Wine, fun and sun - repeat as desired: 25th Winefest draws a crowd

25th Winefest draws a crowd

David Sendros pours and educates tasters with The Decadent Saint Sangria on Saturday afternoon during the 25th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest.

Thousands turned out Saturday afternoon in Riverbend Park in Palisade during Winefest.

Barely inside the gate, and the ladies were having a wonderful time.

Medical professionals all — most of them are nurses at Delta County Memorial Hospital — they were not above a few hilariously racy jokes about motorboating the mini-pretzel twists several of them wore on ribbons around their necks. There might even have been demonstrations.

They’ve known each other forever, though, which only made it funnier. Plus, there was just something about the place and the day — the cloudless azure sky, a mellow cover of “Broken Hearted Savior” drifting softly from somewhere nearby, the white-gold sunshine, and the wine. The wine!

“We’re here for the wine, of course,” said Rhonda Galvin, but added that everything else — the music and the vendors and just the overall atmosphere — contributed to the fun of heading up to the Colorado Mountain Winefest together.

The ladies — Galvin and Jessica Walters, Trudy Passehl and Tina Geering, Michelle Valdez and Ashley Tregarthen — were in good company. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Colorado Mountain Wine-fest sold out for the second year in a row, said Cassidee Shull, executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology.

“This year we added three new bus tours, on Friday and Sunday, we added a cider pairing and luncheon on Friday, a rooftop celebration at the Avalon Theatre Friday night,” Shull said, listing just a few of the new additions to the festival.

When it began in 1992, she said, it was just half a dozen wineries and several hundred attendees in what is now Veterans Memorial Park. This year’s main Saturday event saw about 5,500 tickets sold and more than 6,600 people in Palisade’s Riverbend Park, including more than 1,000 volunteers, staff, vendors and musicians.

Shull said this year’s festival continued the trend of not only attendees but volunteers coming from dozens of states and a handful of countries.

That included Mindy and Myke Higgins, who came from Denver to volunteer in the VIP storage area. It was their fourth year as volunteers, something they’ve been doing since their daughter was in college.

Now, Myke said, their daughter has graduated, but she and her friends gather every year for a reunion that coincides with Winefest. Mindy and Myke just come because it’s fun, and Myke was even sporting a snappy black kilt and vibrantly flowered Hawaiian shirt Saturday, in honor of the vibe of the day.

Diane Hollenbach and her friend Donna Aiken drove down from Snowmass for the day, even though Snowmass was having its own wine festival Saturday.

“It’s just a lovely setting,” said Hollenbach. “It feels like Sherwood Forest, just a homey feeling and wonderful wine.”

More than 50 Colorado wineries participated in Winefest, Shull said, bringing not just wine, but port and mead and a host of other beverages to try. That explained, in part, the pretzel necklaces many attendees wore Saturday.

Hollenbach explained that hers was so she’d have a little snack, whereas Mindy Higgins said she’d heard the pretzels helped mitigate the effects of the alcohol, “but I don’t know if that’s true.”

Really, it was just kind of fun to pair a pretzel necklace with a “Save the Winos” or a “Love the wine you’re with” T-shirt, wandering the festival with one friend or many, discovering new wines, pairing them with local chocolates, perusing vendors’ wares, enjoying the day and the sunshine.


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