After last year's triumphant return of the Keystone Wine and Jazz Festival, the weekend of wine tasting and jazz is back again by popular demand, with several new features to enhance guests' experience.
The festivities kick off with a reserve wine tasting, new this year, on Friday night at the overlook on Dercum Mountain, which is accessed by a scenic gondola ride. Featuring an array of fine wines and gourmet appetizers, the Mountaintop Reserve Wine Tasting will take place on the Keytop Deck next to the Summit House during Keystone's regular Friday Afternoon Club, so participants can enjoy live music while sipping fine wine over games of bocce ball and horseshoes if they want to. The event runs from 6-8 p.m. Tickets are $85 and all the wines to be featured are exclusive pours priced at over $100 a bottle.
"We have an awesome partner with Republic National Distributing Company, the largest wine distributor in the state, and we partner with them on this entire event," said Maja Russer, events and marketing director for the Keystone Neighbourhood Company. "They wanted to do a high-end event to kick it off." The idea for a fancy Friday evening wine tasting came from Republic National's division manager Michael Ditch.
The popular Warren Station wine seminars are back again this year, including topics such as "Below in July," a foray into the world of Meritage wines, "Bubbles on an Everyday Budget" featuring champagne and sparkling wines, "Come out of the Dark," a blind wine tasting, and the "Jelly Belly Wine Bar Experience," an adventurous pairing of wines and - you guessed it - Jelly Belly jelly beans.
"Looking for what flavors you find in a Zinfandel? How about a couple of raspberry jelly beans, a black cherry and mocha? Perhaps you're looking for the flavors that best compliment a Chardonnay? Maybe add a pear, a pineapple, some green apple and a popcorn jelly bean. Come and join us and explore flavor sensations unlike any before at the jelly bean wine bar!" the flyer entices.
The four seminars are scheduled throughout the weekend and cost $20 each to attend. Advance ticket purchase is recommended, as they sell out fast. "We're really excited because we came up with the themes early and they're really fun this year," Russer said.
"Our festival is definitely high end but we wanted to keep it fun and open. If you wanted you could just come for a seminar. They're affordable and you can do them a la carte if you don't want to do the whole village tasting."
Of course, the village wine tasting is the cornerstone of the Keystone event. Tickets include unlimited sampling of more than 300 wines from over 200 vendors in a commemorative Keystone Wine and Jazz tasting glass, to be sipped while strolling the resort's cozy River Run Village and listening to a diverse jazz-centric lineup.
To sample the wines, it's $60 for a one-day pass or $100 for both days and the price includes tickets towards meal purchase from one of 14 gourmet vendors, offering such diverse fares as fontina and raclette fondue with fresh thyme and roasted tomatoes (Der Fondue Chessel), fresh spinach and fig salad with a balsamic reduction (Inxpot) and mixed game sliders with boar bacon and caramelized onions (Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute). For those seeking only a glass or two, organizers also added a wine garden this year. The music is free and open to all.
It wouldn't be Wine and Jazz without the jazz, and festival favorite Dotsero returns with their smooth, "contemporary jazz on the edge." The band takes its name from the small Eagle County town, believed to be a Ute term meaning "something unique." That "something unique" is sought after in the jazz world, as Dotsero continues to perform major jazz festivals in the U.S. and Mexico, in addition to Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Also headlining are the nationally renowned musicians Hazel Miller, Elan Trotman and Lin Rountree. Singled out in 2008 as one of Denver's 150 people who make Denver a better place to live, Miller is known for her powerful vocals and has performed regularly with Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Contemporary jazz saxophonist Trotman and trumpeter Rountree take the River Run Events Plaza stage at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, with other musicians including Bryan Savage Band and Louis Colaiannia rounding out the sound lineup for Keystone Wine and Jazz.
"Louis is our up-and-comer," Russer said. "He'll be playing at Quaking Aspen Amphitheatre. That's a super nice, quiet way to start out the day down there next to the Snake River." Music is scheduled for both the Quaking Aspen and River Run Village venues throughout the weekend. See www.keystonefestivals.com for the schedule and other details.
If you think a wine event isn't for kids, think again, because Keystone's Kidtopia Play Park at the base of the gondola will offer scenic rides, bungee jumping, a rock climbing wall, boat rentals, mini golf, a bounce house and gem panning so the parents aren't the only ones having a good time. All-day passes are $49 with a la carte pricing available as well.
Russer reported great feedback after last year's event, and from the looks of it, Keystone Wine and Jazz is set to outdo itself again this year. "This festival used to be a staple of the summer," Russer said. "People would plan their vacations around it."
"There aren't many places in the world where you can sample over 300 wines in one spot, let alone listen to world-class jazz music, attend educational wine seminars and simply reconnect with the Rocky Mountains," she said. "People come for the wine but it's so much more than that - the mountains, hiking, biking, relaxing with friends and family. The wine is a great excuse to come up but you'll leave having had the weekend getaway you needed. ...You'll want to make this festival an annual tradition."
Keystone Wine and Jazz is a no-pet event. Proceeds benefit the Lake Dillon Theatre Company.