Keystone is fast becoming the go-to place for wine aficionados with its longstanding summer Wine & Jazz Festival and now a winter festival too, new as of last year. The Winter Wine Weekend returns for a second year Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday night features a wine tasting paired with hors d'oeuvres by Black Diamond Gourmet and entertainment by jazz musicians Will Donato Trio. Donato, a saxophone player and national recording artist who has played with Al McKay (Earth, Wind and Fire), Bruce Conte (Tower of Power), Steve Reid (The Rippingtons) and others, is a popular performer with Keystone's summer festival.The wines were handpicked by Tracy Whitlock of the Bacchus division of Republic National Distributing Company, which partners with Keystone Neighborhood Company to sponsor the event. All are available locally and range from $8-$25 retail."When you have to narrow it down to a few wines, you want those wines to all stand out and to really embody what region and varietal they're representing - and also to be a good value to the consumer," said Whitlock, who selected 10 reds and 10 whites for the occasion. "The idea is to introduce people to some great quality wines that are a great value and are easily accessible for people to enjoy and learn about."Among the featured wines are two unoaked Chardonnays - Chardonnays that have not been aged in an oak vessel, which is a traditional American preparation method. Whitlock said unoaked Chardonnays are becoming more and more popular as people learn more about wines and become more experimental with their choices. "People are realizing that this varietal has a beautiful expression on its own without the added component of oak," she said.Far from a snobby affair, Whitlock said Keystone's Winter Wine Weekend "is fun" and "meant to be enjoyed," in contrast to the preconceived notions some folks have about what a wine experience need be.At $30 in advance online or $40 at the door, "the Saturday night portion in particular is a great value and very kind on your purse strings for everything that is included," said Maja Russer, Warren Station director of events and marketing. Last year, the first night sold out.
On Sunday, for $55 in advance or $65 at the door, Warren Station presents a "triple-whammy," as Russer called it - a wine pairing, cooking demo and catered New Zealand meal where guests get to eat what they've just seen made. The chef conducting the demo is the same as the caterer - the renowned Chef Christopher Rybak of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area's Black Mountain Lodge fame. Rybak will present a New Zealand dinner with appetizers including a crab-and-shrimp salad on citrus-scented quinoa and assorted cheeses; a spinach, strawberry, feta and toasted almond salad with balsamic vinaigrette; braised New Zealand lamb shank with fresh greens and waxed beans with carrots and creamy polenta. He will demonstrate how to make each of the courses onstage, and after each, servers bring the dish out to attendees."It's not just a demo - people are getting to eat what is being demoed," said Russer. Later, they can recreate the dishes at home. The event is pretty labor intensive to put on, she said, because while the chef is demonstrating how the food is prepared, there's a coordinated effort taking place behind the scenes to plate each course. Last year, Russer found herself making use of serving skills mastered back in her days at Dillon Dam Brewery. Between food demos, wine specialist Jeremy Krug - who also gives wine seminars at the summer festival - will talk about the wines selected to pair with each course. "Last year we did Italian wines and an Italian theme," Whitlock said. "This year we thought New Zealand would be fun because those wines are really up and coming and just beautiful."Since Whitlock also works with Rybak at A-Basin, they collaborated on the New Zealand theme. Well known for his role as A-Basin's executive chef, Rybak worked at Keystone years ago, and he operates a catering business too. The folks at Warren Station got to know him last summer through his daughter, Chelsea, who worked as a special events intern for the arts center."We have had Chris cater KNC events in the past and our experiences are that his product and presentation are top notch," Russer said. "I personally am a fan."To purchase tickets for the advance, discounted rate, visit winterwinekeystone.eventbrite.com.