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The weekend: tastes and turns

Kelly J. HayesSpecial to The Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN For perhaps the first time in the 26-year history of the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, attendees will be faced with a choice: to ski or not to ski. At a time when farm to table fresh food is the mantra amongst the dining cognoscente, cloud to slope fresh snow offers a real alternative for anyone who didnt get enough turns this year. The recommendation here for those visiting is to carve out an hour or two during one of the three days to ride the gondola and take a June run. Youll talk about it for years.The event officially kicks off Friday, but the chefs, winemakers, journalists and those who come for the party got an early start Thursday night. Restaurants were crowded, the Wines of Spain tasting (which gets better every year) was inspiring and mezcal flowed in the shadows at the debut of Betts & Scholls new Sombra.Friday at 10 a.m., the first seminars will take place. Personally I like to create mini-themes for each half-day during the Classic. Today, you might want to make the morning about Australia. Begin the Classic by heading to the St. Regis courtyard for the always entertaining Dan Phillips, who will present a seminar titled All-Around Australia and pour eight different bottlings of shiraz from the width and breadth of Oz.Follow that with a stop at the Grand Tasting tent at 11:30 to see Aspens first Master Sommelier, Damon Ornowski, and taste the wines he will pour from Yabby Lake Vineyards. Yabby Lake is on Australias Mornington Peninsula in a cool climate, and it specializes in pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. These wines will be different from those that Dan pours, but by early afternoon youll have received a mini-education in Australian wines.If you dont have a ticket to the Classic but want a taste, then head over to the Wheeler Opera House, where Plum TV is hosting the film Spain: Coming of Age Friday at 6:30 p.m.. A $10 ticket will take you on a trip through the various wine regions of Spain, and youll have an opportunity to taste the wines featured in the film.And dont forget the great wine dinners that are open to the public. Among Friday night’s highlights are a sake-themed dinner at Kenichi and a winemakers dinner at the Caribou Club featuring the wines of Sea Smoke, which has become a cult classic of late.