WineInk: Wine at Food & Wine |

WineInk: Wine at Food & Wine

A sneak peek

Kelly J. Hayes
The Food and Wine Classic display is seen inside the Grand Tasting tent on Friday, June 17, 2022, at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

It may seem a bit early to be thinking about the premier summer event in Aspen. After all, we are still skiing on fresh snow on all four mountains. But the 40th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is not that far away. This year’s classic takes place June 16-18, which is just two turns of the pages of the calendar. The event sold out quickly, and an exciting lineup featuring the best of the food and wine world has already been announced.  

On the food side of the equation, there will be appearances by star chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson, Andrew Zimmern, Kristin Kish and Guy Fieri – all of whom have conducted standing-room-only events at classics past.

But there is also a remarkable collection of sommeliers and wine educators who will be hosting well over 30 seminars during the three-day classic. These seminars will showcase the entire world of wine and provide attendees with an opportunity to taste wines and vintages that they may never have tried before.

Guy Fieri jokes with the cameraman while teaching the audience of his morning seminar the secret to properly zesting a lemon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

The seminars at Food & Wine are renowned for the quality of the presentations and the presenters themselves. It is almost impossible for attendees to come away from the 60-minute sessions without having gained some new knowledge about the wines they love.

Beyond that, there is a casual, comfortable vibe to these seminars. Sitting in one of seminar rooms or in the tents at the tables with the traditional six glasses in front of you before the speakers begin creates a sense of anticipation for what is to come. You might not know the wines you are about to taste, but you know they are going to be good, and that you will have learned something about wine that you did not know before.

A sampling of wines, hams and other salty, fatty snack pairings at the “Vino y Jamón: Great Spanish Wines and Ham” seminar at the Food & Wine Classic on Friday, June 17, 2022.
Kaya Williams/Aspen Times

Fittingly, the opening morning will begin down by the river in the River 2 tent, a personal favorite, with a seminar hosted by the Frasca wine team of Bobby Stuckey and Carlin Karr from Boulder. The two “local” experts will explore some of the great new ways in which an Old World wine region has changed over the decades.

In “France Goes to Italy: Why Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Others are Making Some of Italy’s Greatest Wines,” the duo will no doubt tell the tale of the great super Tuscan wines that owe much to the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines in his vineyards near the Tuscan Coast in the 1940s. The wine that came from those vines – Sassicaia, first released in 1968 – would break all the rules of the Italian wine establishment and become one of the most treasured Italian wines. Today, there many examples of traditional Bordeaux varieties planted in Italy that are producing outstanding and unique wines. And best of all, you’ll get to taste them.

Staying with an Italian theme, as would be expected, is wine educator Anthony Giglio. One of the most entertaining and beloved seminar hosts (he has been doing this for close to a quarter century), Giglio always brings a special take to his offerings.

In a seminar titled “The Sicilian Wines of The White Lotus,” Giglio will be riffing on the hugely popular HBO series “The White Lotus.” In the second season of the program, the focus was on a fictional White Lotus hotel property where guests enjoyed glasses, actually many bottles, of the sun-drenched, volcanic wines of Sicily. In one episode, the guests stop to sip at the Planeta Winery on the hills of Mount Etna. Planeta is one of the premier producers on what is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and taking a guess here, Giglio might pour a wine or two from the Planeta portfolio. No matter what he pours, expect the wines to be indicative of the topography of the island. And delicious.

People walk about the Grand Tasting tent at the Food & Wine Classic on Friday, June 17, 2022, at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Many Aspentites look forward to the return of former Little Nell Wine Director Carlton McCoy, who moved to Napa in 2018 to take the helm at Heitz Cellar. Since that time, he has expanded the Heitz holdings dramatically while helping found the Lawrence Wine Estates, starred in a CNN television series called “Nomad” in which he travelled the world, and co-created The Roots Fund, the mission of which is to nourish and enrich the lives of communities of color in the wine industry. A busy guy indeed.

McCoy will host a pair of seminars. In the first, he’ll try to stump the audience in his “Name That Price! seminar: Is That a $200 or a $20 Bottle? Taste Blind and Guess!” session in which the $20 wines may well punch above their price level. He’ll follow that up with what will surely be a personal and emotional gathering called “Top Sommeliers & the Bottles That Changed Their Lives: A Journey Through The World’s Great Wine Roads.” There should some great wine stories from that one.

Suzanne Cupps, John Ragan, and Sabato Sagria put together a “Wine Fiesta of Top Wines for Tacos in Paepcke Park” for a Food and Wine seminar.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Another former Little Nell sommelier and Aspen fave is Master Sommelier Sabato Sagaria, who in staying with the 40th anniversary theme, will co-host a seminar with Gary Obligacion – currently the director of development for the Alinea Group in Chicago and a guy whose hospitality roots go back to Chez Panisse, where he worked for Alice Waters, celebrating wines from the 1980s. “Forty Years in a Bottle: A Tasting of Wines from the 1980s Versus Their Current Vintages” will see some very old juice poured alongside wines from our times.

Get there early, those old wines might be gone quickly in more ways than one.

And we couldn’t forget another appearance from the classic’s ultimate showman Mark Oldman, who for years upped his annual game in his wines for millionaires-, billionaires-, and gazillionaires-themed seminars. This year, he will inevitably bring surprises and high-profile wines for a session dubbed “World’s Best Special Occasion Wines.” Look for iconic wines from big bottles. It’s a specialty. Oldman has also fallen in love in recent years with all things Australian and will also host an exploratory virtual trip called “The New Australia: Great Winemakers Down Under In Search of Elegance and Grace.”

All of these seminars and presenters have been tapped to appear by the executive editor of Food & Wine Magazine, the affable Ray Isle. For close to a decade and a half, he has overseen the wine coverage in the publication and has helped foster the careers of scores of wine scribes. This year, he himself will pair with Monica Samuels, one of the most respected sake experts in the world, for a tasting of wines and sake in a seminar they call “The Great Wine vs Sake Taste-Off: Which is Better with Food? Taste and Decide for Yourself.” This will help you answer those questions you’ve wondered about while sitting at the bar at Matsuhisa.

These are just a sampling of the wine seminars that will take place at this year’s Food & Wine Classic, and there will be a number of spirits seminars, as well. As befits a 40th anniversary gathering.


2018 Perla Terra Barolo

Inspired by the Italian theme at the Classic, I opted to pop a bottle of Barolo with a house-made pizza this past weekend. The Perla Terra is a new release from a company called Dalla Terre Winery Direct (, a company that curates quality Italian wines and brings them to the United States with a streamlined direct-importer model that provides consumers great wines at reasonable prices. This wine – sourced from a number of Cru vineyards in the communes of La Morra, Novello, Monforte d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, and Verduno – was typical of the region, rich, with ripe red fruits bursting with flavor, tannic with a finish that lingered. The price, around $40 a bottle, makes it a steal for a quality Barolo.

Perla Terra bottle shot

More Like This, Tap A Topic