Wine Ink column: Summer is filled with food and wine fests | SummitDaily.com

Wine Ink column: Summer is filled with food and wine fests

Kelly J. Hayes
Wine Ink

One of the joys of summer is attending the great wine festivals that have become part of the seasonal scene across America. It seems that just about every town, particularly mountain towns, have some sort of event where you can taste and learn about wine. In fact, if you live in the world of wine, there is a party to be found just about every day of the year.

This week, the focus is on Aspen, which is hosting the 34th annual Food & Wine Classic. One of the longest-running and most famous culinary and wine events in the country, this glam event pretty much set the standard for how to operate and run a food and wine festival. The Classic was founded more than a quarter century ago by a wine shop owner named Gary Plumley in nearby Snowmass Village as a way of drumming up some business in what was then the offseason. Now everyone has gotten into the act.

Once Food & Wine magazine purchased the rights to the growing festival in the mid-1980s, everything changed. Bringing in celebrity chefs such as Julia Child and upgrading the roster of participating wineries — who quickly learned that a summer wine festival in the mountains was a perfect way to reach deep-pocketed consumers — a format was established that is utilized by nearly every festival to this day. Bring in big name or celebrity chefs and wine personalities, hold a series of seminars that not only educate consumers but help sell product and, most importantly, have a community Grand Tasting, which is fun and just a bit over the top.

Today, from Nantucket to Pebble Beach, Atlanta to New York, Austin to Madison, towns and cities big and small compete to get the best chefs and the finest wines and create the most authentic and interesting summer festival experiences. In addition to Food & Wine magazine, all of the major national culinary and wine publications are in the business of expanding the reach of their brands by either sponsoring or operating wine and food events.

While the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is an event that sells out annually with a $1,200 price tag and is capped at 5,000 participants, there are other high-altitude events scheduled this summer for Keystone, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Lake Tahoe and Palisade that will give you a taste of great wines, outstanding food and the high-altitude lifestyle. Here are few to help you round out your summer.

Mountain wine events

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Many of the winemakers who come to Aspen make a month of it in the High Country, and their next stop is often the Telluride Wine Festival, which takes place June 23-26. This year, Ehren Jordan, who went from making amazing, bold Syrah early in his career for Turley Wine Cellars and who now makes equally amazing cool-climate pinot noirs under his own Failla label, will be a feted guest.

In Summit County, the 2016 Keystone Wine and Jazz Festival kicks off the weekend of July 16 with a lineup that includes free music, fine wines and a series of seminars on the wines of the world. Highlights include a Prosecco and Pancakes event and a seminar hosted by Ravenswood's Joel Peterson. An iconic figure and the proclaimed "Godfather of Zinfandel," Peterson will pour six different zinfandels and tell tales about the astounding growth of zin in America.

Wine Spectator will present the 10th annual Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits Festival from Aug. 12 to 14 in the tiny resort that is tailor made for festivals. This event opens with Whiskey Wranglers at the Beaver Creek Rodeo and includes an eclectic collection of tastings that get people out into the fresh air. Events include yoga with veggie cocktails (or mocktails, if you prefer to go alcohol free), four-by-four Jeep excursions with cheese and port and a designated driver and a mountain hike that ends with food and wine at Splendido restaurant.

This promises to be another great year for the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival, which caps off the summer and welcomes the fall at Northstar Resort in California. This year celebrates the 31st edition of the iconic Sierra Mountain festival that is held not far from the most beautiful lake in America. The best of the region's wineries have been well represented in the past, and a trip to Tahoe is a good idea any time of the year.

If you have the time, try to stop by and taste some wine.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab, Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Whispering Angel Cotes De Provence 2015 Rose — This is the summer of rose, and there is not a prettier bottle of wine than those produced by Sasha Lichine in the La Motte region of Provence. A blend of Grenache and rolle (as the French call vermentino and cinsault) this clean, fresh, un-oaked wine is a perfect sipper for summer, with or without food.

If you go …

Wine lovers can attend a high-mountain wine fest each month of the summer:

• June — Telluride Wine Festival (June 23-26), Telluride, (970) 728-9790, info@telluridewinefestival.com.

• July — Keystone Wine and Jazz Festival (July 16-17), River Run Village, Keystone Resort, http://www.keystonefestivals.com/festivals/wine-and-jazz.

• August — Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits presented by Wine Spectator (Aug. 12-14), Beaver Creek Resort, http://www.beavercreek.com/wine.

• September — Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine (Sept. 9-11), Northstar Resort, Lake Tahoe, California, http://www.gotahoenorth.com/events/annual-events/lake-tahoe-autumn-food-and-wine