Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com
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Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

I’m a sucker for films about guys bonding over cool things.

Recently, I saw Mike Marolt’s film “Skiing Everest” and shortly thereafter caught Stacy Peralta’s “Riding Giants” for the umpteenth time. Both are stories about a cadre of guys who connect through the shared passions that define their lives. In “Everest,” the passion is climbing and skiing, while “Riding Giants” revolves around big-wave surfing. But as exciting as the action is, the core of both films is the relationships that form between the athletes who travel together seeking the impossible: perfection in what they do.

So when I heard that the Pinot Posse, a group of young winemakers who share a passion for producing world class Pinot Noir, were riding into Colorado to host a winemakers dinner at the new BREXI Brasserie here in Aspen, I had to hear “the rest of the story” as it were. I called John Salamanski, who is organizing the Posse’s visit from his home in nearby

Redstone, to get the skinny.

The Pinot Posse is a group of seven entrepreneurs who have followed their calling by individually creating their own labels and making top-notch Pinot (and other varietals as well) up and down the left coast of America.

Geographically they range from just north of Santa Barbara in the Santa Rita Hills appellation, where Peter Cargasacchi sources grapes for his Point Concepcion and Cargasacchi Vineyards labels and Josh Jensen disciple Brian Loring farms the same turf for his Loring Wine Company offerings, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where Jim Prosser makes “Pinot Noir and only Pinot Noir” at his JK Carriere winery in Yamhill County.

In between Eric Kurtzman of August West and Andrew Vingiello, of AP Vin Wines, are pioneering urban winemaking in San Francisco while trucking in grapes from the Central Coast and Napa. Further north, in the Pinot Noir sweet spot of the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, Dan Kosta has received much acclaim for his single-vineyard and appellation designated releases for Kosta-Brown.

For good measure, the seventh block of granite in this group is one of my favorite winemakers, David O’Reilly, who makes great wines from any number of different grapes but has a commonality with the others in his love of Pinot Noir — especially Pinot Noir grown in his home state of Oregon.

Each year, this being the fourth, the group leaves the fields, gathers at the Denver airport and heads out for a week of wine tasting and meals to promote their bottlings. All of the seven are represented by CS Wines, Salamanski’s company.

This year’s Aspen stop will be on Wednesday March 18, at BREXI. Seven wines will be paired with five courses of Chef Arron Bennett’s French bistro-inspired cuisine in what will inevitably be an inspiring and memorable night. For those who have yet to stop in, BREXI, in the Dancing Bear building, is the most innovative and exciting restaurant to open in town in a good long while. The dinner’s cost is $135 per person plus tax and gratuities. It will likely sell out, so if you want to take part call BREXI at 925-2838 to book your reservations.

According to Salamanski, dinner with the Posse is like “a high-end frat party” with an educational component. Each of the seven winemakers will speak about their wines, explaining why they chose the grapes that were used, how they made the wines and how successful they were in their quest for perfection. The overriding take-away, Salamanski says, is that diners get a feel for how collegial the winemakers are. “These guys are all about spreading the word on Pinot,” he says. “It’s not about who’s best, it’s about interesting Pinot. It’s all about sharing this diversity of a grape that is so unique.”

When the seven winemakers get together for their week on the road in Colorado each year, they spend time learning from each other, discussing winemaking techniques, climate variations and the individual nature of their terroir. Much like the alpine climbers of “Skiing Everest” and the Maverick’s mavericks of “Riding Giants,” the members of the Pinot Posse took great risks to pursue their passions and it has paid off.

Come meet the Posse as they ride through town.


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