WineInk: Anticipation

The Upcoming Classic

Kelly J. Hayes
People walk about the Grand Tasting tent at the Food& Wine Classic at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

We are a just a week away from the 40th rendition of the Food & Wine Classic.

The time of year when, to borrow a phrase from Lloyd, we are “a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the swallows of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Aspen.” If you know it, you know it.

Anyway, it is more accurate to say we will be a place where the wine flows like beer for three-plus days starting next Wednesday when the first pre-Classic events begin. If you read this column, then you already know about some of the special wine gatherings that will be taking place over the duration of the week, including the timely “Winemaking is Freedom” tasting and dinner fundraiser for Aspen Public Radio on Wednesday, June 15.

While the Aspen Public Radio event (sponsored locally by CCY Architects and Here House) is technically unaffiliated with the Classic, there is kinship in the inclusive core message that it sends about celebrating winemakers, especially women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other groups who endeavor to create wines in historic environs.

Rose Previte and David Greene with South African winemaker Nondumiso Pikashe.
Courtesy photo

Recently, new research on the history of early grape cultivation has indicated that the origins of winemaking may have been thousands of years earlier than the 8,000 years ago originally thought. And the locations of the earliest wines are likely the Caucuses, and the area that is today Syria, Lebanon, and Israel — places that reflect the sources of some of the wines to be poured by at the event by Washington, D.C., restaurateur Rose Previte and her husband, David Greene, founders of Go There Wines. As of this writing, there are tickets still available. Contact Aspen Public Radio Membership Coordinator Lauri Jackson at 970-920-9000 or go to

Of course, there are a wide number of official seminars at the Classic that will focus on wine that promise to be stellar, as well as spirits seminars and, yes, one beer event.

The beer will indeed flow like wine when Anne Becerra, the first female-certified cicerone in New York City, joins Cheezelady Laura Werlin for a seminar that pairs their respective specialties in a seminar titled “All Aboard for Cheese & Beer: Take a Trip Through Europe’s Greatest Craft Beers and Artisanal Cheeses,” at the Classic. By the way, a certified cicerone (sis-uh-rohn) designates “hospitality professionals with proven experience in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers.” To become one requires the passage of a special program administered by The Craft Beer Institute. Quite an accomplishment.

Fans of the NBA and those interested in a new generation of winemakers will want to attend the conversation on Friday afternoon in the Historic Wheeler Opera House moderated by NBA Star CJ McCollum and featuring Carmelo Anthony and Channing Frye, titled “How 3 NBA Stars’ Brands Are Changing the Wine Industry For the Better.” The trio will be joined by Tiquette Bramlett, Ashley Combs, and Asani Swann, entrepreneurs and business partners of the winemakers. Anthony, a former Denver Nugget, recently announced his retirement after 19 years in the league and will be a solid addition to the winemaking community.

Ray Isle, Food & Wine magazine’s executive wine editor.
Courtesy photo

All the wine seminars have the learned hand of Food & Wine magazine’s executive wine editor, Ray Isle, firmly on the tiller. Isle, who has been a part of the Classic for nearly two decades, has the enviable task of selecting the wine seminar presenters and working with them as they craft their presentations and select which wines to pour. Oh, and he hosts seminars, as well. This year, he will be previewing his wine book, which is to be released this fall. His seminar “The World in a Wine Glass: Amazing Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic Wines” will travel the globe in a glass as he profiles a half dozen wines that not only taste great, but also tell stories of mindful winemaking, as well.

And Isle will also host an intriguing second seminar, “The Great Wine vs Sake Taste-Off: Which is Better with Food? Taste and Decide for Yourself,” alongside Monica Samuels, who has the prestigious title of sake samurai as proclaimed by the Sake Brewers Association. How cool is that on a business card or a LinkedIn page?  

Nate Ganapathi is one of the leading voices in the world of scotch and whisky and co-founder of Bevridge, an e-commerce and educational platform specializing in tastings of premium high-end whiskies.
Chris C2 Photography/Courtesy photo

In the world of spirits, Canadian Nate Ganapathi will take center stage with three events where, to beat a dead horse, whiskey will flow like wine. A respected whisky expert, critic, and collector, he is one of the leading voices in the world of scotch and whisky and co-founder of Bevridge, an e-commerce and educational platform specializing in tastings of premium high-end whiskies. He will lead a seminar on whiskies around the world and follow it up with a second one on Irish whiskey, one of the fastest-growing categories in the kingdom, appropriately titled: “Luck of the Irish: How Irish Whiskey Has Become the Hottest Brown Spirit You Can Buy.”

In addition, he will once again host a ticketed, private, luxury spirit tasting called “Rarest of the Rare,” featuring some of the most renowned bourbon and whiskey in the world. Top shelf for certain.

Sabado Sagaria, founder of a New York City-based culinary investment group called Apres Cru, and Carlton McCoy, managing partner of the Lawrence Wine Estates, will helm seminars back in the town where they once worked.
Courtesy photo

Then, just because they know their stuff, we will welcome once again the three Amigos, if you will, the Masters from the Nell. While they will not be presenting together, don’t be surprised if you spy ex-Little Nell wine directors Bobby Stuckey, Sabado Sagaria, and Carlton McCoy all in your field of vision at the same time. And all are master sommeliers. Stuckey, now a Boulder/Denver restaurateur; Sagaria, founder of a New York City based culinary investment group called Apres Cru; and McCoy, managing partner of the Lawrence Wine Estates will all helm seminars back in the town where they once worked.

It is a testament to the three that they are in such demand each year by the producers of the Classic, and that they will be returning once again to Aspen.  


2016 Canoe Ridge Vineyard “The Explorer”

When in Rome one drinks Italian, but when in the Great Northwest, the best option is to drink the beautiful wines of Washington state. This wine, produced from estate vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation of southeastern Washington, is a blend of five grape varieties led by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a healthy dose of Syrah and Cabernet Franc. I had it lakeside at an early summer cookout and found it a perfect pairing with a grilled rib eye and veggies. Dark fruits dominated, but the tannins were soft and supple. Like the summer sun the wine lingered long into the night. I like Washington wines. A lot.

2016 Canoe Ridge Vineyard “The Explorer.”
Courtesy photo
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