Food & Wine Classic: Not just all about the wine this weekend |

Food & Wine Classic: Not just all about the wine this weekend

Staff reports
Dave Wondrich and all of his rye whiskeys on display during the seminar “Rebirth of Rye.”
Carolyn Sackariason/The Aspen Times


Food & Wine welcomes beer, yes, beer.

In the first beer event in Food & Wine Classic’s history, the guys from Blackberry Farms in Tennessee gave the wine drinkers a taste of the other side.

Those who have been to the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver know how beer and brewing has changed in the past 20 years. The Farm’s Sommelier Andy Chabot (who last year playfully explained champagne to drink with fried chicken) and brewmaster Roy Milner walked through what they did in Tennessee and a 101 for new beer drinkers.

“It takes a lot of great beer to make great wines,” Milner reminded the crowd of what the grape farmers drank after a long day in the field.

And with that the two touched on a range from the Farm’s classic saison, which they started with when they opened the brewery in 2011, to the milk stout brewed by Left Hand Brewing in Longmont.

For those thinking about crossing over, Chabot said, the saison is a wine-drinkers beer.

“Sometimes we’ll use our saison on The Farm instead of champagne,” he said of the beer they put in a champagne bottle as part of the fermenting process. “It’s bone-dry and really pairs with just about everything.”

And the six-beer tour included a traditional pilsner, a light but powerful sour, a session (having three or four in a sitting) and a classic IPA from Avery in Boulder

Beer is a natural fit to get a platform at Food & Wine, and they appreciate the boom.

“In the early 1990s when I got into brewing there were about 300 breweries in the United States,” Milner said. “Now there are 6,500.”

David Krause

Catch Bulding the Perfect Beer today at 3:45 at The Little Nell 2.

BUBBLES FOR BREAKFAST (and lunch and dinner and …)

I had to wonder why there was a tin-foil wrapped egg sandwich with a to-go condiment packet of hot sauce placed next to the six sparkling wines sitting before me at Anthony Giglio’s “Breakfast of Champions: Sparkling Smackdown” seminar on Friday.

But it soon became clear: “To beat the heat, drink sweet,” said Giglio, probably best known as the Wine Wise Guy.

Indeed, it worked. Giglio, who delivered his spiel with equal parts knowledge and humor, had us sip from the first tasting glass. Then he had us take another sip, this time swishing it around in our mouths like “mouthwash — you can do that.” Then we took a third sip. And while the NV Collet Demi-Sec Champagne from France got a little less sweet with each taste, it still stung a bit.

Then, drum roll please, Giglio gave us the secret to sipping success in this situation: open that packet of hot sauce, pour it on the sandwich, eat — and then drink. Bingo! Nailed it.

In all, we tasted six different sparkling wines, ranging from a $43 bottle of NV Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Champagne from France to a $175 bottle of NV Egly-Ouiret Champagne Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru “Les Crayeres” Champagne from France (as well as one non-Champagne rosé sparkler from Oregon’s Willamette Valley).

And, in the end, I would say this Smackdown was a success — and that there is a reason to drink bubbles for breakfast (or lunch or dinner or …)

Jeanne McGovern

Catch “Breakfast of Champions: Sparkling Smackdown” today at 10 a.m. at Paepcke 1.


All whiskeys are not created equal. And when it comes to rye, there is a rebirth going on. That is why cocktail aficionado Dave Wondrich held the first-ever seminar on rye in the 36-year history of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

“They called me and asked if I wanted to do a seminar on bourbon and I said, ‘how about rye?’”

After making its debut in the American colonies in the 1600s and falling off during World War II, rye is back and becoming a staple for traditional cocktails like manhattans and old fashioneds.

Grain distilling started in the Northeast and was modeled after the ways of the Germans. Wondrich served up an Old Potrero single malt rye whiskey that emulates an 18th century style.

It’s made by Fritz Maytag, the heir to the washer/dryer empire. Based in San Francisco, Maytag started distilling this colonial rye in 1992. It’s a rare breed, with hints of woody notes that smell like furniture a bit (or wet dog) but when drank, taste yeasty, young and kind of minty-cool.

Wondrich had blends that aren’t as traditional, like the Ragtime rye American straight whiskey and Mitcher’s 10-year-old single barrel rye, both of which are great sipping whiskeys. Rich, creamy and chewy.

He told the group of drinkers assembled in the Limelight conference room that they can expect to see more creations in the rye world in the near future.

“We’re going to see this more and more as people take care of the classics,” Wondrich said. “It frees up other people to experiment.”

Carolyn Sackariason

Catch the “Rebirth of Rye” today at 3:45 p.m. at the Limelight.


If there’s one seminar to go to on the Food & Wine Classic schedule every year, it’s Mark Oldman’s. Now in his 13th consecutive year, the master sommelier and wine author presented his most amped up seminar yet — Wines for Gazillionaires — in a packed to capacity tent on Friday afternoon in Paepcke Park.

Recently named “one of the wine world’s great showmen” by the New York Times, his persona is what keeps Classic crowds coming back year after year. But when Facebook’s first initial public offering was announced in 2012, Oldman was intrigued and wondered “what would IPO millionaires drink?” A video series and signature progression of seminars in Aspen was born and, this year, he hit gazillionaire status (his book “How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre” was published in 2016). The exuberant expert took his teachings to the next level with a Rock ’n’ Roll themed presentation based on his fictional band “Towers of Power” (named in honor of wine bottle sizes) on the “Brown M&Ms Tour” (named for Van Halen’s crazy color-restricted candy request on a 1984 backstage rider), complete with groupies (Classic volunteer staff) in heavy metal garb.

The tasting took us through $10,000 worth of wine including 3-liter magnums, 6-liter magnums and one 18-liter melchior (the equivalent to 24 bottles), which was a custom-made Croix de Beaucaillou from the legendary Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in Bordeaux with a label hand-designed by Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade. Always one for audience participation in between sharing “nugget alerts” of digestible knowledge, a brave guest was summoned on stage to do a tap hit straight out of what was the biggest and rarest bottle of wine there (and worth $5,000 alone). An official annual tradition, Oldman also brought up two audience members to do a dueling champagne saber to AC DC’s “For Those About to Rock.” (Check out his sabring at the grand-tasting tent on The Aspen Times’ Facebook page.)

As for the “All Access” pass every attendee received at their seat? Beyond a personal “Bottle Bucket List” scorecard to attempt to master post-fest, here’s hoping it grants us some secret, special privileges for the rest of the weekend.

Katie Shapiro

Catch Wines for Gazillionaires today at 2 p.m. at Paepcke 2.


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