Sneak peek at summer wine events

It’s mid-April but not too early for planning summer’s wine-related travels.

There’s quite a lineup planned, from this month’s Spring Barrel Tasting to the Wine & Food Magazine Classic in Aspen set for June 18–20.

The Daily Sentinel will have full coverage in the coming weeks, but here is preliminary information.

The annual “Barrel into Spring” wine tasting will be April 24–25 and May 15–16.

Sponsored by the Grand Valley Winery Association, the event is held over two weekends to give as many people as possible the opportunity to attend.

Plus, given the vagaries of spring weather in the Grand Valley, you are bound to hit at least one nice weekend in the span of a month.

Tickets to tastings, which are held throughout the valley at various wineries, cost $65 per person. If you opt for the May event, purchase your tickets by Monday and they’ll cost $60.

In addition to barrel tastings and vineyard and winery tours, this year’s event features a winemakers’ dinner at Two Rivers Winery on April 23.

Tickets are $87.50 with proceeds going to Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado.

Bob and Billie Witham at Two Rivers Winery have long been generous supporters of the spring tasting and other events sponsored by the Grand Valley Winery Association.

Information about the “Barrel into Spring” tasting is available from Two Rivers Winery, 255-1471.

The big event, of course, for food and wine lovers is the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen.

This three-day event features an all-star lineup of celebrity chefs, winemakers, wine experts (and wannabe experts), seminars, demonstrations and thousands of wines to try in the Grand Tasting Pavilion.

Who could ask for more?

Among the names are Mario Batali, Jacques Pepin, David Chang, Giada De Laurentiis and Thomas Keller, along with wine experts Joshua Wesson, Ray Isle, David Lynch and Mark Oldman.

Also speaking will be well-known wine blogger Aldo Yarrow. I’m hoping he speaks about the growing importance of wine bloggers, which many people consider the most-important aspect of today’s wine writing.

Additionally, it will be curious, given the fast rise of China’s wine industry, to see how soon the Chinese make an appearance under the massive white tents of the Tasting Pavilion.

As fitting a designer event held in the well-greased clutches of Glamour Gulch, this one isn’t cheap.

Tickets cost $1,185 for the three days, a pretty good payout in this economy.

But it can be a once-in-a-lifetime event, if you’ve never been and have a extra $1,200 handy.

The Daily Sentinel will be there, parsing the news and features and keeping an eye on the many goings-on.

Wine of the week: VinItaly was last week in Verona and since I missed it, I decided to stay home and drink Italian wines.

VinItaly is the largest Italian wine event in the world and this year’s event attracted more than 90,000 visitors, upward of 4,200 winemakers and producers and plenty of attention for the Italian wine market.

Staying in the spirit of the event (or nello spirito della manifestazione), I went to Fisher’s Liquor Barn and bought a Michele Chiarlo 2007 Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme ($13).

The Piemontese call it “La Barbera,” and if you visit someone’s home in Italy’s Piedmont, it’s likely you’ll be offered a glass of Barbera.

It’s the second most-planted red grape in Italy (behind sangiovese) and as Italian wine expert Charles Scicolone recently wrote, “In Piedmont, people taste Barolo and Barbaresco, but they drink Barbera.”

Barbera’s popularity is based on its high acidity and bright fruit, which makes it a great food wine. I’ve enjoyed it with Easter, Christmas and birthday dinners and I’m rarely disappointed.

Barbera’s changing, though, with producers leaning toward the international market. Younger Italians aren’t drinking as much wine, so the winemakers are looking at the United States and elsewhere, but mostly the United States.

Everyone wants the U.S. market, but this market is so confusing, it’s difficult to say what Americans want in their wines.

That said, the Chiarlo was delicious and well-balanced and brought a little taste of Italy to a weekend afternoon.

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