Wine School: Food & Wine seminars are back in session |

Wine School: Food & Wine seminars are back in session

Kelly J. Hayes
Special to The Aspen Times
Food & Wine Classic patrons get ready for a wine and PB&J seminar at the 2018 event.
Anna Stonehouse/Aspen Times file photo



This feature and others appear in The Aspen Times’ Food & Wine Classic preview section, which can be found online at

The scene is as familiar as your sixth grade classroom. A series of long tables, fronted by rows of white wooden folding chairs. Atop the tables await pencils and notepads, silver spit buckets and sheets of paper with the names of a half dozen wines, semi obscured by the glasses, each filled with proper tasting size pours.

Wine school is back in session.

The wine seminars at the Food & Wine Classic set the standard for what a perfect tasting should be. Educational, tasty, but most of all, fun. Gathering in a tent by the Roaring Fork River, or at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola, with a view of Aspen Mountain and putting your nose into a glass of wine to get a whiff of what awaits is just not something that you do every day. Especially at 10 a.m. But you are guaranteed that less than an hour later you will know more about a wine region or style than you did before.

This year, the list of presenters and the wines they are planning to pour are as stellar as the views of Ajax. There will be 26 seminars where wines will be explored and examined at the Classic over three days, along with beer (Garrett Oliver), whiskey (Alba Huerta) and rum (Alex Noriega Jr.) tastings.

Let’s start with the woman behind Tokyo Record Bar and Niche-Niche on MacDougal Street, Ariel Arce. Known as the Champagne Empress of Greenwich Village, this New York-based restaurant entrepreneur will make her Classic debut by offering up a pair of luxuries in her two seminars titled “Champagne & Caviar.” We all can use a taste of the luxe life.

Haven’t been on the road for a while? Well, this year’s Classic will take you on trips in a glass with visits to France, with June Rodil who will be hosting a seminar on “Chateauneuf du Pape! Superstar of the Rhône,” and sojourns to Spain with Alpana Singh, both of whom are master sommeliers. Amanda McCrossen will introduce you to up-and-coming California winemakers in her “The Kids Are Alright: Napa Valley & Sonoma’s Next Generation.”

Longtime favorites will be back this year for your edu-tainment as well. Ray Isle, the executive wine editor for Food & Wine magazine, will be hosting a pair of very different and distinct sessions. “In the first, titled ‘Wines for a Healthy Planet,’ we’ll look at some great wines that are either sustainable, organic, biodynamic, or all of the above,” he said about his seminar. “These are wines where the grapes are grown and the wine is made in a way that’s beneficial to the planet rather than problematic, but that also happen to taste amazing, too. Wineries and vineyards have been doing some amazing work in this regard.”

Isle then gets a bit more whimsical. “The other seminar is about, well, pairing potato chips and wine. I’ve done this one before, and I love it,” he notes. “Potato chips are great for talking about how food interacts with wine, because the flavors you can get are so clear: saltiness, black pepper (spiciness), salt & vinegar (sour), BBQ (sweet). It’s incredibly fun. Plus, who doesn’t want to eat potato chips and drink wine?” Crunch.

For his part, the always gregarious and ebullient Anthony Giglio is celebrating a quarter century of pouring great juice at the Classic. This year, Giglio hosts a pair of 10 a.m. seminars under the moniker “Italian Happy Hour.”

“The drinks will be bubbly and eye-opening,” Giglio says about his top of the morning presentations. And it will be 6 p.m. in Rome. Perfect time for an aperitivo.

And then there is the “Banker,” Mark Oldman, who keeps raising the ante on his oh-so-popular “Wines for XXX-aires.” This year, we are up to quintillion, which so you know, a quintillion is one followed by 30 zeros. “I can share that the wines will be among the most coveted in the world,” Oldman said about what he plans to pour. “For example, Schrader Cellars, the auction-grade ‘cult cabernet,’ which has garnered the highest critical acclaim in the history American cabernet, has already committed to providing big bottles of their sublime juice.”

And he teased: “The biggest bottle of all is currently being custom-made by Napa’s venerable Beaulieu Vineyard. Just for the seminar, they are putting the 80th anniversary vintage of their renowned Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet into one of the largest bottles ever to grace a food festival. It will be a sight to behold, with a flavor to seriously savor.”

It’s mid-September, and we really should be back in school.


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