Asher on Aspen: Wining Down Summer

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen
Courtesy Snowmass Rotary

I had only just settled down from the previous weekend’s lively Food & Wine activities when I realized it was time to do it all over again for the Snowmass Wine Festival. This made for two weekends in a row of getting dolled up and sampling food and wine like I was some fabulous Aspen socialite. I’m not by the way, but I secretly love acting the part. ‘Tis the season, I suppose!

This annual festival is a great way to wind down summer and squeeze in one more opportunity to wear a sundress before it most likely starts snowing next week. Compared to the weekend before, the ambiance this weekend was much more casual and relaxed. We recognized the vendor names, and it felt good to know that we were supporting local restaurants here in the valley.

Like the weekend prior, the people-watching was an amusing, ever-changing spectacle. Women were dressed to the nines with fashionable and over-the-top outfits. A healthy mix of tourists appeared to still be in town, and they mingled nicely with the locals. Everyone was just delighted to be there and be in community with others.

The Grand Tasting was an afternoon affair where we basked in the sunny, 75-degree weather. Bouncing around from booth to booth, we tried delectable wine served with scrumptious, savory bites. The festival came alive especially when they started playing timeless music over the loudspeaker that every generation could recognize and bop along to. In total, there were 36 vintners, six spirit distilleries and roughly 20 different food stations.

A personal favorite was the duck confit taco served on a homemade beet tortilla with achiote brussels sprout kimchi and micro cilantro sprinkled on top. This mouth-watering dish came from Toro (located inside the Viceroy Hotel). I will certainly be making a trip back to Snowmass to revisit these homemade Argentine beet-pressed tacos.

Another exceptional vendor was Il Poggio. Their long-running Italian restaurant presented two types of cappelletti (mushroom and pumpkin) that they served with sage butter, parsley, and fresh tomato. Just this one small sample of pasta alone convinced me that I need to return to this establishment immediately—especially since they’ve been open for 31 years. Clearly, they’re doing something right. Lastly, for dessert they served chocolate candied citrus rind that was deliciously idyllic when paired with a pinot noir.

After a couple glasses of wine and some food in my belly, I looked around and took a moment to take in the scene. This very much felt like the last few moments of summer, and I embraced it in full. The leaves on the trees surrounding Town Park were just on the verge of changing colors and there were some that had already started turning to that bright, canary yellow. I just wanted to bottle up that dazzling color and save it forever.

It was all too easy and delightful to spend an afternoon sipping wine and catching up with old friends. Without a doubt, this event fostered a greater appreciation for the local restaurateurs by educating residents and visitors on the wine and food sold right here. Not only was this a beautifully organized and well-put-together event, but the festival also generates tens of thousands of dollars each year for some pretty incredible things: the Rotary Club of Snowmass Village hosts this popular event annually to raise money for scholarships for high school students, grants for local nonprofits, and other charitable giving.

It’s no secret that wine makes people more congenial. The steady flow of wine is probably what prompted my encounter with a super sweet, older woman who we had a very pleasant conversation with just as we were leaving. She donned a large bonnet with flowers and grapes secured to the top and a long flowy dress with a hoop skirt and shoulder pads. She told me, “No matter how far you travel, always come back to Aspen. This is Heaven.” I concurred and told her that I couldn’t agree more.