There is more to the Telluride Wine Festival than what’s swirling in the bottom of wineglasses. The annual event, back for its 27th year June 26-29, is as much about wine as it is about words.
Austere or brawny, delicate or sturdy, lively or soft. New meaning can be elicited from words when they are spoken in the language of wine. That language, when shared among aficionados, links the individualized sensory experience of taste to the shared experience of wine appreciation. So having an intimate setting to both swirl wine, and share words, makes the Telluride Wine Festival the extraordinary event it is, says Festival Wine Coordinator and Co-Director Megan Dougherty.
"Telluride has a unique niche in the wine festival circuit in that we are smaller than Aspen Food and Wine, more casual than Taste of Vail, and more intimate than Steamboat,” she says. “Our festival is about sharing the experience of wine, on both sides of the bottle, in an intimate, casual setting." She reports that the event has been “scaled back” somewhat this year, with events concentrated in Telluride and in smaller venues, to take full advantage of Telluride’s intimate mountain setting.
Telluride’s cozy atmosphere puts it in a class of its own in terms of wine festivals; and while this mountain town gathering of wine connoisseurs may be more friendly than most, that doesn’t mean it lacks the luster of a distinguished wine festival.
From the weekend’s lineup of notable speakers, to a flashy list of attending chefs (including three local talents), to the winemakers – and wines – themselves, Telluride Wine Festival 2008 promises to delight.
Industry Luminaries Liven 2008 Wine Fest Schedule
The Telluride Wine Festival perennially draws some of the world’s most prominent names. This year, a few of the many illustrious personalities who will grace the Telluride stage include winemaker greats like Bob Foley, trend-setting chefs like Paul Bartolotta, and Telluride Wine Festival faithfuls, Master Sommeliers Doug Frost and Steve Olson.
While he is known as the creator of some of California’s most renowned wines, winemaker Bob Foley is further touted as a “wine idol” in Napa Valley. Foley’s winery portfolio includes such recognized California labels as Pride Mountain, Hourglass Wine Company, HYPERLINK "http://www.hourglasswine.com/"Switchback Ridge, and his own label Robert Foley Vineyards. A Napa Valley winemaker since 1977, Foley brings decades of wine crafting experience to the table, and he will be featured in events throughout the weekend.
Master Sommeliers Steve Olson and Doug Frost are no strangers to the Telluride Wine Festival, their past appearances here earning them the moniker “The Steve and Doug Show.” Bringing a blend of comedy, wit, and superb wine knowledge to the events they host, the duo have come to embody the casual yet distinguished personality of the Telluride Wine Festival. Frost, who is one of only three people in the world to have earned the designation of “Master of Wine,” will speak at the Saturday Luncheon at Honga's Lotus Petal with local chef Honga Im and visiting chef and Master Sommelier Steven Geddes. Olson will be at the Friday Luncheon at Allred's along with chefs Bob Scherner and Paul Bartolotta.
Bartolotta, of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, was just 24 when he was named Chef de Cuisine at the esteemed Ristorante San Domenico in Italy. He expanded his culinary horizons in France, training at Moulin de Mougins, Paul Bocuse, Troisgros, and Taillevent. He won the 1994 James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest award, and was the recipient of the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano del Mondo in 1997. Bartolotta made his primetime television debut just weeks ago, as a contestant on the popular reality show Iron Chef.
Local Talent Takes the Spotlight
Telluride may be a small town, but it has big-time talent when it comes to fine dining. Three of the community’s best-known chefs will be working elbow-to-elbow with famed visiting chefs at this year’s Winemaker Luncheons. The luncheons, which have been revamped this year to allow for more intimate settings, will be held at three local restaurants: Allred’s, Honga’s Lotus Petal, and The Cosmopolitan.
“There is a lot this town has to offer, and being side-by-side with some of the food and wine industry’s heavy hitters gives us a chance to say ‘Hey, we’re just as good as those guys,’” says Bob Scherner, head chef at Allred’s Restaurant and featured chef at Friday’s Luncheon. Scherner will be sharing the kitchen with Las Vegas chef Paul Bartolotta, crafting a four-course lunch menu that will complement the event’s featured high altitude wines.
“It’s awesome to have someone of Paul’s caliber come to our little town, bringing an influx of fresh ideas to the kitchen. One of our goals is to have him walk away from here saying ‘Wow, they really do have some excellent restaurants in Telluride,’” Scherner says.
Cosmopolitan owner and head chef Chad Scothorn will host guest chef, Franco Maddalozzo from Azure Restaurant at AQUA in Cancun, Mexico, at one of Saturday’s Wine Luncheons. For Scothorn, the afternoon offers an opportunity to blend the art and chemistry of pairing wine with food.
“It’s all about the progression of flavors in your mouth, and making sure that what you’re going to have tastes better than what you just had,” explains Scothorn. He calls it the “Orange Juice-Toothpaste Effect.” His job as a chef is to make sure that the wine and food combinations that emerge on his tables work well together, like brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice – instead of the opposite.
Also joining this year’s docket of local food gurus is Honga Im, of the famed Honga’s Lotus Petal. She will open her kitchen to Las Vegas’ Steven Geddess, and the duo will whip up Asian fare that harmonizes with the day’s selected Asian wines at Saturday’s Eastern-inspired Luncheon.
And Don’t Forget the Wine!
Some of the weekend’s most distinctive guests will, of course, be the wines themselves. Festival Wine Coordinator Dougherty points to the Reserve Tastings as a highlight of the weekend.
Among the many notable Champagnes to be explored at Saturday morning’s Champagne Reserve, the most illustrious is Gosset. Founded in 1584, Gosset is one of the oldest Champagne houses in history, and was purportedly the favorite champagne of Henri the IV.
Master of Ceremonies Steve Olson will build on the momentum created from last year's emphasis on Spanish wines for Saturday afternoon’s Reserve Tasting, “Spanish Gems.” Olson will bring in some of the country’s rarest jewels, from the aromatic whites of “Green” Spain to the mighty reds of Priorat.
Also on the taster’s menu this year are wines that didn’t have to travel far. Some of the “local” wines to be featured include some from Colorado's new up-and-coming boutique wineries located in the West Elks AVA. This is the highest appellation in North America, whose wines are expected to gain a reputation as some of the best the state has to offer. Doug Frost will also lead a seminar titled “Colorado Wines vs. the World.”
For more information on any of the above events, to see an event schedule and list of attending wineries, or to purchase tickets to Telluride Wine Festival 2008, visit www.telluridewinefestival.com.