Summer and wine: a good pairing

Bret Neal, owner of Stoney Mesa Winery, pours white wine for Brandon Schuette, left, and his wife Nattigan during the Viva El Vino event at Two Rivers Convention Center last year. Viva El Vino is a fundraiser for the Junior Service League.



Priscilla Smith of Houston dances with her seven-year-old neice Grace Smith of Grand Junction as the two share a barrel while stomping grapes to the German melodies of Alpine Echo at the Colorado Mountain Winefest last year.



QUICKREAD

WINE EVENTS THROUGH THE SEASON

MAY

• 1 — Viva el Vino: 6:30–9 p.m., Two Rivers Convention Center, tickets $60. Sponsored by Junior Service League, proceeds benefit Grand Valley nonprofits. Information: 243-7790.

• 14 — Fourth annual L’Esprit de France Gala: An evening of French food and wine benefitting the French American Chamber of Commerce, 6–10 p.m., Westin Tabor Hotel, 1672 Lawrence St., Denver. Tickets $165 per person by May 7; $175 after; $300 per couple. Information: 303-695-7818, ext. 102, or http://www.rmfacc.org. Web: http://sites.google.com/site/lespritdefrancegala/

• 15–16 — Barrel into Spring: Tastings and previews at eight Grand Valley wineries. Tickets $65. Information: Two Rivers Winery, 255-1471.

JUNE

• 6 — Manitou Springs Wine Festival: Tastings, sales and live entertainment. Tickets $30. Information: http://www.manitousprings.org or 800-642-2567

• 18–20 — The Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen: Events include celebrity chefs and wine panelists, tastings, seminars, cooking demos. Tickets $1,185. Information: http://www.foodandwine.com/classic-in-aspen.

• 24–27 — Telluride Wine Festival: Seminars, tastings, winemakers dinners. Tickets available by individual event or a VIP pass for $800. Information and schedule: http://telluridewinefestival.com.

• 26 — Sixth annual Mountain Vineyard Wine Festival: 2–6 p.m. at the home of Bruce and Nancy Hovde, 637 E. Main St., Cedaredge. Benefits the Delta County Memorial Hospital Foundation. Tickets $50. Information: Kathy Sramek, 874-2291, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

JULY

• 8–11 — Park City, Utah, Food and Wine Classic: Events include kickoff celebration at top of the gondola at Red Pine Lodge, a biking/food seminar titled “Mud, Sweat and Cheers,” and a tasting plus food experience through downtown Park City. Tickets and information: http://www.parkcityfoodandwineclassic.com.

AUGUST

• 5–8 — Seventh annual Steamboat Wine Festival: Attracts upward of 3,000 attendees and features nearly 800 wines, spirits, beers and the region’s finest restaurants. Tickets $90–$125. Information: http://www.steamboatwinefestival.com.

• 7 — Woodland Park: Vino and Notes: Woodland Park Wine, Food & Jazz Festival, noon–6 p.m. Tickets $20. Information: http://www.vinoandnotes.com.

• 27–28 — Mesa Verde Food, Wine and Art Festival: Celebrate the culture of the Southwest with local wines, talented chefs and plenty of activities ranging from hot-air balloon rides to the Indian Arts and Cultural Festival. Information: http://www.mesaverdecountry.com/tourism/festivals.html.

• 29 — Western Bootstraps Wine Festival: Evergreen. Information: Bob Potrykus, 720-261-0860, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

SEPTEMBER

• 16–19 — Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade: Dinners with winemakers, seminars, bike tours of the vineyard country and the ever-popular Saturday in the Park with music, food and lots of great Colorado wines. Saturday tickets are $43 ($56 with box lunch), $180 First Class VIP with close-in parking, all-day buffet, other amenities. Information: http://www.coloradowinefest.com.



It’s spring, do you know where your wine glass is?

As temperatures start to climb in the Grand Valley, the wine-events calendar starts to heat up as well.

Here’s brief rundown on what to expect, where to go and how to enjoy yourself (well, come on, you don’t really need to be told that, do you?)

The fun-filled season kicks off this weekend with the annual Viva el Vino gala dinner and wine tasting 6:30–9 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at Two Rivers Convention Center.

This popular evening sponsored by the Junior Service League always attracts throngs of decked-out Grand Valley glitterati enjoying special cuisine prepared by the valley’s top chefs and flights of local and regional wines served by sommeliers.

“We had an idea for a fundraiser and thought it would be great to feature the local wines,” said Barbara Bowman, division manager at the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau and one of Viva el Vino’s founders.

“We wanted to get a lot of the community out and taste the wines figuring it would help the wineries and the local community to know about the wine industry,” Bowman said.

Now, Viva el Vino is one of those must-attend events on Grand Junction’s glittering social calendar.

“Anytime an event serves local wines, it’s truly a gem,” Bowman said.

Tickets are $60 and all proceed go to various Grand Valley nonprofits. Additional information on the event can be found by calling 243-7790.

Shortly to come is the second weekend of the Grand Valley Winery Association’s third annual Barrel into Spring tasting, May 15–16.

The first weekend was held April 24–25.

These weekend tastings are casual events, with 385 tickets allotted per weekend. The event allows participants to enjoy the day chatting with winemakers and winery staff and perusing any or all of the eight winery association member wineries.

One special feature includes winemakers offering wine-and-food matches. In many cases, it’s the winemakers themselves doing the cooking and offering recipe tips.

The Grand Valley Winery Association includes Canyon Wind Cellars, Carlson Vineyards, DeBeque Canyon Winery, Garfield Estates Vineyard & Winery, Grande River Vineyards, Graystone Winery, Plum Creek Cellars and Two Rivers Winery & Chateau.

Bob Witham, owner of Two Rivers Winery & Chateau and one of the founders of the Grand Valley Winery Association, said Barrel into Spring serves both an educational purpose as well as a charitable cause, part of the Grand Valley Winery Association’s original credo.

“Each year we have a winemaker’s dinner (this year’s was April 23) and this year the proceeds will benefit Hospice,” Witham said. “We didn’t quite sell out this year, but each year it gets bigger.”

As of last week there still were a few tickets remaining for the May 15–16 weekend. Call Two Rivers

Winery at 255-1471 for information.

A spring event is perfect for the local wine industry and a boost for early season tourism, Witham said.

“It gets real busy for most of us in the summer and having something now allows us to spend more time with our visitors,” he said. “We also hope it piques their interest and they come back to see us.”

Bowman said telling residents and visitors about Colorado wine provides an economic lift to the area and wine industry.

“If your community knows about the local wine industry, when guests and friends and relatives come in to visit, they’ll be served Colorado wine and be taken into wine country on a tour,” she said. “It all adds up and reinforces the branding and the promotion of the whole wine country.”

Bowman said the “wine events” page at the Visitor and Convention Bureau’s website is the most-visited page on the site.

The other “biggie” in the local, or at least regional wine-event scene, is the annual Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, June 18–20.

This pricey three-day get-together (tickets are $1,185 this year) features thousands of wines and hundreds of winemakers from around the world along with celebrity chefs performing their art at cooking demonstrations, seminars and around the town at private parties.

It’s an amazing event to have so many wineries together under the immense white tents in Aspen’s Wagner Park. You can travel the world in a few steps, sipping wines from Italy, Australia, Germany, United States, Hungary, Greece, well, nearly anyplace a grape is fermented into juice.

And maybe you’ll meet Bob Koch, the irreverent but hard-driving brains behind Boston Beer Co., maker of highly popular Samuel Adams Boston Lager and other tasty brews. If you think it’s funny a beer guy has taken over the Food & Wine Classic, so does Koch.

“When I first started doing this (at the Food & Wine Classic), people couldn’t believe it,” Koch said last year during an event at Aspen’s ritzy Jerome Hotel. “I told them, ‘Beer is like wine, it matches well with food,’ and now they believe it.”

Also an almost-local event is the Telluride Wine Festival, June 24–27. Events include special concerts, the popular Taste of Telluride walkabout tasting, wine seminars and cooking demos by celebrity chefs.

Tickets can be purchased per event or VIP passes are available ($800 each). Information can be found at telluridewinefestival.com.

Of course, we can’t forget the biggest and best of all local events, the 19th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade, Sept. 16–19. Celebrate how the Colorado wine industry has grown from a handful of wineries to well over 100. They might not all be at Winefest, but there will be plenty to fill your day. Wine tasting, food, music, great vibes and lots of friends. What more could you ask for?

Ticket information is available at http://www.coloradowinefest.com.

And wait, wait, here’s the best news of all, but it’s a secret. You can see most of these events for free. That’s right, free. The key to any big event is having enough volunteers schlepping dirty wine glasses and empty bottles, dumping the trash bins, whatever needs to be done whenever you get a big crowd of people and a lot of wine together.

“Our volunteers are the backbone of what we do,” said Sandie Cooper, volunteer coordinator for Colorado Mountain Winefest. “We couldn’t do this without them and we certainly appreciate them.”

The going rate seems to be in exchange for a day of work you can get a freebie day at the event. Cooper said Winefest volunteers work a two- to three-hour shift during the Saturday in the Park and then have the rest of the day to enjoy the festivities.

“Some of our volunteers have been helping us for years,” Cooper said. “I have to say our volunteers are treated quite well.”

You can get more information by calling Cooper at 464-0111 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The smaller events usually don’t need outside help, but the bigger festivals — Food & Wine Magazine Classic, Telluride Wine Festival and Colorado Mountain Winefest — all need volunteers. Check their respective websites for more information.

Don’t tell them I said so.

With this story you’ll find a list of this summer’s wine events. Not all events are listed because some of them may be smaller Front Range events or they haven’t set their dates or simply haven’t sent out any press information.

You also may find events and wineries at the Colorado Wine Industry Development Boards website, http://www.coloradowine.com.

If you know of an event we missed, we’ll be happy to add it to our list.

Enjoy the summer and drink responsibly.


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