Aspen Times Weekly: Snowmass Wine Fest Takes Flight |

Aspen Times Weekly: Snowmass Wine Fest Takes Flight

by Kelly J. Hayes
Some 500 wines will be poured at today's Snowmass Wine Festival Grand Tasting.
Courtesy photo |



“New Zealand – Beyond Sauvignon Blanc”

A four-course food and wine pairing at the Viceroy Snowmass; $135 per person or $1,000 for a table of eight.


$85 early bird, $95 event day

For tickets and information for the Snowmass Wine Festival go to Tickets can also be purchased at:

• Sundance Liquor & Gifts in Snowmass Village

• Aspen Wine & Spirits in Aspen

• El Jebeverage in Carbondale

Tickets for the Grand Tasting may also be purchased at the event entry.

As the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen initiates summer in our Valley, so too the first pour at the Snowmass Wine Festival heralds the beginning of what is, arguably, our most beautiful season, fall.

Next Friday evening, Sept. 18, the Snowmass Wine Festival gets underway at the Viceroy Snowmass hotel. Executive chef Will Nolan, who has been receiving raves all summer long for his masterful mashups of Colorado/’Nawlins/French/Asian cuisines, goes Kiwi as he creates perfect pairings for a tidal wave of wines from New Zealand.

Wines from Kim Crawford, Palliser, and Esk Valley will be poured alongside the likes of NZ green-lipped mussels and roasted leg of NZ lamb in a four-course meal that finishes with the sweet taste of Pavlova. At $135 per person, this culinary sojourn to New Zealand will cost you less than the baggage charges on United’s LA-Auckland flight. But best act fast because this special dinner will sell out.

Then, Saturday, the main event is uncorked in Town Park as the Grand Tasting begins at 2 p.m. and beguiles wine lovers for three solid hours. Five hundred wines will be poured and 18 of the Valley’s most esteemed restaurants will provide food and fare on what promises to be a golden afternoon in Snowmass. Tickets are $85 (see “If You Go…” on opposite page) and it is guaranteed you will taste wines you have loved before (a Rombauer Chardonnay always goes well with a sunny afternoon), as well as discover new finds.

One wine to look for will be the Pinot Noir poured by Oregon-based Left Coast Cellars. On a recent visit to this Willamette Valley winery I was gobsmacked by the beauty of their 356 acres of vineyards and gardens and, more importantly, by the quality of their wines. Interestingly, the impetus for the trip was an Aspen connection.

A few years back, a talented and personable Texan ran the wine program at The Little Nell hotel. This was just before the days when the hotel’s Dining Room became a finishing school for Master Sommeliers. Mark Pape was wine director at The Little Nell from January of 1991 until June of 1996. He then took his talents to the Oregon wine country, first opening a restaurant in McMinnville, and now helping the Larson family, who own Left Coast Cellars, present their pride to the world in his role in national sales.

Mark always looks forward to returning to Colorado to see friends and sell wines. “Attending the Snowmass Wine Festival each year is one of the highlights of my annual winery travels. It is a small, well-planned and well-run event that actually sells wine to the end user — the wine drinker,” Mark enthuses. “But beyond the business aspects, it’s always a blast to return to the Roaring Fork Valley, where I spent seven glorious years of my life.”

Mark’s professional life is now all about great Pinot from the Willamette Valley. Left Coast Cellars is a family run winery that is focused on producing the best wines possible from their seven sustainably grown estate vineyards in the southern end of the Willamette Valley.

Under winemaker Joe Wright and general manager/viticulturist Luke McCollom, they have established a reputation in just a decade for producing wines of substance and finesse in a solar powered winery. Be sure to look for a sampling of the 2013 Cali’s Cuvee, a Pinot Noir named after the family’s left-handed daughter, Cali (a landscape designer in Denver with the Aspen-based Design Workshop), made from a blend of 100 percent Dijon, Pommard and Wädenswil clones. A mouthful and a steal. Just ask Mark, who notes humbly, “Folks will remember tasting a wine that rocks their world and actually retails at an affordable price.”

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Snowmass Village, The Snowmass Wine Festival is in its lucky 13th year. This year the Festival coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Snowmass Balloon Festival and will be augmented by the Motoring Classic at Aspen Snowmass Mini Concours Event, which showcases the best of American automobiles from the 1965 to the 1995 vintages.

The beauty of the balloons, the extraordinary wines (once again selected and curated with care by Sundance Liquor’s Barb Wickes) and the power of the muscle cars add up to make this one of the best weekends of a Snowmass summer that has been perhaps the busiest on record. Catch a bus.

Oh, and that stuff about our wine festivals being the precursors of the seasons? This year’s summer solstice occurred on June 21 just as the Food & Wine Classic was closing. And, like clockwork, 89 days, 20 hours and 27 minutes later, in the wee hours of Sept. 23, the Autumnal Equinox will kick in, just days after the Snowmass Fest has washed their last glass.

The synergies of the seasons always astound, and, like the festivals, never disappoint.

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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