WineInk: The Pinot Posse Goes Virtual

Kelly J. Hayes

It’s not really a wine word, though “indefectible” can be used to suggest something that is “flawless,” an admirable goal for any winemaker.

But, rather, I use the word to salute this upcoming weekend’s annual gathering of the Pinot Posse. That’s because the dictionary definition is “lasting” and “enduring.” And despite the current lockdown, the Pinot Posse will ride, albeit virtually, for the 16th time. That’s pretty much what lasting endurance is all about.

Many in Aspen have merry memories of dining with this august group of West Coast winemakers in Januaries past at places like the Ajax Tavern, Basalt’s Free Range Kitchen and Rob Ittner’s late, lamented Rustique. Unfortunately, the tribe of like-minded pinot producers will not make it to the Roaring Fork Valley this year. But Table 6 in Denver, YaYa’s Euro Bistro in Greenwood Village and the Jax Fish Houses have teamed up with John Salamanski’s CS wines, which represents these producers, in offering takeout wines and meals, along with virtual private webcasts with four of the makers this Friday and Saturday, Jan. 29-30. In effect, keeping the 16-year streak intact.

The Jax Fish Houses (all five of their locations), for example, offered a seafood centric to-go meal featuring two bottles of pinot from the producers to pair with Dungeness Crab Salad, Salmon Tataki and a Seared Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna. The $220 price tag provides enough fish, in what they are billing as a “Take Home Kit,” to satiate two palates and provide access to the webcast Saturday evening.

At Table 6, one of Denver’s most charming and acclaimed restaurants, they are taking advantage of limited space in the main dining room and also seating diners in the exterior greenhouses. Additionally, this year, they are offering at-home options allowing food and wine pickup and access to the event via Zoom from your own home. YaYa’s Bistro is conducting in-house meals within the limits of the COVID dining restrictions in Denver.

Salamanski said that it was the demand from the community that kept this year’s events going: “The restaurants really wanted to help maintain the tradition of the 16 years of the Posse, bringing both the wines and the winemakers — even if it is only virtually.”

For their part, the participating winemakers also stepped up to participate.

“The winemakers were thrilled, given all the COVID issues, that things could come together in some way especially given the travel restrictions,” Salamanski said.

This year, the saddle bags will be filled with five wines, all made from pinot noir plantings in some of the most revered vineyards in the American West. Jim Prosser of J.K. Carriere will be presenting a “glass” rosé and a 2016 Vespidae Pinot Noir from his winery in the Willamette Valley. Also from the region “up north” will be a Kilmore Pinot Noir from Owen Roe made by David O’Reilly, the prolifically prodigious producer who makes wines from a plethora of places at his Yakima Valley winery.

And the cool climate Green Valley of the Russian River Valley AVA in California will be represented by a “Magna Porcum” Pinot Noir (I love both the name and the pig on the label) from Craig Strehlow’s Camlow Cellars. There is also an August West 2018 Graham Vineyard Pinot Noir made by Ed Kurtzman, who makes wines in his urban winery south of Market Street in San Francisco. Ed is eschewing the virtual tag and actually will be winging his way to Denver for the Posse stops.

“I love this trip so much (it will be his 15th Posse) that when we heard it was happening I thought if there is any way to make it, I will,” he said from his home in San Francisco. “The crowd and Aaron (Forman) at Table 6 make it feel like a vacation, not work,” he enthused.

Ed will be coming in a day early to go up to Keystone for dinner at The Ski Tip Lodge, another past venue visited by the Posse.

All four of these winemakers have faced the same challenges that afflicted the rest of us during the pandemic, but each also was affected by the raging summer fires that burned in wine country this past summer.

“We were really lucky with the fruit in Graham Vineyard in Sonoma,” Ed related, “but I don’t expect we will produce any wines from our Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards that were right near the fires.”

While Aspenites will have to wait until next year, God willing, for another opportunity to dine with the Posse, many of their wines can still be found locally in wine shops and on restaurant lists. There will also be a video posted at the end of the weekend on featuring the winemakers and the webcasts.

But for those on the Front Range, the mere effort to host this event is an act of, well, indefectibility.

Aspen Times Weekly

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