Chasing Grapes: Denver Food & Wine Festival, Sip, Savor, Sample

A great way to explore wine on a grand scale is to attend one of the many food & wine festivals that are held annually, all over the world.  You can connect with other wine lovers and foodies, neophytes to connoisseurs, and share your experiences, impressions, all while learning about new things, new people, new cultures, and of course new wines.  Twenty years ago, Colorado was host to a few events, such as Aspen Food & Wine, Colorado Mountain Wine Fest, Taste of Vail, and Telluride Wine Festival.  These days, the festival scene is abundant and you can find a festival nearly every weekend.  Most are small-scale and may have morphed from the county or town fair into a more modern version of communal gathering.  Even some Farmer’s Markets display wines for tasting.

For the passionate wine lover, few things are more exciting than walking into the Grand Tasting tent at a serious wine & food festival.  Once your eyes adjust to the shadowy lighting, you will be overcome by the rows and rows of long banquet tables lined with hundreds of bottles of wine opened for tasting with eager wine company representatives vying for your time and taste buds. The lure is only compounded when the area’s best restaurants participate and offer tantalizing morsels for your added pleasure. I have had the luxury of attending several such festivals, including Aspen Food & Wine and the Denver Food & Wine Classic.  My petit ami Jerome has never been to a food & wine festival and next week he has his first tickets. I am looking forward to witnessing his excitement at the first glimpse of the Grand Tasting: 600 wines just waiting to touch his lips.  It will be a pleasure to experience the wonders of perfectly paired wines, in perfectly selected glasses with him.  His growing love for wine, and thirst for wine knowledge is exciting for both of us.

September 5th, one of the largest food & wine events in the state opens for 4 event packed days of tasting, talking, seminars, parties, and fundraisers.  Denver Food & Wine Classic is in its eighth year.  Held annually on Auraria Campus nestled in the heart of downtown Denver, this food & wine event is one of the great events of the season.

This year, in welcoming the new Springhill Suites Marriot and Metropolitan State University Hospitality Training Center, most seminars, parties, and fundraisers will be held in the brand spanking new facilities.  The Grand Tasting will remain on the central lawns of the Auraria Campus. Wednesday at 6 pm, the Marriot and MSU will host legendary winemaker, Joseph Phelps, of Insignia fame and Frank Bonanno for a fundraiser dinner.  The 2009 Insignia, released the day before, will be the featured wine of the evening.  Quite a treat for those of you who have never had the pleasure of sipping on this powerhouse red from California. Friday brings a lineup of seminars, including celebrity chefs, rock -n-roll, beer & wine, and mixologist specialties.  Starting off the day with a culinary presentation hosted by Bravo TV, featuring Colorado’s own, “Top Chef” Kelly Liken and “Around the World in 80 Plates” star, Jenna Johansen sharing their personal tricks of the trade and tales of the industry.  You have the opportunity to learn about the heightened sensory experience provided by using the best of the best glassware at the Spieglau Beer Glass Seminar and the Riedel Wine Glass Experience on Friday afternoon.  For any of you that doubt a glass can make a difference, I recommend taking the challenge.  You will be more than pleasantly surprised. Wrapping up the Friday festivities is the first annual, “Restaurant Rocks” party hosted by Kelly Liken, Jenna Johansen, Southern Wine & Spirits, and COBG Mixologists, featuring local rocker Opie Gone Bad and delectables from celebrated local restaurants.

After partying all night Friday, you will want to drag yourself out of bed for the culmination vent.  The Grand Tasting, featuring over 600 wines and delectables to match gears up at noon and wraps up at 4 pm.  Plan on spending every minute sampling, sipping, and savoring the best Denver and the wine world has to offer.  This is the ‘not to be missed’ event of the festival.  Thousands of people, dipping into various tents to explore the wonderful world of food and wine. Jerome and I will be there, wandering from tent to tent, table to table, sipping and savoring wines, sampling cuisine and attending seminars. I am sure we will finish our culinary excursion in the Pernod Ricard tent with glasses of my beloved Perrier Jouët Champagne in hand! You can attend a Viking Culinary Chef Showcase, Beam Global Cocktail Party, Pernod Ricard’s “Perfect Mix” lounge, and participate in a silent auction. Guest chefs include Dario Cecchini, Restauranteur and World Famous Butcher from Panzano, Italy, Elise Wiggins, Executive Chef at Panzano Denver, and Daniel Asher, the Organic Chef and Wizard of Linger and Root Down fame. The goal of this event is to raise funds for the Denver Post Community Foundation, Colorado Restaurant Association Education Fund, and Metropolitan State University Hospitality Department.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit the Denver Food & Wine webpage or Facebook page. Tickets range from $60 to $95 per event. The fundraiser dinner is a suggested donation of $500 per plate.!/pages/Denver-Food-and-Wine

photos courtesy of Southern Food & Wine

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