taste of re-imagined Eritrean cuisine from her native East African nation. And pouring the seven wine selections will be Drew Hairston, Maydan’s knowledgeable wine and beverage director. “Drew has been to many of these vineyards and knows these wines well,” Previte said.
“Every wine has a story” is the refrain and guiding principle that informs the Go There Wines website, where beautiful videos and winemaker bios prove the premise. And a look at the wines that will be poured in Aspen during the fundraiser are rich in character and story. I have not had the opportunity to taste any of these wines, but from the reputation of the presenters and the reviews in previous stories, they should be as rewarding as the stories themselves.
Great wines. Inclusive and innovative philosophies. A beautiful location. An opportunity to support a local institution in Aspen Public Radio. See you there.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Open Range Horse Heaven Hills Barbera 2021
So here is something you don’t see or taste every day: An Italian grape (Barbera) grown in Washington (the Horse Heaven Hills appellation) and made in Colorado. We profiled Old Snowmass resident Mark Harvey’s Open Range wines last month but did not get a chance to taste this wine. Well, the Wine Enthusiast did and labeled it a “hidden gem,” awarding it a 94-point rating. In fact, four of Harvey’s Open Ranges received scores of 93 or 94 points including his Red Blend, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Well done!
Foodstuff: It’s grilling time
It’s officially time to crack open the grills and enjoy the splendors of summer cooking (at least until the next inevitable, soul-crushing blizzard in June)!
Alas, grilling time is not to be, for me, due to the following situation on my patio:
You might have read about the Great Recycling Fiasco of 2022 in a previous Foodstuff column. My Homeowners’ Association is back at it again, with drama surrounding an exterior painting project. My doors, windows, outdoor furniture, and basically every other surface, which I might use now that the weather is warmer, is currently covered in plastic — including my incredibly fancy Everdure grill, another food-related gift from my brother and his family (Christmas 2018 was one for the books!).
While I myself can’t yet enjoy the spoils of it’s-almost-summer-let’s-cook-with-fire fun, that shouldn’t stop YOU, dear reader, from trying one of my favorite summer specialties: chicken spiedini. This recipe is a combination of my grandmother’s, my brother’s, and Tom Jackson from All Things Barbecue (His great demo can be found on YouTube). Easy, fast, and fantastic with pasta, a mixed-green salad or grilled vegetables on the side. I like a salad and asparagus myself.
1lb. chicken breasts
1c Italian dressing*
2T olive oil
1/2c Italian style breadcrumbs
1/2c panko breadcrumbs
2T freshy grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Butterfly chicken breasts by cutting a slit in each breast at the thickest part at the top, then slicing vertically, being careful not to cut the chicken completely in half crosswise. Open the chicken at the slit, and pound to an even thickness (about half an inch).
Place the chicken breasts in a glass baking dish, piercing each a few times with a fork, so they better absorb the marinade. Pour the dressing over the top of the chicken, turning to coat. Let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes or up to two hours.
Once the chicken is done marinating, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. While the grill is heating, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese, seasoning with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs into the meat.
With the long side of the breast facing you, roll the chicken away from you into a tight bundle. Cut in half, then cut the two halves in half, making four pinwheels of chicken. Take two skewers**, and tightly pack the four chicken pieces on to the two skewers.***
Once the grill is hot, rub the grates of your grill with a cloth or paper towel soaked in olive oil. Grill chicken for five minutes on one side, covered.
While the chicken cooks, zest and juice the lemon, and melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, combine it with the zest and juice. Flip the chicken, and either brush or spoon the lemon butter over the cooked side of the chicken, being careful of flare ups. Cook the chicken for five more minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°. If the breadcrumbs get too brown, move to indirect heat until the chicken reaches temperature. Finish with remaining lemon butter.
*I like Newman’s Own myself.
**Metal if you have them, wooden pre-soaked in water if you don’t. Two skewers are better than one here, as they prevent the chicken from spinning on the skewer.
***Pierce the chicken through the seam side, otherwise it will unroll.
You can see from my photo that I allllmost burned the breadcrumbs, so be careful here, but know that these were still delicious. I can’t wait to eat them again once my HOA stops fighting over door, garage, and trim colors (red or brown, in case you were wondering). Riveting stuff. Here’s to summer cooking!
Katherine Roberts is a midvalley-based writer and marketing professional who can’t currently use her grill, but she has no problem roasting her neighbors. She can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Mayhem: Scenes from the season
This spring saw a flurry of food and wine experiences, dance performances, art and architecture lectures, shorts film screenings, and more.
Catching up on several such occasions this week, I’ll start with the Women in Wine Dinner at The Snow Lodge on March 1, coinciding with Women’s History Month. Allie Pyke with The Snow Lodge and Jen Beloz, GM of Flowers & Faust, were the hosts for a long table adorned with vases of pastel peonies and seating for 20 or so guests. Chef Robert Sieber prepared a multi-course dinner with wines from Flowers Vineyards in Healdsburg, Calif., and Faust from St Helena, Calif., paired by Beloz who spoke to producing Cabernet Sauvignons for which the region is best known. According to Beloz, “Winemaking offers a great balance of mental and physical challenges that keep me on my toes.”
DanceAspen hosted a VIP reception and performance at the Jewish Community Center on March 2, inviting patrons for drinks, light bites, and a glimpse into what goes into their rehearsals. Laurel Winton, who founded the thriving resident dance company less than two years ago, welcomed all and spoke to the work that the dancers go through as they guide one another through their routines, which was followed by real life rehearsals for their performance that took place later that month at The Wheeler Opera House.
Next up: DanceAspen’s first collaboration with the Aspen Music Festival is set for the Fourth of July at the Benedict Music Tent with in-house choreographer Matthew Gilmore premiering a new work set to the scores of Leonard Bernstein. On July 14, join DanceAspen for their Aspen Bandstand Gala at Hotel Jerome with the theme of Dirty Dancing, serving as their primary fundraising event of the year. I had the pleasure of going last summer and can attest to it being worth every cent to attend.
Aspen Film’s popular spring program, Shortfest, returned from April 10-16, with screenings at The Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theatre. The festival kicked off with a members/VIP opening reception on April 11 at the Public House and included events all over town at PonyBoy, Mountain Chalet, Mi Chola, Silver City, Hooch, and Unravel Coffee — making it a truly well-rounded program and an opportunity for filmmakers to meet and mingle with filmgoers and patrons.
On April 7, the Aspen Art Museum presented a lecture on the rooftop with architect Chad Oppenheim, who guided guests on an immersive journey through his firm’s work and philosophy that aims to realign and reconnect us to the world around us, followed by a Q&A with Sarah Broughton with Rowland + Broughton Architecture, Urban Design, and Interior Design.
From April 7-11, LuxuryLab Global, the leading luxury brand and travel summit in Latin America, hosted a familiarization trip to Aspen, bringing in media and travel advisors from the luxury sectors of Latin America to learn about the destination and all that it offers.
Also in mid-April, Nantucket-based artist Meredith Hanson visited Aspen for a scouting trip in anticipation of a watercolor workshop here this summer. Details are forthcoming while plans are in progress. While here, Mer wore a Powder Puff pullover on the slopes, featuring a watercolor she painted of the Maroon Bells in fall, serving as a stylish neck gaiter inspired by Aspen’s natural beauty.
Asher on Aspen: An evening with Gary Clark Jr.
It’s a quarter past midnight, but Gary Clark Jr. wants to keep going.
The guitar-slinging blues-rocker is standing in the center of a darkened Belly Up stage on a recent Friday night in Aspen. Never wanting it to end, the crowded venue went wild for the encore. Clark strolled across the stage with his laid-back, stylish demeanor and wailing electric guitar. The audience couldn’t help but close their eyes and sway their hips to his melodic grooves while embracing the last few songs of the evening. Enamored by his presence, it felt like everyone was on the same page, and no one wanted it to end.
Originally from Austin, Texas, the 39-year-old headliner is celebrated for his style of fusing blues, rock, and soul while adding elements of hip hop. Many fans would consider him the closest thing we have to a modern-day Hendrix. Music enthusiasts consider him to be one of the last real rock gods, along with fellow master guitarists like Jack White, John Mayer, or the late, great Prince.
It’s pretty incredible that a musician of this magnitude is still playing an intimate, 450-person venue while he is simultaneously selling out stadiums and world tours. Just the other week, I had the privilege of seeing him at the Hollywood Bowl for Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday, where he performed with Leon Bridges to a crowd of 17,000.
Clearly, there’s something about Belly Up that has stuck with him. Maybe it’s the close connection with the crowd, the way the acoustics sound in that room, or maybe it’s the people he’s met in Aspen along the way. Regardless, it’s obvious he’s a fan of the venue. This show marked his 10th performance on the Belly Up stage, with his first show dating back to July 2014.
The audience was fired up from the start, and Clark wasted no time in giving the crowd exactly what they came for. For roughly the first five minutes of the show, the lights stayed low as he passionately poured his heart out into his guitar while making it look effortless.
He and his four-piece band took the stage and tore into what is considered his signature song, “Bright Lights,” with many in the crowd holding up their phones to capture the moment. This was followed by a couple rowdier crowd pleasers, “Keep it Up Now” and “Travis County Line.” As the set moved along, he shuffled around the stage, revealing his guitar skills and interacting with the fans. He and his band worked together like a well-oiled machine, and it was exciting to watch their chemistry onstage.
The venue’s cozy, intimate atmosphere prompted a moment of authenticity in the crowd. Clark spotted a woman on the dance floor and stared her up and down. With his left hand on his hip and a baffled face expression, he looked down and pointed at her T-shirt. “I’m going to show up the next time you’re fly fishing, and wear a shirt that says, ‘I’d rather be on stage right now,'” he said as he chuckled at his own joke. The audience broke out in laughter, and I think everyone appreciated the organic moment.
He broke from his possession, “How you feeling, Belly Up? It’s good to be here. It’s good to be back,” he said while casting a grin. It was at some point during the second half when he slowed the tempo for “I Walk Along,” from his 2019 album “This Land,” and the romantic slow jam “Our Love” soon followed. The deep-pitted, emotional soul-cleansing continued, and I never wanted it to end. He continued to impress the audience with “Church,” where he showcased his impressive vocal range. I slowly grew hypnotized by his falsetto. Looking around, I was relieved to see that it wasn’t just me. Everyone was completely transfixed by his talent. I put my hand to my chest and closed my eyes while moving back and forth with the vibrations.
Clark and his band were electric from the moment they hit the stage at 10:15 p.m. They delivered a lively, two-hour show that displayed the range of the native Austinite’s ample talents and his compelling presence as a live performer. While it was a gift seeing him perform at the Hollywood Bowl, watching him perform at Belly Up in a venue with such close proximity was a different experience entirely.
WineInk: The magic of the Classic
As it is the middle of the offseason here in the Rockies, it is a perfect time to consider the coming summer of wine and to glance back at some summer memories gone by.
Summer is the best of seasons in Wine Country. It is the time when the grapes do all the work. Hopes are high for a bountiful harvest, and there is a little time to rest a bit and let nature do its thing. For wine drinkers, it is the season for sipping lighter-style wines. Rosé rules under the summer sun, and this year, it seems that Sauvignon Blanc will also have a moment. Bucket-cooled sparkling wines always refresh in the heat of the day or for sunset contemplation and celebration. For those who just want to keep drinking red wine, the lighter style, cool-climate Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast or the fresh and fruity Gamay wines from Beaujolais can do the trick.
I have a couple of West Coast wine trips coming up — to the Pacific Northwest and to California’s Central Coast — and will be looking to indulge and report back on wines that are new to me and hopefully of interest to you. Summer wine travel is a blessing, as the days are long and the vibe is mellow.
But it is the 40th anniversary edition of the Food & Wine Classic that is circled in red on my calendar. Yes, that circle around June 16-18 came from the stained foot of a glass. I have been attending the Classic for three decades of those years, and I doubt that without it being such an integral part of the Aspen summer season this column would exist.
When WineInk debuted in 2007, an initiative offered up by then-Aspen Times Editor Bob Ward, it was based on the correct premise that Aspen is a significant wine town. Much of that thinking had to do with the annual presence of America’s foremost culinary and wine event. He knew that Aspen had a world-class collection of sommeliers, collectors, and wine lists, but he also recognized the importance of the Food & Wine Classic to the community. The Aspen Daily News at that time already had a wine column written by Brenda Francis, and it was an honor to begin the process of chronicling the wine scene in this town and writing more broadly about all things wine.
Since that time, I have not have missed a Classic and have embraced the opportunities it provides each summer. You see, instead of having to actually travel to visit winemakers and taste their wines on their turf, the most esteemed wine producers in the world come here for three days each year and bring their best stuff to, well, my turf. It has always been a compressed and challenging three days in many ways, but the chance to meet so many legends and taste and talk through their wines has been a privilege and an education.
So many people and so many wines, it is actually hard to know where to begin. I guess the tents may be the best place. I have never toured the great wine regions of Spain, something on the must-do list; but thanks to the annual Wines of Spain activation that is a staple in the Grand Tasting Pavilion, I can tell my Albariño from my Mencía. That’s pronounced “Men-thee-ah” and is an aromatic red wine that comes from the northwest corner of Spain. Each year, I try to spend the best part of an hour tasting the top and absorbing as much knowledge as I can from those who pour the wines in my glass.
For many summers, I have been lucky to spend time at the Classic with winemakers who became not just friends, but also in some cases, ski buddies as well.
Donald Ziraldo is a Canadian winemaker who produced what is arguably the most famous wines ever to come from up north. The Inniskillin late-harvest Ice wines that he founded were my first experience with Canadian juice. Well, other than Labbats. And tasting the wines made me think different, as the saying goes, about the passion winemakers can have for producing niche wines. I have spent many hours since with the Donald on chairlifts talking about the extraordinary nectar that are Canadian Ice wines.
I’ve also had the chance, during the Classic in 2019, to make turns on Aspen Mountain with the team from Jackson Family Wines, headed by their illustrious and esteemed winemaker Randy Ullom. Ullom, one of the most recognizable personalities in wine, has a big job overseeing the production of the global vineyards of Kendall Jackson, but that didn’t keep him away from the slopes of Aspen mountain that June Sunday after it opened for the Classic weekend, thanks to prodigious snowfall. Ullom has been coming to pour wines at the Classic for close to 30 years and is an example of a winemaker who has become part of the fabric of the Classic.
And then there are the characters. The story of Charles Bieler taking a tour of the country in a 1966 Pink Cadillac de Ville to promote his Rosé was priceless — even if the car burned before it could make it down Aspen’s Main Street. And how about Italy’s Gianluca Bisol, the best-dressed man in any and every tent, who produces some of the finest Prosecco on the planet? He brought his Venissa wines produced from an ancient and nearly extinct grape called Dorona to Aspen for an epic debut. He makes this wine on an island off of Venice and labels it with a sheet of gold leaf. Amazing stuff.
I’ll never forget time spent sipping aged wines with Marin County winemaker Terry Leighton of Kalin Cellars. For years, he came to the Classic with his wife, Frances, to pour their minuscule production of white wines that spent years aging before release, as they believed that time made better wine. “Wine is a journey,” Terry liked to say as he poured just a bit of a 20-year-old Chardonnay into a glass of a novice taster. He passed away this past February, but his spirit will hover over the Grand Pavilion.
And that’s just from the Grand Tasting. There have been extraordinary seminars and wine dinners and visits to the Mine and pig pulls … I could go on and may well do so in a future column. But as we sit here in the middle of offseason, I reflect back on the first line in that first WineInk in 2007 that read: “I’m a lucky guy.” And I am, especially during the summer.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
It was around 2009 that I first remember seeing the pink-hued wines behind the labels that featured cherubic angels. Of all the things that I have witnessed in my time attending the Classic, nothing has been as amazing as the rise of Whispering Angel and other Rosé wines in the public consciousness.
“I used to have to beg people to try Rosé at the Food & Wine Classic,” said Paul Chevalier, then with a company called Shaw-Ross Imports, who represented the wines. “Now we are amongst the most popular wines under the tent.”
Make that the world. Whispering Angel literally came of age over successive summers at the Classic.
Mountain Mayhem: Family Feud
The annual spring benefit for the Aspen Youth Center took place on March 10 at the Hotel Jerome, starting with a cocktail reception and silent auction in the Antler Bar, followed by dinner and a fun “Family Feud”-themed competition in the ballroom.
The game show-style gala featured 10 teams of eight people each who went head-to-head to answer survey questions like “What’s something you do before bed” (with the No. 1 answer surprisingly being “read”). The past two years, “Family Feud” was held virtually, so this year was a welcome return to an in-person event and friendly competition onstage. “Family Feud Aspen” was officially presented “on air,” thanks to Six Productions and Aspen82.
All proceeds from the evening support the youth center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit youth organization founded in 1991. Aspen Youth Center offers free, supervised, all-day after-school and summer programs to over 2,100 youth in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“We were so happy to be back in person to celebrate the center, our kids” and the community, said Executive Director Michaela Idhammar-Ketpura. “We raised 35% more than we had hoped and are super thankful to everyone who joined. This was the fifth and final ‘Family Feud,’ and we will be creating a new and exciting game show next year.”
Congratulations to Low Expectations, the 2023 Family Feud Gala winning team who took home the championship belt and rings, as well as bragging rights.
Aspen Youth Center has already begun brainstorming for next year’s event and an exciting new format and theme. For those interested in taking part in the planning process, contact Michaela at email@example.com.
WineInk: Wine and math
2015.97 points. $1,000. ABV 14.9.%.
Which of those numbers is most important? If you are in the wine business, all of them.
A solid vintage, a high rating from the Wine Advocate, the price per bottle of one of California’s cultiest cult Cabernets, and the percentage of alcohol of the wine in the bottle. These are just four examples of number-related information vital to the business of wine.
I have often said in this space that wine is about so much more than just taste. The study of wine is about sociology, geology, ecology, and climatology. It is about chemistry, and, yes, it is perhaps most importantly about business. Because at its core, wine is a business just like any other, and it requires a solid understanding of the numbers, the dollars, the Euros, and the pounds that drive that business. At no point was that made any clearer than this past April when the “wine industry’s bank,” Silicon Valley Bank, was seized by the government, creating a stir for all those who had accounts with the bank.
Making wine is an expensive process. For starters, it requires land and lots of it, either owned or leased. Then there is the root stock and the time it takes — generally three years or more from planting to when the first fruit is ready — to even consider making wine. That is three years with expenses but no income. And your costs start at the very start. Specialized equipment, tractors, optical sorters, fermentation tanks — all are sold for a premium. Then there are the barrels to age wines. These can cost around $1,000 each and quality French Oak can be even more expensive.
Once you have acquired the land, planted the vines, harvested, and made the wines, the real fun begins. Now all you have to do is convince enough people that your wine is the one worth buying instead of the thousands of other wines already being marketed, some made from the same grapes in the same region and in the same vintage as your wines. Packaging and marketing expenses can frequently outstrip those spent in the production of the wine.
But for the sake of conversation let’s look at some of the numbers winemakers consider when they begin to look at what their vineyards can produce.
In this country, the standard mode of measurement for land is the acre. An acre is just shy of 44,000 square feet, or a little smaller than a football field without the end zones. In other parts of the world, the measurement used is the hectare, which is equal to just under two and a half acres. We’ll use the acre because, well, we’re here in America.
Now an acre of land can — based upon the variety of the grapes grown, the way they are trellised, and the desire for the level of quality — host anywhere from 600 vines on the low end, with 11×6 foot spacing of the vines, to as many as 2,700 vines in a mass production vineyard. Each vine will produce, on average, approximately 40 clusters of grapes depending upon the techniques used by the grower. And each cluster will have somewhere between 75-100 grapes, which will weigh over a pound per cluster.
A high-end winery will usually shoot for picking somewhere between two and four tons of grapes per acre. Using that as a model, that means in order to yield four tons of grapes you need about 800 vines.
So how much wine does four tons of grapes produce? Well, on average, a ton of grapes will crush down to around 160 gallons of wine. Multiply four times (tonnage) by 160 (gallons) and you get 640 gallons of wine from your 800-vine acre.
Now, a traditional-sized wine barrel holds 60 gallons of wine, which produces around 300 bottles or 25 cases, as there are 12 bottles of wine in each case. And 640 gallons would fill a little over 10 barrels. So if you multiply 10 barrels by 25 cases by 12 bottles, you get 3,000 bottles of wine on your planted acre or just over 60 cases per ton.
All of these numbers vary based on the vintage and a plethora of other factors. But it is up to the winemaker to constantly monitor not just what is happening in the vineyard, but also in the winery, as well. Too much juice coming out of the vineyard can mean a shortage of fermentation space. It can also require more barrels. These calculations are imperative for each pick.
Then there is the math that goes into pricing a bottle or glass of wine in a retail location. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers of wine starting with a bottle and working backward. A full bottle contains 750 milliliters of wine. That works out to a a fifth of a gallon, or just over 25 ounces. Who cares? Well, start with a restaurant or bar that is selling premium wines by the glass.
The average pour, or the amount of wine in a glass in a bar, is right around 5 ounces. If the bottle costs the bar, say $20 wholesale, and they are charging you $10, a reasonable price for a premium pour (Where in Aspen can you get a glass of wine for $10?), then they are making $50 for the five glasses they pour from that bottle. Or two and a half times more than they paid for it. You can see why by-the-glass wine sales can be the most profitable product in a restaurant.
Want to be in the wine business? It helps to know the numbers.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
2015 Screaming Eagle: The Flight
Those numbers at the beginning of this WineInk? Those represent a bottle of Screaming Eagle: The Flight.
2015 is the vintage, 97 points is the score it received from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, $1,000 represents the cost of the bottle — if you could get it — it would be actually somewhere north of a grand, and it was bottled at a hefty 14.9% ABV. This is an anomaly, but I thought I would make note of this wine here because it is the most expensive bottle of wine that I own. And yes, it was a gift. And no, I have never tasted it, so I can’t give you wine notes.
The cost of producing this wine, which hails from the Oakville appellation in Napa Valley, arguably the most expensive real estate in American wine, is incalculable, though I’m sure that the producers can map it to the penny. But no worries, the owner of Screaming Eagle is none other than Stanley Kroenke, whom you know as the owner of the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Los Angeles Rams. This month, Forbes put his worth at just shy of $13 billion, putting him — currently – at No. 141 on the list of billionaires.
He can afford the finest in French Oak.
Foodstuff: I dream of carbs
The vaguely familiar but sort of faceless man walked over to my table with a pile of warm pita on a tray. I took a bite, and suddenly another pair of hands produced piping hot pizza dough, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Just as I was about to fold the warm bread and enjoy another taste, the dog snored. Suddenly, I felt the duvet against my right toe and realized it was all a dream. A delicious, delicious dream.
You see, I recently decided to get my house in order, so to speak, and adopt a mode of epicurean austerity, eschewing carbohydrates, dairy, sugar, and alcohol up until Food & Wine kicks off in June. I started in late April, and, given my extreme predilection for cheese, it is going surprisingly smoothly. I cruised through the first week and couldn’t have cared less about all the sweet, salty, creamy things I was eating by the poundful in the months before. After a lifetime of basically ignoring nutrition labels, I did, however, discover that pretty much EVERY SINGLE THING on Earth has carbs, so I shifted to a gluten-free approach. Hence, the bread having a stronghold on my subconscious.
This was during Week Two, and on Day 10, I was faced with my first work meal cooked for me rather than something I made at or brought from home. It was the morning after the Great Carbohydrate Sleeping Fantasy of 2023, and my mental state pretty much ensured I wanted to murder someone. I stormed past the pastries at the conference, grabbed a clementine orange, and sucked down approximately 8,000 ounces of water throughout the day as I listened to panel discussions. I did manage to eat a delicious salad with strawberries and cabbage, and, once I was over that hump, I felt great again.
So, carb craving behind me, I decided to experiment with a few new things I don’t eat regularly; in this case, tofu. Did you know you can get tofu that looks like spaghetti in your friendly refrigerated food section of the grocery store? I did not and was intrigued. I headed home and tried my hand at my first ever foray into cooking a meal that looks like something I make all the time but is entirely different. Tofu spaghetti with tofu pesto! You might as well rename my kitchen the Moosewood Restaurant.
This pesto is a spin on the classic version from my grandmother Toni Capasso’s cookbook, “You Take a Little Oil and Fry Onions…” (Martel Publishing Company, 1983). I’m sure she would think it was weird.
MODIFIED VEGAN PESTO SAUCE
½ c olive oil
½ c pine nuts or walnuts
3 cloves garlic
1 ½ c fresh greens, tightly packed*
1 t salt
½ c silken tofu**
Generous helping of nutritional yeast***
Place all ingredients except silken tofu and nutritional yeast into a blender or food processor. Whirl the mixture for about a minute and a half or until all of the ingredients are reduced to a paste. Add the tofu and yeast, and blend again for about 30 seconds.
*I used a half-and-half mixture of radish tops and baby spinach, which I had left over from salads earlier in the week. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: use pesto to mitigate food waste. These bits and bobs are excellent!
**I once had a pesto with tofu at Pyramid Bistro (RIP), so I figured I’d try it here to amp up the creaminess factor. It worked!
***The more, the merrier. You need this salty funk to approximate what would be grated Parmigiano Reggiano here.
I tossed the pesto together with the cooked tofu spaghetti, as well as some grilled asparagus and zucchini I had in the refrigerator, topped with more nutritional yeast. It was, texturally, more like a rice noodle and took me a little by surprise but nicely filling and a change of pace from my daily lunch salad. Carbs be damned, I’m doing this thing!
Katherine Roberts is a mid-Valley based writer and marketing professional who is crushing this new, improved eating plan, even though she still dreams of bread. She can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mountain Mayhem: Mountain Rides
Ralph Lauren Aspen hosted a book signing and in-store, apres-ski reception on Saturday, April 8, for “Mountain Rides: Vintage Vehicles & Tales of the Wild West,” the second coffee table book from John and Whitney Annetti. To celebrate, several of the vehicles from the book were lined up out front of the store for photo ops. Guests also enjoyed browsing, buying books, and having them signed as well as bites from chef Greg Topper.
Whitney and John first met on opening day eight years ago on top of Aspen Mountain and got married last year. She grew up in Aspen and graduated from Aspen High School; her family now lives in Carbondale. John is from the Boston area and founded Johnny Vacay, a lifestyle apparel brand.
While they’re often on the road for projects and travels or living on the East Coast, they regularly return to the Roaring Fork Valley to visit friends and family. They also now run their company together, creating books, apparel, and photography, as well as self-publish their books, with Whitney as author and John as photographer.
They launched their first coffee table book in 2021, “Beach Rides: Time Machines for Modern Day Escapists,” about cars and stories from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket — John’s neck of the woods. It was an unexpected success, which led them to bring the concept to Whitney’s home turf in the mountains.
For this book, they chronicled 20 stories about mountain locals and their vintage 4x4s, organized by decade of the vehicle starting in the 1940s and spanning to the 1990s and shot all out West in Aspen, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Crested Butte, and Steamboat Springs. Nine of the 20 stories feature Aspen locals: Chris Bendon (former Aspen city planner for 20 years), Nathan Mohrman (Whitney’s classmate from Aspen High School and on the book’s cover), Lorelei Baldogo (RL store manager), Judy Collins (of McCabe Ranch), Charley Podolak (a 50+ year Aspenite), Jeff Groom (cowboy, Snowmass Creek Outfitters), Carl Buckingham, Billy Weisman, and Karen Sahr.
RL is the exclusive retailer for Mountain Rides until June 1, and then after that, it will open to all retailers. For this edition, “we launched exclusively with Ralph Lauren online and in stores nationally and are currently stocked in all of their ‘home’ stores (NYC Flagship store on Madison Ave., The Hamptons, Palm Beach, Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix, Beverly Hills, and Aspen),” Whitney noted.
Now they’re crisscrossing the coast of California for the next five months in an RV camper to capture content for their third book, “Surf Rides,” being shot in California, Hawaii, and Baja. They’ll document their journey with behind-the-scenes footage of making the surf book on YouTube. Follow along @JohnnyVacay and on Instagram @JohnnyVacay! johnnyvacay.com