Snowmass Wine Festival a labor of love |

Snowmass Wine Festival a labor of love

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
Hot-air balloons light up the night during the 2012 Snowmass Balloon Festival. The night glow this year is at 7:45 p.m. tonight on Fanny HIll.
Aspen Times file |

Thirty-five carefully chosen vintners will represent wines from all over the country, and in some cases the world, at the Snowmass Wine Festival this weekend — all selected by one passionate local volunteer.

Barb Bakios-Wickes, who also owns Sundance Liquor & Gifts, has been selecting wine for the Snowmass Village Rotary Club fundraiser throughout most of the event’s 11-year history. Although the festival is just one weekend every September, the process occurs throughout the year.

“I’ve owned Sundance for 34 years, so I know a lot of people in the business,” Bakios-Wickes said. “A lot of them are very dear friends of mine. … Because I know that this is coming throughout the year, when I taste wine that I really like, I will invite people to come to the Wine Festival.”

Some of those don’t always make it, but there are enough that Bakios-Wickes had to turn away about a dozen this year, some good friends of hers.

“This is a passion for me.”
Barb Bakios-Wickes
Wine Festival organizer

“We have a lot of great wineries that are willing to come to Snowmass, and as we build in popularity, I’m at the point where I have to turn people away,” Bakios-Wickes said.

The festival kicks off today with a dinner, the annual start to the event that takes place at a different village restaurant every year. This year, the location is the Viceroy Snowmass, and the theme is “Oregon Meets California.”

Every course will feature two wines of the same grape, one from Alexander Valley Vineyards in California and one from Left Coast Cellars in Oregon. Elysium Fine Wines will provide vermouth for cocktails, and Avalanche Cheese Co. is providing cheese for a reception before dinner. Chef Will Nolan, of the Viceroy, is overseeing dinner.

“It’s for the experience of tasting, and the two people representing the vineyards are very good friends, so I’m sure there’ll be some banter,” Bakios-Wickes said. “People … get to taste the nuances between the two areas.”

Tickets for the dinner reportedly were sold out, but there was a waiting list. The number of tickets for the tasting Saturday is not capped. Bakios-Wickes said she expects about 800 people.

Growing pains

The desire to allow the festival to grow is the primary reason the event is moving from its traditional location on the Snowmass Village Mall to Town Park. Having it in that location also places it next to Balloon Festival festivities and a car display by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Ferrari Club of North America, which is taking a fall-foliage tour based in Snowmass Village.

“(We’re) trying to bring it all together and really make an anchor event out of it,” said Dave Elkan, a special-events contractor working with Snowmass Tourism.

The night glow, a popular element of the Balloon Festival that involves pilots inflating their balloons and allowing the torches to glow while on the ground, is shifting to Fanny Hill this year. About 15 balloonists are participating in the glow this year.

Snowmass Tourism was marketing the new location as “weather permitting,” but according to the pilots, the weather concerns — primarily wind — that they would have with doing the glow on the hill are the same they would have anywhere, Elkan said. The hot-air balloons will be scattered around the run.

“Three of the more adventurous pilots are going to try to inflate between the lift poles,” Elkan said.

Free shuttles will take Wine Festival attendees up to Base Village or the mall for dinner before the night glow, which starts at dusk.

A labor of love

About one-third of the vintners lined up for the tasting Saturday are completely new to the festival this year.

“I think we need to keep it fresh, and we want people to remain interested in the Wine Festival,” Bakios-Wickes said.

Bakios-Wickes is excited this year to have a champagne house, Moet & Chandon, among the merchants represented. Some distributors that are returning vendors bring new labels every year, so to Bakios-Wickes, it’s as if they’re new participants, as well.

“I think we have a great mix of new and old and a lot of new products that people have never seen before,” Bakios-Wickes said.

One booth to look out for is that of Rex Goliath, which is bringing its own tent and “dog-and-pony show,” including one staff member dressed as a rooster, Bakios-Wickes said.

“I’m not sure what else they’re going to do,” Bakios-Wickes said. “I heard it’s a very fun table to visit.”

Bakios-Wickes no longer is a Rotarian but says she is an honorary member of both the Aspen and Snowmass Village clubs. She volunteers her time for the Wine Festival and the Aspen club’s Christmas Wish Foundation, and she has hosted 11 Rotary exchange students.

“This is a passion for me,” Bakios-Wickes said. “Rotary’s near and dear to me, and I have a passion for wine, and I think it is a very rare event.”

Between 35 tables of wine and 18 tables of food, $70 or $80 is “the bargain in Colorado,” Bakios-Wickes said. To bring it full circle, she also offers discounts at Sundance on cases of the wines tasted at the Wine Festival.

The Wine Festival is the Snowmass Village Rotary Club’s primary fundraiser. Profits benefit local and international nonprofits.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.