Aspen Times Weekly: Wine dinners done right |

Aspen Times Weekly: Wine dinners done right

by Kelly J. Hayes


Pinot Posse Dinner at Ajax Tavern

Tuesday, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m.

Wines by: Loring Wine Company, a.p. vin, Cargasacchi Vineyards,

J.K. Carriere, August West, Owen Roe, Bonaccorsi

Price: $150 per person, tax and gratuity not included.

Call 970-920-6334 for reservations

Eight K Winter Wine Dinner Series

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m.

Price: $150 per person, tax and gratuity not included

Call 970 923-8000 for reservations

I can attest, having been to my share of wine dinners, that many are, well, a little dry. Too many thoughtless pairings. Too much talk from distributors about loamy soils. Too many people who came for the meal instead of the wine. And oftentimes, they drag on a course or two way too long. Ouch.

Ah, but next week, a pair of winemakers dinners in Aspen and Snowmass will be the antithesis of that experience. How do I know? Because everyone, and everything involved, from the chefs to the winemakers to the wines, are fresh, young and exciting.

The first, on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 6:30, the oh-so-fun and casual Ajax Tavern will feature a visit from the Pinot Posse — who will ride, once again, into town with fervor and flavor. Some of the West’s best Pinot producers will pour and pair great wines with chef Justin Schreiber’s inspired and comfortable cuisine.

Survive that and the next night, Wednesday Jan.15, it will be chef Will Nolan’s time to shine at Viceroy Snowmass’ vaunted eatery Eight K. He will preside, with honor, over a meal prepped to showcase the beauty of the extraordinary wines of Trefethen Family Vineyard, a winery that defines the word legendary. Pouring the wines of Trefethen will be Loren Trefethen, a third-generation vintner from an amazing family that in addition to making great juice is making some very 21st-century changes to both the winery and the industry.

These will be anything but your granddaddy’s wine dinners.

The Pinot Posse is making its ninth ride through the Rockies this year. A concept created by John Salamanski, a distributor for fine artisan wineries through his company CS Wine Imports, this annual gathering brings wines to the people, and brings innovative winemakers together to ski, bond and exchange ideas. The winter tastings of this collection of wineries is a hotly anticipated date on the calendar — for both the trade and wine aficionados. This year the lineup includes the wines and makers from Loring, a.p. vin, Bonaccorsi, Owen Roe, J.K. Carriere, August West/Sandler and Cargasacchi. Superstars (and great guys) like Brian Loring, David O’Reilly and Andrew Vigniello will be joined this year by the Buellton-based Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi for what will be a night of fine wine and good times.

Tim Baldwin, from the The Little Nell, worked with Salamanski to bring the Posse to Ajax Tavern. Having experienced their wines — and their antics — during his stint at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Baldwin knows how unique a meal with the Posse can be. “The group includes not only seven of the most talented winemakers on the planet, but they represent all philosophies of winemaking which makes for a great dialogue.” He noted, “Each winemaker truly believes in their style of winemaking, and they aren’t afraid to poke fun at each other… which they do throughout the evening. Bringing the group to Aspen is exciting. We’re preparing for great food, wine and lots of laughs.”

If you have not been to Ajax Tavern since the return of prodigal son chef Scheiber this year (he was a part of Nick Morfogen’s kitchen team that opened Tavern before heading off to a number of other great kitchens), you’re in for a treat. “I’m most looking forward to serving my poutine with Anson Mills polenta fries, mushrooms, fontina cheese and foie gras gravy.” Tasty? Even more so with, say, a bottle of Jim Prosser’s vintage Vespidae.

While tough to compare or compete with a team of seven, Loren Trefethen has history on his side. Founded in 1968 by his grandfather Gene Trefethen and his wife Kate, Trefethen has become one of the best-known and most beloved wineries in the Napa Valley. One of my personal wine epiphanies was drinking a Trefethen Chardonnay with my own grandfather who, in the early ’80s, ordered a bottle for lunch, daily, at Jimmy’s in Beverly Hills. The experience resonates with me to this day.

But I digress.

Loren Trefethen, who will turn 31 on St. Patrick’s Day, brings more than the luck of the Irish to the next iteration of this great winery. He brings passion for progress, a love of the land and an understanding of how wine can bring people together.

Begin with the progress. Trefethen has long been a stalwart in the sustainable wine movement and last year became one of the few wineries in the world to be powered by the sun — 1,500 solar panels capture enough rays to produce the electricity needed to run the entire winery.

Loren is also at the forefront of a unique series of events called the Trefethen Table. Think of it as collegial TED Talks inside a winery. After crafting an extraordinary table from the remains of a fallen Oak Tree that was a signature of the property, Loren conceived (with Michael Hebb, leader of the underground dinner movement), a series of dinners bringing thought leaders from different disciplines to Napa. Putting them together around the Table and letting them share opinions, wisdom, and, of course, wine in a setting that encouraged camaraderie and discourse.

Trefethen wines will be poured with chef Nolan’s always innovative and surprising dishes in a meal that will be as interesting as it is tasty.

January. It’s supposed to be the offseason of the ski season. But in a great wine town, it is always prime time for great 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