Aspen Food & Wine: It’s a dirty job … | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Food & Wine: It’s a dirty job …

Aaron HedgeThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Michael Faas/The Aspen TimesWilly Shine, of Tanqueray Ten, pours a Bronx Cocktail at Friday's Grand Tasting. The Food & Wine Classic continues Saturday and Sunday at locations around Aspen.

ASPEN – Standing affront a table under a pavilion just west of Mill Street, I took a sip of some $300-a-bottle wine and wondered what it would be like to be able to afford this opportunity on my own dime.I would never have been able to pay for the exorbitant price tag, which you can look up at http://www.foodandwine.com.My editors had sent me here to chronicle the “new guy’s” perspective on what an elite mountain resort town’s view on world-class food and wine culture was.It was – and still is for next couple of days – the national confluence of the people who make a name for themselves in the food and wine business (it was mostly wine for me) across the world. And it’s a mixed group that is not only dedicated to just food and wine.A reporter straight out of college, the whiskey spots were what I had my eyes on.As much as I appreciate wine, after a few glasses of it, I headed to the sweet uplands of the most famous liquor, which produced the most smoothly comforting mixtures I could imagine.The most poignant of those was certainly the Western Spirits mix of raspberry and cream liqueur, which went down my gullet as the alcogasm I had been searching for. Those hard alcohols were certainly the few, though. And as I explored the finer of the wine gallery, I discovered, by cursory experience, how deep wine culture goes.One wine producer from California, whose wife and partner is a “Tennessee farm girl,” has one of the most laid-back demeanors at the Food & Wine Festival. He says it’s about the passion -not about the image – and tells me no one shares their fervor for the industry.For all my sympathy for that sentiment, I had no clue what he was talking about. Don’t get me wrong. I understand small business. My dad’s obsessed with it. But I’ve always had a hard time acquainting myself with the functioning of an industry that is founded on the most basic concept of human nature: A need to indulge the senses.And that’s the whole reason, in my view, that this festival comes to Aspen.It realizes that, from the beginning of the city’s transformation into an elite mountain resort that indulges in the very worst of its human impulses (think Hunter S. Thompson, John Denver and, the very latest, Charlie Sheen). Aspen is one of the few places in the world that is able to comfortably embrace lack of control.This is what is was like for me as a journalist who’s never been to anything like this.I entered the first tent, filled with gifts and no booze: Pass that.Into the next tent, the first that was serving wine, I was little intimidated. I had no clue as what to say to the server when I approached the table.But this server started me off well. As every subsequent server did, Nikola Thornton, of Bodegas Farina, a wine maker from Spain, directed me to taste the white, through the middle-grade, and all the way to the dark.From there, the tastings were many (I didn’t take the time to count, but I’m guessing about 200 – I didn’t partake in every one because I might not have been able to write this).After Farina, I took a couple of couple of minutes to get my bearings, but I found my niche, which was simply walking up to table and asking to try its wine in order from the from the whitest to the reddest.There were several points, of course, when I thought to myself: “I don’t belong here.”But as the wine flowed (as did the whiskey, gin, tequila and rum), I found myself in a better place.And I think this better place helps me understand the goodness of the basest of human nature.As exemplified by the two wine producers from California, it could be the best facet of human nature.ahedge@aspentimes.com