Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival returns with live music and tastings |

Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival returns with live music and tastings

The Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival begins Friday with a Reserve Wine Tasting.
Courtesy Keystone Neighbourhood Company |


What: Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival

When: Friday, July 15 through Sunday, July 17

Where: Keystone Resort

Cost: Wine tasting tickets range from $60 for a one-day wine tasting pass with food tickets to $100 for a two-day pass with food tickets. At the door, a one-day wine tasting pass will be $65 and a two-day tasting pass will be $120. Purchase advance tickets at

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Friday, July 17

7–9 p.m.: Reserve Wine Tasting; Event is likely to sell out, advance tickets recommended

Saturday, July 16

12:30–1:30 p.m.: Wine Seminar: Pinot Envy

3–4 p.m.: Wine Seminar: The Godfather of Zin with Joel Peterson

4–5 p.m.: Cigar and Craft Distiller Seminar

Sunday, July 17

10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Culinary Event: Prosecco & Pancakes

2–3 p.m.: Wine Seminar: Wine Olympics

When Joel Peterson first got into making wine, the production in California was just in its early stages of the industry that it is today, with a focus on Cabernet and Chardonnay. Forging ahead with the not-as-popular Zinfandel, he went from small-time winemaker to creating one of the best-selling Zinfandels in the world under his company Ravenswood Winery, which he eventually sold for $148 million.

Peterson will be a highlighted speaker this weekend at the annual Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival. Beginning Friday evening, the event will pair live jazz with tastings of more than 300 wines, beginning with a Reserve Wine Tasting on Friday evening and concluding on Sunday with a full day of events including Prosecco and Pancakes.


An innate love for wine was instilled in Peterson at a young age when he sat in on his father’s twice-weekly gatherings of the San Francisco Wine Sampling Club. His first tasting was at the age of 10, when his father instructed him to “shut up and spit” and take notes for the group. He continued his wine studies from there.

“Taste and spit, do not drink.”Joel Petersongodfather of Zin

Working as a microbiologist, he jumped into winemaking and founded Ravenswood in 1976 after an apprenticeship with Joseph Swan. It was with Swan that he learned the art of traditional winemaking and was turned on to Zinfandel.

Swan, who had originally wanted to make Pinot Noir, had Old Vine Zinfandel on his property. He made a wine with those grapes as you would a Pinot Noir, with pleasing results.

“Low and behold, it turned into a fabulous wine,” Peterson said. “In fact, he got better known for Zinfandel than for Pinot Noir. So that was my clue.”

At that time, most winemakers in California were ignoring the old vines that produced Zinfandels. The state had a long history of growing these grapes, but Prohibition had changed the way wine was produced, and these grapes in the area were used to make mostly low-quality jug wines.

“I thought, ‘Well, if this were France, these would be our most treasured grapes,’” he said. “Because they’re old, and they’re low production, and they’re grape varieties had a combination found nowhere but in California.”

So in 1976, Peterson made two single-vineyard designates of Zinfandel, and he poured his heart into Ravenswood Winery, while at the same time keeping his job at a lab in Sonoma until 1992.

As time went on, he committed his pursuits to the old vines, ultimately developing the Vintners Blend in response to a partner suggesting he make White Zinfandel to bring in more funding.

“I said ‘I’m sorry, I don’t do pink, I don’t do sweet, I don’t do wimpy,’” he said. “And he said, ‘If you don’t think of something, we won’t be here.”

He created a lighter-bodied, fresher wine, using vineyards whose grapes were a little less expensive but still sticking to the old grapes. He was able to sell the wine at a lower cost, and Vintners Blend ultimately became the most sold Zinfandel in the world.

“Basically, my whole career has oriented around making Zinfandel known and getting people to understand what a valuable wine it is and how it really is California’s grape,” he said. “No matter how good Cabernet and Chardonnay are in California, they’re always going to be compared to Bordeaux and Burgundy. … If you’re going to make the wine of the state and the wine that should be the most important wine of the state, it’s going to be Zinfandel and its supporting cast.”

In his seminar on Saturday, July 16 at 3 p.m., Peterson will be discussing the history of Ravenswood and Zinfandel — where it came from, how it got to the U.S. and California and how by 1888 it became California’s most planted grape. He will discuss the demise and revival of the grape, and the young producers making it now. Guests will taste some of Peterson’s single-vineyard designated wines as he discusses how to make it.

“It’s really a seminar for anybody. … If you like good wines that are interesting and you love history, I’m your guy,” he said.


The Wine & Jazz Festival begins Friday evening with a Reserve Wine Tasting event where Peterson and a host of other winemakers will be speaking at the Warren Station Center for the Arts in River Run Village. Tickets are $85 in advance and $90 at the door.

“It’s a unique opportunity to kick off the weekend and try higher-end wines aren’t necessarily poured at general tasting in Grand Village,” said Maja Russer, director of events and marketing for the Keystone Neighbourhood Company, which produces the event. “There are some really special and sought-after wines poured at the Reserve Tasting.”

Saturday’s activities begin at noon with live jazz, and the Village Grand Tasting event begins at 1 p.m. There are more than 300 wines for sampling at the two-day tasting, along with spirits and beer.

“Every tent is manned with an expert, ready and willing to speak to a guest,” Russer said.

The Prosecco and Pancakes event on Sunday includes a variety of pancake styles paired with bubbly drinks. Some of the pancake styles include banana foster, sweet potato, buttermilk pancake with homemade hazelnut spread, and drinks include a tangerine mimosa, hard pineapple cider mimosa, or blueberry pomegranate Bellini.

Saturday’s live jazz includes Quantum Jazz, Phil Denny, Dotsero and Jessy J. Sunday’s lineup features The Deano Quartet, Phil Denny, Lin Rountree and Joey Sommerville.

A portion of the proceeds from the Wine and Jazz Festival to the Lake Dillon Foundation for the Performing Arts. The Lake Dillon Theatre Company is a professional theatre committed to enhancing the quality of life in Summit County and the Colorado Front Range by providing unique and accessible cultural experiences through the performing arts.


Download the Wine & Jazz Festival app to keep track of interesting wines. Rather than printing large brochures, Russer said organizers came up with the festival app as an environmental move, but also so guests can keep track of favorites without having to write anything down and the information is stored conveniently on a phone.

“Scan the app and save it to your favorites, and, the next time you’re at Base Camp or Dillon Ridge, you can pull the app up and it’s right there so you can buy it,” Russer said.

The app also includes the festival and seminar schedule. Download the app at


With over 300 wines available for the tasting, Peterson suggests going in with a plan.

“It really depends on your interest,” he said. “Say, ‘I’m going to taste all new Cabernets I haven’t tasted before,’ or ‘I’m interested in this particular variety, and I’m going to find as many of those I can taste.’ Don’t try to taste everything. One, you can’t. And two, after you taste a certain number of things, you begin to loose your acuity. If you taste a wine at the end of your tasting and you say, ‘This is great, I have to have this one, a bottle of it,’ it will almost surely will be disappointing because it will not taste anything like what you tasted.

“And I would also say spit,” he laughed. “Taste and spit, do not drink.”

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