As is usually the case at Food & Wine magazine’s annual Aspen Classic, the seminar lineup is looking fun, insightful and glamourous. Where else can you drink Champagne for breakfast and still use it as a learning experience?
At seminar #107, as part of the Friday 10 a.m. official festival starting round, you can do just that. Sit with one of my favorite wine personalities for 45 minutes and learn how you may have been doing it wrong – or right! Anthony Giglio will lead discussion and pours during the “Breakfast Of Champions Sparkling Smackdown.”
But it’s not that simple. The brainy folks at Food & Wine haven’t made it that easy. At the same time there is seminar #106, led by Master Sommelier Shayn Bjornholm, entitled “What A Year! The Best Vintage Champagne.” Here’s to choices!
And to complicate things even further, there are two seminars you absolutely must attend, if you are at all concerned with your inner current level of wine hipness and/or enlightening your true and deepest sense of wine geek-ness. And, ha! They are also both at the same time.
Seminar #104 at, you guessed it, 10 a.m. Friday morning, is “Rosé Without Rules,” led by Momofuku beverage director Jordan Salcito. Rosé, if you haven’t heard, is the next, next and next best thing. And you need to be drinking it now. And always, and forever. And you need to be seen doing it. Salcito will be here to tell you that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she tries to inspire you with some Asian-themed food pairings, too.
But not so fast. Ask any wine nerd what the nerdiest wine is, the one that gets the real geeks out of the woodwork, and the answer oughta be riesling. No wine divides and conquers like this transparent, noble grape. And with campaigns such as NYC’s Terroir Wine Bar group leading the way with a boot-camp-style instructional and a 200-plus-deep selection on offer, it’s time to get hip. Terroir’s founder, Paul Grieco, will be here to tell you more in “Reasons To Love Riesling” (Seminar #105).
At the same time, Food & WIne’s own wise one, Ray Isle, will discuss “The Australian Revolution” (#111). Bet you didn’t know they were having a revolt Down Under. And if your tastes lean a little more domestic, sommelier, writer and Napa historian Kelli White will lead you through some great vintages and their bottle evolution in “Great Napa Cabs Over Time” (#109).
Mark Oldman, New York City’s adorable (and funny) wine zealot is back with a new tangent of an ongoing series with “Spanish Wines For Millionaires” (#108). We must see this to believe it – and see where it leads in the next few years! And finally, our favorite “Cheese Lady” and author (with the best hair ever), Laura Werlin, will present “To Brie Or Not To Brie: Indulgent Cheese And Wines” (#116). That’s easy: Yes, please!
OK, so you survived the decision-making around that time slot; now it’s on to round two at 2! Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. offers a little more diversity in terms of food pairings.
Salcito returns with “New Superstars Of Burgundy” (#204), and Grieco leads you to “Discover Great Wines of Chile And Argentina” (#205), while Bjornholm reviews “Iconic Wines Of France” (#206). Simple enough, I guess.
Former Aspen master sommelier, professional cyclist and owner of Boulder’s Frasca Restaurant, Bobby Stuckey with tell you about “Chianti Classico Reborn” (#207). Having just spent time there walking, talking, touring and tasting with winemakers, I would think he should have something to say about organics and cover crops to create biodiversity, to bring life back to a land that was stripped barren by chemical farming in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as evolving efforts at pruning and canopy management of vines to combat global warming. Restrained use of oak, perhaps, to continue to maintain a regional identity.
But wait, there’s still more! If you have a wine pulse and have been a fan of this festival in the past, the one seminar you must attend is part of an ongoing series that seemingly has no end. He who started with “Wines For Millionaires,” seemingly eons ago, is back again. Oldman will be offering a return to his wildly popular series in about the only town where it makes sense, with “Wines For Gazillionaires” (#208). Maybe there is a bottle of wine with its own lear jet.
Getting back into the food of pairings will be a blast with KQED-San Francisco-based “Check Please” host Leslie Sbrocco. Also “Today” show wine lady, she will infuse knowledge with tear-jerking laughter in “A Match Made in Heaven: Chocolate and Wine” (#209). Does it really get any better than that? Zinfandel please, or maybe some port wine from her recent travels.
Continuing to keep it real with the foods we like most, sommelier and Splendid Table host Josh Wesson takes on the holy grail of pairings in “Peanut Butter n’ Jammin’ Wines” (#210). More zin, and maybe some JaM Cellars Butter chardonnay or Candy rosé.
And Blackberry Farm’s Andy Chabot covers the mystery of “The Priorat: Amazing Reds From Spain’s Ancient Vines” (#211).
Moving to the 3 p.m. slot, White returns to spotlight the Pacific Northwest in “Oregon’s Cutting Edge” (#304), Giglio reappears with “Will The Real Sauvignon Blanc Please Stand Up” (#305). Picture Slim Shadies in their white T-shirts flooding the aisles. Is it Sancerre or Bordeaux? Collio or Marlborough?? Napa or Sonoma???
The lively Sbrocco has more magic from her recent trip across the pond with “Portugal’s Perfect Pours" (#309). You can see for yourself in person or on the Thirsty Girl’s Instagram account.
Most of these repeat throughout Saturday and Sunday, and then there is the entire food/chef and hospitality business side of the seminars.
Gee, I’m thirsty. For knowledge. Bottoms up!