Wild plays it cool during hectic Food & Wine Classic

Naomi HavlenAspen Times Staff Writer

Brenda Wild is surprisingly calm for someone who’s about to be the ringleader for a logistical nightmare.Wild is coordinator of volunteers for Aspen’s Food & Wine Magazine Classic. This year, 800 volunteers will be shuffling 33,000 wine glasses for hundreds of guests, wine vendors and members of the media.It’s a lot to think about at once. Wild is a whiz at remembering faces, phone numbers and job descriptions, and always says “thank you” to volunteers, but on Wednesday she couldn’t remember where she put her sunglasses.”I like to call this `temporary chaos,'” she said. Most locals know that Food & Wine is run by volunteers, especially because many have benefited from the perk of a free pass to the event in return for some simple sweat equity. As a result, this weekend in June is the most popular volunteer opportunity in the Roaring Fork Valley.For the volunteers, Wild said she feels like the “camp counselor, the mother, the best girlfriend and the next-door neighbor” all rolled into one. She does her best to make sure that volunteers are treated with respect and thanked profusely for their hard work.”If someone walks away from volunteering and says `I had a great time,’ I’ve done my job,” she said. “If not, I’m disappointed with myself.”Wild lives in Basalt with her husband, Tony Coia, her 15-year-old daughter, Kelsi, and 10-year-old son Madison. She’s a real estate broker for Aspen Land and Homes, but her Food & Wine responsibilities reach into her everyday life.”I work at this year-round, and I live among the volunteers,” she said. “I see people from Food & Wine everywhere I go – grocery shopping, out to dinner or to parties. My circle of friends gets bigger every year.”Wild walked into the Aspen Chamber Resort Association Offices seven years ago and said she’d love to be involved with Food & Wine. That year she became co-volunteer coordinator, the next year she had the job to herself, and the rest is history.”My mom says I have a knack for getting along with everybody,” she said. “I do play a certain role of psychologist there – I don’t have to agree with someone, I just have to see where people are coming from so we can have a meeting of the minds. People are fascinating, and I get to meet all kinds as volunteers.”This will be the second year she’ll have her own vendor table in the Grand Tasting Tent – she is co-owner of Noble & Wild, importing wines from Chile and Italy. Wild’s business partner, Niccolo Lorimer of Italy, and Wild’s husband will be pouring the company’s wine this weekend in the Global tent.Wild said she loves Brunello, a “deep, red, fabulous” Italian wine, and also appreciates Shiraz, Pinot Grigio and other small, handmade wines. She rarely attends any seminars during Food & Wine weekend since duty calls, and she has to keep her mind clear to handle whatever comes up.In her spare time – a concept that makes her laugh – Wild loves to spend time with her family, hike, bike and practice Bikram’s yoga. She also volunteers at other events in the valley. These days she’s working 12 hours a day minimum to get ready for the event, from handling volunteer questions to pitching in with tent preparation.”I was at the park last night until 10:30 helping the guys in the tent, because I know they’d do the same for me if I needed help,” she said. “I’ve worked at the ESPN X Games and a lot of different great volunteer activities, but the Food & Wine has become a family over the years, and that’s really important.”[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]