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Asher on Aspen: Food & Wine Nostalgia

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

Imagine a weekend where the wine flows like water in one of the most beautiful mountain towns in the world. Where the locals are treated like celebrities and an absurd amount of extravagant parties are thrown in celebration of wine and food. Each elite rendezvous is more elaborate than the last and the food at each soirée is absolutely to die for. Although Aspen can’t experience the Food & Wine Classic this year, as it has been canceled due to COVID-19, I wanted to share just how epic a typical Food & Wine week is for a local Aspenite.

This is by far my favorite weekend of the entire year because, for starters, it doesn’t feel like real life. The weekend draws in an obscene number of wealthy tourists who, like us, live for this weekend. It’s 4 p.m. on a Tuesday and my inbox is overloaded with party e-vites that require me to RSVP at least 24 hours before the event. I like to play it safe and RSVP “Attending” to everything. You never know when you might have a lull in the day, where you might need an open bar at a random house in the West End to keep you going.

The first party is tomorrow night and I already feel overwhelmed. I immediately go to make a schedule, which consists of at least four or five events a day spanning from Wednesday to Sunday. The agenda then gets distributed to all my friends to ensure everyone has RSVP’d and that everyone knows the plan for the weekend. Coordinating parties with all your friends is really quite exhausting but well worth it once drinking fine wine and chatting with Lisa Vanderpump at a mansion on Red Mountain.

For me, the weekend typically kicks off with the Aspen Magazine welcome party Wednesday night, followed by the Dancing Bear rooftop party Thursday night. Then, there’s the Wines of Spain party, the Wine at the Mine party, Heritage Fire/Grand Cochon in Snowmass and the Tesla party at the top of Buttermilk. These are a few of the standard parties but there are always new ones popping up randomly each year. Out of all the luxurious parties throughout the weekend, Wine at the Mine has proven to be the most fun, year after year.

Mine tours, a silent disco and seemingly infinite cans of wine makes Wine at the Mine one of the weekend’s most memorable parties. Guests are shuttled to Aspen’s iconic old mine where they immediately tighten on hard hats and sign waivers to take a tour of Smuggler mine. After the tour, guests are greeted by a sea of glowing electric-blue headphones bobbing up and down. The dance floor is packed, and the silent disco is in full swing.

How does one get invited to these Gatsby-esque, high-end soirées, you may be wondering? The four-day weekend is full of glamorous parties that anyone can get into, granted you have a few connections and are willing to do some minimal name dropping. All of these surrounding parties center around one main, elaborate event: The Grand Tasting. A ticket to the Grand Tasting is more than twice my paycheck, but my friends and I have always managed to attend this opulent event in one way or another. I have normally always gotten to attend through work or through a friend who had an extra ticket.

Once inside the tent, anything is fair game. Partygoers pop around from booth to booth, sampling everything in sight while wine vendors eagerly ask to refill your glass every chance they get. The party inside the tent also happens to be celebrity central. Martha Stewart, Drew Barrymore and Dwyane Wade are just some of those spotted under the tent in recent years. Plus, vendors love giving out fun freebies that range anywhere from koozies, wine openers, stemless wine glasses, phone cases, hats, sunglasses, vouchers for free wine, you name it.

When the weekend is all said and done, I typically feel pretty partied out. My jaw skims my shoelaces (or heels) nearly every time I enter yet another elaborate party. I had never experienced such a legendary weekend like this until I moved to Aspen. This annual Aspen summer event will be missed by many. Until next year!


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