Alejandro Fernandez crunched over the packed snow in boots somebody had just loaned him, carrying a bottle of his 2000 Condado de Haza Reserva and pouring some for anyone holding a plastic cup. "Salud," he said, raising the wine to the sky as the snowflakes began to swirl atop Vail mountain.
The Spanish vintner was a first-time participant in this year's Taste of Vail, a series of winemaker dinners, tasting seminars, cook-offs and parties--including a mountaintop picnic, one of the wine world's singular events--held April 6 to 9 in the Colorado resort town.
Not knowing what to expect, Fernandez showed up in business attire to the mountaintop picnic, held at a panoramic site, carved from packed snow, at 10,357 feet above sea level. Despite the blackening skies, he and winemakers and owners from more than 50 other wineries--including participants from California, Canada, France, New Zealand and Spain--held fast as the storm rolled in. They poured for the hundreds of consumers who had either skied to the site or arrived via gondola. Portable kitchens served dishes from a dozen Vail-area restaurants, including several that hold Wine Spectator awards for their wine lists. (The magazine was one of the Taste of Vail sponsors.)
|Enophiles skied or took a gondola to the 10,357-foot-high picnic site to sample a wide range of wines.|
Other events, without the constraints of a snowbound setting, gave restaurants more leeway. Three nights of winemaker dinners showed off the best of Vail Valley's varied cuisine. At La Tour, a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, executive chef Paul Ferzacca's roasted quail stuffed with foie gras and hazelnuts was served alongside Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Evenstad Reserve 2001. Nearby, rising star Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken crafted a dinner around the wines of Duckhorn and MacRostie, including a blue-cheese tart with gooseberry conserve to accompany MacRostie's Syrah Carneros Wildcat Mountain Vineyard 2001, which earned 91 points from Wine Spectator.
Between the meals, guest could partake in wine seminars, augmented by a martini competition and tastings of chocolate, tea and cigars. At the sold-out Pinot Noir tasting, 11 winemakers assembled to compare their latest releases, from Burgundy négociant Alex Gambal's earthy 2002 Chambolle-Musigny to large-scale 2002 California Pinots from Williams Selyem and Flowers.
|More than 30 Vail Valley restaurants and 59 wineries participated in the Grand Tasting, a charity fundraiser.|
At the Saturday night Grand Tasting, all 33 restaurants and 59 wineries participated. Merry Edwards poured three of her 2002 single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, Ansley Coale poured a selection of his Germain-Robin brandies from Mendocino, while Schramsberg unveiled the second vintage of its J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain, the 2002. "I'm using this as its coming-out party," said winemaker Craig Roemer. "What better place?"
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