Wine in the Pines: A celebration of wine, cuisine and chocolate
Saturday’s Wine in the Pines has earned a reputation as one of the premier wine and culinary events in Summit County, and with good reason.Keystone chefs of AAA Four Diamond restaurants such as Keystone Ranch, Alpenglow Stube, Ski Tip Lodge and Der Fondue Chessel feature their best cuisine, while 500 international wines line the conference room walls for tasters, and executive pastry chef Ned Archibald’s fabulous tables of chocolate await.The event draws up to 1,000 people, all dressed to the nines and contributing to a wonderful nonprofit: United Cerebral Palsy of Colorado (UCP).”I came to Wine in the Pines because UCP Colorado is such a good cause,” said Heather Lemon of Slifer, Smith & Frampton. “What I have found here is the best wines and the best food ever.”Archibald begins preparing his extravaganza -complete with chocolate dipping fountains – weeks in advance. His decor includes larger-than-life wine bottles and Keystone signs. The morning of the event, he arrives at 4 a.m. to set up his display, which includes more than 10,000 sweets using 450-500 pounds of chocolate.The chefs work just as hard, preparing approximately 600 pounds of meat and fish.”Every year, the chefs really outdo themselves, and I think they keep getting better and better,” Archibald said. “The guest benefits from the friendly competition.”Jerry Hamill, director of development of UCP, agrees:”We’ve been doing this for 27 years, and Keystone always finds a way to make the dinner and the food spectacular,” he said, adding that this year, the chefs will spice it up with themed food from “The Godfather” because the fundraiser is celebrating the wine and work of Francis Ford Coppola.UCP partnered with the Francis Ford Coppola Winery for a few reasons: It’s a well-known name, and last year’s masquerade theme excited guests, so organizers wanted to get even more creative with the theme this time around (think pinstripes, pearls and “gangster sheik,” Hamill said). “(The winery has) been to our facility, and (they) have a great understanding of what we do, so I think it’s a win-win situation,” Hamill said.Local “celebrities” have traditionally donated a signed bottle of wine for the silent auction, but this year, Francis Ford Coppola’s name recognition drew five national stars to get in on the action. Scarlett Johansson, Claire Danes, Cindy Williams, Mickey Rourke and Billy Dee Williams all have signed bottles of wine for the auction, since they’ve all worked with Copolla on various projects. In addition, the live auction features an autographed bottle by Copolla himself, plus an autographed movie poster and a trip to visit his winery in California.As far as the wines go, Megan Morgan, sommelier at Ski Tip Lodge, suggests sticking to about 10 samples, saying any more will just about numb the palette. To seriously suss out wines you prefer – or to sample a wide range – it’s best to swirl wine in the glass to allow oxygen in, then smell it. From there, people can take a small taste, and spit it out if they don’t want to ingest too much alcohol. When exploring a wide variety of samples, begin with sparkling and white wines, then move on to light reds and heavy reds, finishing off with desert wines. Wine representatives can help pair specific wines with chocolate or specific cuisine.This year, Wine in the Pines is also ending with a new twist: an after-party, complete with dancing and live entertainment by The Jerseys.
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