Aspen Times Weekly: Who’s Your Posse? |

Aspen Times Weekly: Who’s Your Posse?

by Kelly J. Hayes


Pinot Posse Wine Dinner @ Ajax Tavern

Jan. 20, 2015

First Course

Kale lardon braised pork belly, free range egg, bacon vinaigrette

Second Course

Pan-seared ruby red trout sunchoke, spinach, chanterelles, lemon

Third Course

Cider-spiced pork loin shaved brussels sprouts, Madeira apples, mustard

Fourth Course

Savory cheesecake

All courses to be paired with West Coast Pinot Noirs from the Pinot Posse wine group.

$125 per person; price does not include tax or gratuity.

Call 970-920-6334 for reservations.

“Jenne just got a puppy!” exclaimed John Salamanski of CS Wines when I asked him what was new with this year’s Pinot Posse Tour. He sounded a lot like a little kid on Christmas Day who just got a dog himself. While pleased for John, Jenne and, of course, the puppy, my question really was in reference to what was new with the wines and winemakers who will be attending the 10th anniversary Pinot Posse trade tastings and dinner.

After all, the Pinot Posse — a group of fabled artisan winemakers hailing from diverse regions ranging from the Central Coast of California to Oregon and Washington who make some of the most sought-after Pinot Noir in all the world and come to Aspen to share it — always has something fresh to deliver. But then it hit me: John thinks of these folks, and they of him, like family. Puppies, kids and all of the things that make family are as important in the history of the Pinot Posse as the wines they sell.

While these are business people, whose yearly pilgrimage to the Rockies is carefully conceived to ensure that retailers, restaurateurs and consumers have Pinots on their minds, on their lists and in their cellars, there is something else at work here. As important as the business, is the camaraderie. The winemakers of the Pinot Posse come to Colorado to spend time with each other and to renew acquaintances with the people who share a passion for Pinot and a history of good times.

As it has over the last decade, the Pinot Posse Tour will gather again next week for a whirlwind series of tastings and dinners in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor Hotel, in Denver at Table 6 and here in Aspen, where a special dinner will be held at the Ajax Tavern on Jan.20 that is open to the public (see details, opposite page). The joy of the dinner is that it allows guests to not just share the wines of these amazing winemakers, but it also gives them the chance to meet, greet and mingle with them in a fun, casual environment. You can even ask them about their dogs and kids.

This year brings a heady and esteemed lineup to celebrate the Xth Anniversary. The aforementioned Jenne Bonaccorsi will be there, sans pups, but in possession of much of her distinct juice from the Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, a hot bed for great Central Coast Pinot. Dan Kosta of Kosta-Browne, a wine that has helped define Pinot Noir in Sonoma County, is back on board after an short absence. Dan’s company made news last week when the Wine Spectator, a publication that named his Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009 the No. 1 Wine of 2011, reported that he had become engaged with a new group of Boston-based investors with plans for a small production increase from their current 20,000 cases.

From Washington State, David O’Reilly returns to ride tall with his wines from Owen Roe sourced in both Oregon and Washington. One of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the industry, this Yakima Valley pioneer is as prolific in the creation of new wines as he is in the creation of, well, a family. The O’Reillys now number 10, eight of them blessed children, and Owen Roe has too many wines to count. Actually 27 different releases this year.

Also on hand will be Jim Prosser, from JK Carriere in Oregon, who has just released his first Sparkling Rose. Craig Strehlow is back with a new label, Camlow Cellars, the next iteration of what was once Keefer Ranch, and is in the process of securing new fruit sources from the fertile Russian River Valley. And then there is new father Ed Kurtzman who is bringing his August West Pinot to Aspen. Finally, Peter Angelo Cargasacchi will also be pouring his fine wines from Santa Barbara.

“The beauty of this event,” Salamanski says with the same enthusiasm he displayed when discussing Jenne’s puppy, “is that it gives people the opportunity to explore and become attuned to the nuances of Pinot. It gives them a chance to taste wines made by different hands from the same vineyards.” He explained, “Dan Kosta and Craig Strehlow, for example, both make wines from fruit sourced at Keefer Ranch. But where the Kosta Browne wines may be bold and have weight, Craig’s wines might exhibit a more floral character and may be a little more high tuned.”

The Pinot Posse Tour also lets the trade and consumers taste wines from the same grape grown in different regions. This year, wines from up and down the West Coast, from Santa Barbara to the Santa Lucia Highlands to the Willamette Valley will be on display. “This is not a competition,” emphasizes John, “it’s just a way to bring great wines from diverse regions, made by really talented people together so that people can taste the differences.”

Sounds like my kind of family gathering

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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