Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. HayesAspen Times Weekly

Just when you thought festival season was over, the Snowmass Wine Festival kicks into gear. Over the last six years, the Snowmass Wine Festival has established itself as one of the great fall events in the Roaring Fork Valley. Not as crowded, a little more friendly and certainly a more affordable cousin to the mega Food & Wine event that takes place each June in Aspen, the Snowmass Wine Festival has found a perfect niche. Next Saturday, Sept. 19, the Snowmass Mall will come alive from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. as tables will be set and participants will be sample up to 250 wines. There will of course be food, as 18 local restaurants will plate portions to pair with the carefully chosen assortment of domestic and imported wines. The night before, Friday the 18th , the place to be is Artisan Restaurant, where Chef David Von Holten will prepare a 4-course dinner with a seasonal menu to complement the spectacular wines with from Argentina’s Bodega Catena. There will be an auction at the dinner with items ranging from VIP passes to the Masters and the Kentucky Derby to a Napa Valley wine trip. Both events are fundraisers for the Snowmass Village Rotary Club. The proceeds from the auction, the dinner and the tasting support local organizations like the Little Red Schoolhouse, Challenge Aspen and Youth Zone. The Snowmass Wine Festival has maintained an intimate feel over the years, but organizers are proud to point out that attendance last year mushroomed to 700 participants, up from roughly 150 who can claim they attended the first Festival. Credit and kudos are long overdue for Barbara Wickes of Sundance Liquor, who has helped shepherd the event and has played a major role in the selection and coordination of the wines. “The festival has grown both in scope and quality and it has been a really big hit,” Barbara points out. “People have just been blown away by the value they get for the ticket price.” And the tasting is a bargain. Tickets for the Saturday tasting can be purchased for $60 all week at Sundance Liquor and the Daly Bottle Shop in Snowmass, Jimbo’s Liquor in Basalt, or by calling 970-923-0157. Tickets will also be sold in front of the Village Market on Sept. 17 and 18. You can still buy tickets on Saturday, but they’ll cost you $75. The dinner at Artisan is always a treat and this year the wines of Catena will make it even more so. Bodega Catena is a family-owned winery with roots in Argentina going back to 1898, when Nicola Catena emigrated from Italy to the hillsides of the Andes. At the turn of the century, he became the first farmer in Argentina to plant the Bordeaux varietal Malbec in the vineyards. Today, Malbec is the grape that put Argentina on the wine map. Catena has become perhaps the most famous Bodega (the Spanish name for anyplace that sells wine) in Argentina. They import wines into the U.S. under the Alamos, Catena Alta and Catena Zapata labels. Perhaps their most prized wine is the Nicols Catena Zapata, which is only made in years that are deemed by the Catenas to be outstanding vintages. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, with the makeup varying depending upon the vintage. It always scores highly and is a darling of wine critics. The Catena wines are sourced in Mendoza in vineyards that are amongst the highest of any in the world. The Adriana vineyard, where much of the fruit for the Nicols Catena Zapata is grown, sits at about 5,000 feet in elevation. At the dinner, there will be four wines poured, two whites and two reds. Tickets for this wine and dine event are $125 and you can call Randy Woods at 970-923-0157 for reservations. Fall is in the air and there is no better way to spend a September Saturday than with a glass of wine in hand. That’s what the Snowmass Wine Festival is all about.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@wineink.com.

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