Aspen Times Weekly: Crushing it for art |

Aspen Times Weekly: Crushing it for art

by Kelly J. Hayes
Dom Perignon-mosphere
Billy Farrell/ |

Aspen Sommeliers Scheduled to Pour at ArtCrush 2014

Jay Fletcher, MS, Southern Wine and Spirits

Carlton McCoy (far right), MS, Element 47

Jonathan Pullis (right), MS, Chefs Club

Lynn Fletcher, Cache Cache

Oliver Jaderko, Caribou Club

Csaba Oveges, The Little Nell

Carlos Smith, Matsuhisa

Marc Stotland, Southern Wine and Spirits

Gerald Theron, Baroness Wines

Whenever I evangelize about what a makes Aspen such a great wine community, I genuinely rave about the tight sommelier alliance, the generous collectors who live here, the outstanding wine lists to be found and the great wine events that take place.

Nothing personifies these things more than ArtCrush, the annual summer gala that marries together the best of Aspen’s art and wine worlds. For nine years, patrons of the arts and lovers of fine wines have assembled on warm summer nights for a series of wine-fueled fund raising events to benefit the Aspen Art Museum.

Now on this, the 10th anniversary of ArtCrush, guests will also raise their glasses to celebrate Saturday’s official ribbon cutting for the new Aspen Art Museum, designed by 2014 Pritzker Award-winning architect Shigeru Ban. (A free, 24-hour, public grand opening of the new museum will take place next week on Aug. 9.)

ArtCrush is a actually a three-day affair which began Wednesday night with a WineCrush dinner at the home of event chairs Amy and John Phelan, featuring wine pairings that were scheduled to commence with vintage Dom Pérignon and finish with Château D’Yquem, with healthy pours of Marchesi Antinori Tignanello and Château Lynch Bages in between. Friday night’s gala reception and dinner, which takes place on the grounds of the current Aspen Art Museum, is the centerpiece and the culmination of the event.

While Friday’s ArtCrush gala is sold out, the public is invited to attend Thursday’s PreviewCrush from 5-7 p.m. at the Baldwin Gallery of Art. Works that will be auctioned to benefit the museum at the gala will be on display and Champagne, cocktails and light fare will be served. There will also be works from the silent auction for viewing at the Casterline/Goodman Gallery that evening.

At Friday’s gala, works donated by artists including Ed Ruscha, Brice Marden and Cai Guo-Qiang will be sold to the highest bidders. There will also be a special presentation to Brazilian visual artist Ernesto Neto, who will be honored with the Aspen Award for Art.

And there will be wine. Lots of it.

Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher of Southern Wines and Spirits has been the catalyst for ArtCrush’s amazing wine program since its earliest days, when it was known as “Howl at The Moon.” From its inception, he has worked with a variety of collectors, particularly Jeff and Kathy Johnston, and his current employer, Southern Wines and Spirits, to acquire the most prestigious wines for the event.

“It really has morphed into one of the best parties in the world,” Fletcher said about the evolution of ArtCrush. “I don’t know where else you can go and have that many of the world’s most sought-after wines available for tasting in one place.”

Need proof? If white Burgundy is your thing, guests will be able to taste the Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet 2000 from the first vintage of this century. Prefer Pinot Noir? How about an ’83 Domaine Georges Mugneret Clos Vugeot. Perhaps something with a little more weight? Try a Palciaos L’Ermita from 1996 followed by a Barbaresco from the same vintage made by Bruno Giacosa.

These wines are legendary, made by the finest artisan producers on earth. And those are just a few of the 250 wines that have been donated, many by the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation, for the tasting portion of the evening.

When guests arrive for the gala, they will be offered a glass of the 2004 Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon and then invited to wander through the art-filled tent to the back where they can select any of the wines they wish to taste. An all-star line-up of local sommeliers (see box, opposite page) represents the world’s great wine regions. Jonathan Pullis of Chefs Club at the St. Regis may be pouring Burgundy for example, while Lynn Fletcher from Cache Cache pours the wines from Piemonte region of northwestern Italy.

Once the 650 guests are seated for dinner, which is prepared annually by Martin Oswald of Pyramid Bistro, they get to sample any and all of the 1o bottles of wine that are placed on each table of 10 guests. No one goes home thirsty or hungry.

“The wines are so good that the town’s top somms do anything to take off a busy summer Friday night to attend,” said Fletcher. “I mean, these are people who drink wines from all over the world and yet, to get a chance to come together with fellow somms to pour and taste these epic wines is too good a thing to pass up.” He also noted that the guests at ArtCrush are the very same people who come into the best restaurants in Aspen to drink fine wines. “The somms all know these people and what they drink. It’s just really unique.”

For those who love great art, great wine and Aspen, ArtCrush is one of the most inspiring events of any summer season.


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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