Hot air mixes with bubbly in Snowmass |

Hot air mixes with bubbly in Snowmass

The eighth annual Snowmass Wine Festival returns this weekend with some fresh features and a new name.

Now it’s the Hot Air Balloon and Wine Festival. And over 30 hot-air balloons and 25 wineries from around the world will accompany the festival this year, which was previously exclusive to wineries from Colorado.

“One of the things I wanted to do was to bring more quality wines to the people here,” said coordinator Reed Lewis.

The festival takes place Saturday, with a morning seminar, a silent auction, the Grand Tasting from 1 to 5 p.m., followed by a wine dinner at the Tower Restaurant.

An all-day ticket is $40, up from $25 last year, but with this year’s improvements, Lewis thinks it’s well worth the extra dough. All money is donated to local charities, including the Little Red Schoolhouse, the Independence Pass Foundation, and Roaring Fork Youth Baseball.

“With the quality of wines we have coming, this is a pretty good deal,” he said.

Wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Italy will be pouring at the Grand Tasting and other events throughout the day. In addition, the event will include some of the Roaring Fork Valley’s best private chefs and caterers, and live music.

Lewis, in his first year as coordinator of the event, feels the Snowmass Wine Festival is a good alternative to the larger, more expensive ($925 for a full pass), Aspen Food and Wine Magazine Classic in June.

“Aspen Food and Wine is great,” Lewis said, “but it’s not in financial reach of a lot of the locals.”

The hot-air balloon festival used to be in the spring, but Lewis and Betsy Burns-Sima, who’s coordinating the balloon side of the event, felt joining the two would be beneficial.

“It’s something to draw a lot of people,” Burns-Sima said.

Hot-air balloons from around the world will converge at the softball fields Saturday and Sunday morning, with inflation beginning at 7 a.m. A series of competitions, including Dawn Quixote (in which pilots armed with jousting sticks try and pop as many helium balloons as possible) should keep spectators and wine and food tasters entertained. Burns-Sima said no more volunteers are needed for the hot-air balloons.

Said Lewis about the new format: “I hope it will do well; I think it will.”

Tickets for the wine and food tasting will go on sale at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Snowmass Village Mall. A seminar on Red Zinfandel and Chocolate will be held at 10:30 a.m. To make reservations for the wine dinner at the Tower Restaurant, call 923-4650.

[Steve Benson’s e-mail address is]

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