Aspen Times Weekly: An International Affair in Denver

by Kelly J. Hayes


The Denver International Wine Festival

Oct. 28-30

The Omni Interlocken Resort

500 Interlocken Blvd, Broomfield

(303) 438-6600

For more details, visit

Order tickets online:

The Hunter’s Moon is on the wane and the Denver Broncos are hosting the Green Bay Packers this weekend. Sounds like the perfect time for a road trip to Denver.

And if you love wine, there is an added reason to go: The Denver International Wine Festival has scheduled its 11th annual soirée to coincide with the Halloween weekend. Anybody want to dress up as a wine writer for the festivities?

Wednesday kicked off the event, which organizers, Colorado-based Wine County Network, tout as a “three-day wine and food festival (that) showcases the largest selection of international and domestic wines at any Grand Tasting in the Rocky Mountain region.” Ohhh-Kay. While there may be a touch of hyperbole in that assertion (the annual Aspen Food & Wine Classic, in the heart of the Rocky Mountain region, has been known to spill a bit of wine as well), who am I to quibble with the claim?

Actually, I look forward to a Grand Tasting that is as strong in quality as it is stout in quantity with a lineup of over 80 participating wineries. There is also a trio of terrific Tasting Seminars focusing on Burgundy, Walla-Walla and the Willamette Valley in alphabetical order. And guests will have the opportunity to greet Karen MacNeil, the author of “The Wine Bible,” who ranks among the most knowledgeable and entertaining wine educators on the planet.

Let’s start with the basics. Thursday night at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, the DIWF hosts the Pairsine Chefs Fine Food and Wine Pairing Competition. Eleven of the region’s top toques have been tasked with preparing two dishes each to pair with Gold Medal winning wines from the 2014 edition of the DIWF. Twenty-two dishes from the likes of Daniel Joly, of Mirabelle in Beaver Creek, Fruition’s chef Franco Ruiz of Denver, and Jake Irwin from the Rainbow Ranch Lodge in Gallatin, Montana, will be matched to 44 wines in a competition that will be judged by those in attendance.

The festivities get underway at 6:30 (5:30 for those who purchase VIP passes) and guests mingle with the chefs and wine representatives in a party atmosphere. Fine wine, great food and a good time.

Then on Friday, also at the Omni Interlocken Resort, the Grand Tasting and seminars will kick off. Purchase a VIP Ticket for $165 and you will get early admission to the Grand Tasting at 4 p.m., as well as access to the VIP lounge with a new chef station (5-8 p.m.), a VIP wine glass, admission to the educational seminars and a gift bag.

General admission to the Grand Tasting is a steal at just $75 and is good for the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. event.

A plethora of fine wines are to be poured and personally I am looking forward to tasting Pinot Noirs from different regions. Start with Alma Rosa, the Sta. Rita Hills project from Santa Barbara Pinot pioneer Richard Sanford. Move up the coast to the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County and the estate-grown wines from Kate MacMurray’s MacMurray Ranch. Keep heading north to sample the Willamette Valley in the wines of Harry Peterson-Nedry’s Chehalem Vineyards (they were featured in a WineInk story about screw caps last month).

Prefer an international feel? From New Zealand’s Central Otago, a cool climate Pinot paradise, come wines from Archangel. And, in a special seminar, Burgundy will be represented by the wines of Domaine Laroche, which will be poured by William Davis, the Trade Ambassador-Mountain States for Wilson Daniels, a top importer of great juice. Titled “Wines of Burgundy: An Exploration of the Chablis Region Featuring The Wines of Domaine Laroche,” the seminar begins on Friday at 6 p.m.

The other two seminars focus on the great Northwest. The aforementioned Peterson-Nedry, who combines the passion of a winemaker with the technical skills of a chemist, will explain the terroir of the Willamette Valley at 4 p.m. “The seminar will be a general review of Oregon and Chehalem, using five wines to allow a pointed discussion of value, vintage differences, and terroir/soil nuance differences of both red and white wines,” said Peterson-Nedry in a direct and professorial style.

And in a case of a professor who is decidedly unprofessorial, the bearded and bald Tim Donahue, director of winemaking at the ground-breaking (literally) Enology and Viticulture Program at Walla Walla Community College, will bring 90+ point Syrah from some of the best wineries in Washington. Donahue, who cut his teeth at the Colorado winery, Creekside Cellars, that is owned by his family, will discuss the innovative College Cellars program that gives students hands-on experience in all phases of the wine industry.

Halloween costumes can wait until Saturday and football regalia until Sunday. This weekend begins on Wednesday with wine.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at

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